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The University of California - Los Angeles

How this student rated the school
Educational QualityA+ Faculty AccessibilityA+
Useful SchoolworkA+ Excess CompetitionA+
Academic SuccessA+ Creativity/ InnovationA-
Individual ValueB University Resource UseA+
Campus Aesthetics/ BeautyA+ FriendlinessA+
Campus MaintenanceA+ Social LifeB+
Surrounding CityA+ Extra CurricularsB-
Describes the student body as:

Describes the faculty as:

Quite Bright
Lowest Rating
Extra Curriculars
Highest Rating
Educational Quality
He cares more about Extra Curriculars than the average student.
Date: Nov 21 2003
Major: Biology (This Major's Salary over time)
A review, especially one regarding such a personal experience like college, is useful only if the readers are aware of the reviewer's perspectives. So, here is a hopefully-not-so-vain self-introduction, with which I hope you can better evaluate and use this review to your advantage. I was a 2002 graduate, who spent 4.5 years for a double major BA. I was a commuter, so I cannot say much about on- and off-campus housing, but I sure can tell you about vanpooling and parking. (Basically parking is impossible to find, but vanpool requires you to wake up at 6 am every morning to catch a ride to school). During my stay at UCLA, I worked for the counseling office for 4 years, so I have certain insights about the policies, regulations and mechanics of the school.

The Student Body

With some 12,000 undergraduates alone, UCLA has a student body that includes people of all colors, faiths, creeds, lifestyles, political outlooks, music preferences and fashion beliefs. Unless one lives in dorms and apartments, it could be difficult to build friendships in such a big collection of people. Most people meet twice a week during lectures for 10 weeks, then their paths may never cross again. With that said, it is possible (and I am living proof of it) for even commuters (who spend limited hours on campus) to make friends and find love (so I have heard and witnessed).

The common perception of a UCLA student is the Beverly Hills 90210 rich spoiled brat driving BMW, wearing Gucci, and watching the world revolve around him/her. There are such people, but not many and most would tone down after one quarter of bad grades. Most students are nice and friendly and willing to lend notes/books/readers, but some can be super competitive (especially pre-med students).

The North vs. South campus division is more truth than myth. North campus houses the humanities, the arts and the social sciences; its students are more relax and prefer coffee shops to computer labs. South campus houses the sciences and the engineering school; its students are more serious and prefer computer labs to anything else. North campus has the classical redbrick style resembling ivy-league schools, while South campus has the less appealing 1960s functional concrete-steel style.

There is a subtle division between lower classmen and upper classmen, and it is most obvious in introductory classes. Freshmen sit in the front and eagerly exchange contact info, while seniors sit in the back 3 rows and busy collecting past exams/notes from fellow seniors.

While lower classmen are more enthusiastic about on-campus social events, upper classmen are more interested in career workshops and interviews. It is a subtle division, which I think is true to some degree in any other school.

The Academic Structure

For most freshmen, I myself included, it is quite an experience to sit in a 400-people amphitheater lecture hall and listen to an one-man show on physics/math/biology/history. It is not bliss, though you can sleep/doze all you like or just plain ditch without anyone caring. It is not horror, though you may not be able to pronounce your professor's name (to curse him) at the end of the course. All of these big-lecture courses (mostly introductory classes) have 20 to 25 people sections headed by Teaching Assistants (graduate students). Questions, exercises, homework, and discussion all take place during the sections, but most of these activities contribute (directly) little to the final grade.

Most classes have two midterms (or one midterm + a paper) and the final, which can count up to 80% of the final grade. Some professors use a grading curve, with the mean at B or B-. Some professors use the strict 90=A, 80=B, 70=C format. Some professor will shift the curve (to the students' benefit) after the grades are in. Extra credits are rare. Arguments and complaints over grades are infrequent, but do happen (I only argued once for a grade and the result was good).

For all students, there are the GE requirements and then the major requirements. GE (not the company) is several areas of academic study: social sciences, physical sciences, history, humanities, etc. For each area there is a list of course the student can take to fulfill the requirement. The major requirements mostly range from 15 to 20 courses. The easiest way, actually the only way, to monitor your progress is to check the Degree Progress Report periodically. This online document not only lists all the requirements, but also all the courses taken and how they've applied to fulfilling the requirements. It's as simple as that.

It's common for students to change or add majors/minors/specialization during their 4-year stay, with the most changes made during the 1st year or the last year. To change into most majors/minors you would need a 2.0 GPA and take some requisite courses, but there are some majors (such as Communication Studies) that are harder to get in due to the competition and limited space. For major/minor changes and any other academic petitions, students rely on the mercy and good humor of the numerous counselors. To be certain, there is not one counseling unit that could or would take care of it all. For specific major-related questions, there are the departmental counselors. For GE questions, there are the college counselors. For career questions, there are the career counselors. Finding the right person is as important as research ahead of time and asking the right questions. See the Administration section about the accessibility of the staff at UCLA.

Social atmosphere

In such a big school like UCLA, one can live like a hermit for 4 years or be a social butterfly for 4 years. There are parties every night, especially on Thursdays. There are enough plays, movie screenings, concerts, guest speakers, sporting events (all on campus) to satisfy even the most extraverted students. Or one can ignore all that and be a monk in the library. Friendship forms easily if one live in the dorms, but it could also blossom during lectures, at the coffee shops, in sections, or while searching for books in the libraries.

Most UCLA students are liberals, but conservatives need not fear being ostracized. Yes, there are protests every quarter and debates could become heated in political science classes, but I have never met a conservative who felt that he/she dared not voice his/her opinions. To a non-political being like me, the political atmosphere in UCLA is as mild as the southern Californian weather.

Competitiveness is unevenly distributed among the students. The pre-medical majors and related courses are known to house fiercely competitive souls, example: chemistry, OBEE (or biology), physiological science. In such courses, the curve could be skewed by one person getting a 100 on a test and doom the rest of the class who did poorly. Note sharing is neither rare nor common, because it all depends if your neighboring classmates could take better notes and stay awake longer than you during lectures. In all my stay at UCLA, I've only borrowed a handful of notes and found the quality ranges from verbatim transcripts to incomprehensible scribble.

The blessed weather allows everyone to wear summer clothing even when it's January. I never realized how fashionable and appearance-conscious UCLA students are until I visited other parts of the country. Sure, there are Bruins who live on an extensive T-shirt (or Hawaiian shirt) collection and don't care about the difference between liquid foundation and powder. But, most people paid some attention to the color schemes and styles of their appearance. From my own observations and other's experiences, UCLA has the largest collection of cute guys and girls of all the UC's, and certainly score higher than some east-coast Ivy-League schools in this category.

What are amore, you ask? Well, being surrounded by attractive people does not guarantee that you would be dating one, but at least eye candies are plenty. Finding love in college is not much different from doing so elsewhere in life, albeit the physical proximity does increases the chance of success but also the number of competitors. My advice is to play the game fairly and leave with grace (if called upon). Though the campus is big and you are able to avoid annoying exes or flying rumors, it's still a good idea to maintain a good reputation. Who knows, may be the next object of your affection is a good friend of your ex (or even worse, your exes' friends).

The Professors

I must admit that I have had more mediocre and bad professors than good ones. Out of 4.5 years, I can only count 2 professors as exceptional and inspirational. But these two have literally changed the course of my life, so quality (though rare) is more important than quantity.

A student's typical interaction with the professor is as follows: twice a week you listen to the professor lecture and try to stay awake with the help of Espresso, once or twice a quarter you visit the professor and talk about what to write for the paper, and that's about it. Professors have weekly office hours, during which students can visit them and talk about anything. Most students go when they have questions that cannot be resolved by TA's or to argue for a grade. Of course, there are those who go and "chat" with the professor hoping to obtain a recommendation letter at then end of the quarter/year.

Since we are on this topic, let's stay with it awhile. Recommendation letters from professors are used mostly for applying to graduate or professional schools, so not surprisingly most students don't think about these letters until their junior or senior year. Not surprisingly they would find themselves not knowing even one professor personally enough to ask for the letter. Does this mean one should start cultivate relationships with professors earlier? My advice is to seek quality. If you like a certain class or the teaching philosophy of a professor, by all means, visit him/her during office hours and talk about his/her career and discuss your plans. Ask if they want student assistants for their offices or research. Try to take more classes with this professor. Keep in touch by sending holiday cards. This method would definitely lead to one or more quality recommendation letters. But what if you don't meet such inspirational teachers (a common dilemma for many students in big schools)? Fear not, most professors are willing to write form-letter-like recommendations given the student has taken at least one course with him/her and given him/her enough time and information (such as resumes and personal statements). But try to get to know at least one professor, for most of them are knowledgeable and willing to mentor.

The teaching abilities of UCLA teachers runs the spectrum from 80-year-old near-deaf who mumbles to 30-year-old handsome who recites Shakespeare from memory. An useful tool is This website let UCLA students rate and write reviews of their professors, and it's extremely useful when two professors are teaching the same course and you know not who to choose.

The Administration

UCLA is a bureaucratic maze, and nightmare to most students. There are various offices with very limited authorities, so you would be often redirected from one office to another just to get one petition approved. Paperwork takes time and can be lost; the office staff's helpfulness can be affected by time of the day and what they had for lunch. Many students curse Murphy Hall (secretly or openly), which houses most of the administrative offices: admissions, registrar, counseling, financial aid, student loans, etc.

Like most large institutions, there isn't one office or person who can take care of all the problems (or at least give students the right direction to find the right person). It takes a while for one to get acquainted with these offices and their hours and the extent of their powers. My advice (and this is from someone who worked for this bureaucracy for 4 years) is to research before you visit the offices. 1st: understand what your problem/complaint is. Are you trying to get into a major, get a course to count for a certain requirement, complain about a professor, get some loan or just want to talk to someone about a possible career? 2nd: find an office with a title that correspond best with your problem and visit that office's website and read about what exactly they can do for you. 3rd: ask an ASK peer counselor. These undergraduate counselors are well trained and can give you invaluable pointers. 4th: if one office can't help you, don't curse the staff, but politely ask them to refer you to someone else. 5th: Be polite, be specific and be determined.

Here is a quick breakdown of the offices:

揃 Admissions: obvious? Not exactly. There are several admissions offices: undergraduate, graduate, law, business, medical, etc. They have a large collection of pamphlets, applications, and PR publications for the school. They cannot help you with specific academic questions such as whether English 102 from Pasadena City College would satisfy UCLA Writing II requirement. Reaching the undergraduate admissions office by phone is near "mission impossible", prepare to listen to 15 minutes of waiting music.

揃 Financial Aid: we are talking $ here, so paperwork is a necessity. This office is extremely busy during certain weeks, such as the first two and last two of every quarter (one is when students wants money, the other is when they want to defer loan payments). The rest of the time, they are relatively slow and help is available if you visit them in person. This office takes care of financial aid applications, grants and federal loans.

揃 Student loans: an extension of financial aid. They take care of loans, both federal and private, both long-term and short-term. Don't ask them about work-study, that's another office.

揃 Registrar: this is the monster. It includes registrar, cashier and transcript. Registrar is responsible for making any changes to your records: drop, add, exchange of courses, declaring graduation dates, grade changes, everything that leave a permanent mark. Registrar holds your diplomas, take care of residency disputes, and at certain weeks of the quarter, the line can be longer than the ones outside of DMV. Cashier, well, need I say more? Transcript is where you request official and unofficial transcripts, and this office can be extremely slow, so be forewarned. Don't expect them to FedEx your transcript unless you pay it and give them at least 3 days of processing time.

Career Placement

At the end of your college career, with the exception of those who seek further academic or professional training, you would want to find a job. No wonder that UCLA has a building dedicated (almost) entirely to the Career Center. Mind you, they also help you with resumes (even if you don't have one), internships, study abroad programs, interview techniques, personality assessments, and finally, finding you work!

Like everything else at UCLA, this office and its help don't come to you, but you need to go to them. Check their website periodically for various workshops and presentations by companies, because they won't send you email reminders religiously. Familiarize yourself with their services, and use those free hourly sessions with career counselors (you only get a number of them each quarter and after you graduate, you need to pay for them). Start thinking about finding work early, such as winter quarter of freshmen year. Most employers recruit during early spring, but you need to send them resumes in winter. The juicy jobs are gone fast, so the earlier you start the better.

The Career Center hosts these big career fairs (with at least 100 employers) every quarter. Attend them in your freshmen year to get a feel. If you are not looking for jobs and just want to collect some pen/highlighter/toys, then dress casual and just chat with the representatives. If you are looking for jobs, go with a stack of resumes and dress professionally (no jeans, no T-shirt, no sandals), and try to leave you best first impression.

There is also JobTrack, an online system where you can search for job listings, sign up for interviews, and post your resume. The employers are screened by the Career Center, so you won't end up working for some shady businesses that exploit you. Many employers (big, fortune-500 companies) recruit on campus and interview on campus. This means you don't have to fly to their headquarters in the middle of midterm week, but they come to you. Albeit you need to submit your resume for their review before you can interview, but at least if you are chosen you just need to put on your black suit and walk down to the Career Center.

Needlessly to say the current job market is not the best students could wish for, so even with an UCLA degree and with all the help the Career Center offers, you can still find yourself unemployed or unhappily employed after graduation. But this is a fact of life faced by every other college student in the country (if not the world), so my only advice is that early birds get the bigger breakfast. Begin thinking about what you want to do early, prepare your resume, buy a $300 suit, and polish your interview skills as early as you can. Don't wait until your last quarter. If Rome wasn't built in a day, your dream job can't be found in a month.

College is what you make it to be. If I were to do it again, I would choose UCLA but try to be more involved (and probably live on campus) and more active. Even though I was a partial hermit those 4.5 years, I met friends and mentors whom I cherish, I gained experiences that defines me and above all, I got out with a degree!

questionHi, I was wondering what it would be like at UCLA if your from out of state? (colorado)
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