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Maximizing Your College Visit at UCSD

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Written by Miriya Huie, University of California San Diego, College Contact Counselor



College tours are one of the most fun parts of figuring out where you actually want to go. After all, there’s no better way to get a feel for the campus and envision yourself living there, going to classes, and making lifelong friends than to actually go to the campus, right?


Still, college campuses can take a lot of time and effort to get to, so once you’re there, you want to make the visit count. What’s most important to prioritize? What do you want to learn before you leave? How do you know if the school is a good fit for you?


I’m here to give tips about how to tour the university I attend: UC San Diego!


UCSD is a high-ranked public university in California, best known for its beachside location and STEM majors. Still, the campus itself has a lot to talk about as well. UCSD is a rather large campus, so where is it best to start?


There are basically two halves to the UCSD campus: the undergraduate side and the graduate/UC San Diego Health side. For any aspiring undergrads, I’d recommend completely skipping the health side; be sure that you’re touring the place that you’ll actually live.


From there, where you head next will vary based on your college.


The College System


UCSD is unique in that, instead of having students divided by colleges that focus on major (like a College of Engineering or College of Letters and Sciences), they have eight colleges that are completely independent from areas of study. Any student can apply to any college. You have to rank them on your application, and while the university does its best to honor your preferences, you won’t actually know which college you’re studying in until your acceptance.


Still, your college is very important for figuring out what your UCSD life will look like. Colleges have different general education requirements, different guiding principles, and, most importantly for the sake of your college tour, different residence halls.


The eight colleges are located in different parts of campus and have different styles of architecture and different dining halls nearby. While anyone can go to any market or dining hall, and you don’t have to spend time near where your dorm is, the truth of the matter is that which college you attend will largely determine where you hang out while you live on campus. Because of that, it’s super important to tour where your college is going to be.


For that reason, I would recommend touring UCSD after receiving a response from your application– or touring before you submit it so that you can rank the colleges in order of how much you like them.


Look around the colleges you’re interested in! Get a sense for what the residence halls are like and where they are. Learn if you like the style of the fields and buildings in that area. Check out what kind of views or amenities you have access to. Overall, you want to see what your college would have to offer you if you were to make it your home.


Getting Around Campus


UCSD is a pretty hill-based campus, so biking or skating around can be more difficult than it would be at other, flatter universities. The campus is pretty spread out, and there’s basically always something under construction. As such, it’s important to think about how you want to get around.


This is also an important thing to consider in relation to your college. Because colleges are located in different places, students behave differently. As a resident of Sixth College, which is in the middle of the undergrad side of the campus, I always walked to my classes; none of them were more than twelve minutes away. People living in, say, Seventh, though, tend to have or rent electric scooters to get to classes in a more manageable time.


I strongly recommend walking the campus whenever you tour it as opposed to driving it. Parking on campus is extremely limited during the school year, so if you’re going to attend UCSD, you’ll want to know what it’s like going around on foot.


The Campus Life


The other thing to consider is simply understanding what it’s like when living on campus. Do all that you can to understand what it might be like to be a student there. Walk around the on-campus Target, check out the various floors of Geisel Library, and eat at one of the dining halls to get a sense of the price, quality, and variety of food offered. If you can, talk to a student, whether through a personal connection or an official campus-guided tour.


All of these tips are designed with one central goal: to see if you can imagine yourself living at UCSD. Is it somewhere that you could, with some time, consider home? Do you like the constant sunny skies, or do you miss snow in the winter? Are you going to miss out if there’s much less of a party scene than at other schools, or are you just as happy to find social interaction through club meetings and classes? Is the access to free bus fares around the city enticing, or do you dread the idea of not having a reliable parking space on campus?


For me, what I wanted most when I toured UCSD was to find out if it was somewhere that could feel like home. At every other campus, I’d toured, there was always something that felt distant or unreachable; the campuses felt like travel destinations, not permanent residences. When I came to UCSD, though, and saw its tall buildings, its hammocks and fountains, its slopes, and its stairs, I knew it was where I wanted to go.



So, in that sense, the most important thing to do at a campus tour is to do your best to have fun. If it’s somewhere that makes you open to happiness and motivation, it’ll be a great place to make your home.


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