In college, just like in high school, you’ve got the popular kid and the loner. But unlike the high school bubble, the chances of moving up the social hierarchy at a huge public university are even slimmer. UCSD tries to bring together the jocks and the band geeks by splitting up the university into six separate colleges – something the other UC schools do not do. Each college has their own campus and its own set of general education classes. Each one also has a unique core G.E. The six-college idea is supposed to create smaller communities so even the most socially-awkward nerds have a way to meet people. The administration claims each college is equal, that no matter what college you get into, you can pursue any major you want. Sorry UCSD, but that’s a lie – each college is completely different and caters to specific majors. On the UCSD application, prospective students are told to rank the six different colleges according to which one they want to get into – a confusing process that’s impossible without the help of a current UCSD Triton. In the following paragraphs, I’ll do the work for you and break down each college Sparknotes style according to what students really look for. I’ll even describe them in the order most current students rank them.
All six colleges are named after a famous dead person who embodies what each college is all about. The most popular college (and what I dub “the best college”) is Thurgood Marshall. The dining hall, properly-named Oceanview Terrace, has…a view of the ocean with indoor and patio seating. And it’s even open the latest (until 2 A.M.) to satisfy anyone’s late-night munchies. Marshall’s residence halls are not the best, but are decent enough for any college student. The location is ideal because it’s in close walking distance from everything. Lastly, it has G.E. requirements that people rarely complain about. Students only need to take three quarters of its specific G.E., called “Dimensions of Culture,” and I’ve heard only good things about it. D.O.C. teaches students about diversity. They learn about the effects of Supreme Court cases and laws in the first two quarters and how popular culture creates diversity in the last quarter. Marshall would teach any political science and communication major the basics. What college catalogues won’t tell you is that despite UCSD’s reputation of being a nerdy school, Marshall is the most social college – they win a lot of trophies in college-wide events and current Marshall student Wendy Bryer says, “having Marshall spirit comes naturally.”
John Muir is possibly the chillest college out all of them, earning the “tree-hugger” or “hippie” college label (their motto even states “celebrating the independent spirit.”) It has the least G.E. requirements, so if you’re planning on being a science major, Muir is your choice. Also, their core G.E. is the least painful writing course because they only need to take it for 2 quarters. Most Muir students get their G.E.s out of the way and are left free to take the classes they really want or need. The dining hall Sierra Summit has the best variety of food (and undoubtedly the best stir-fry you will ever taste – ask Steve to make it for you; he’s been there for years) and has a café downstairs for easy access. However, the university site won’t tell you that Muir has a small campus, with only two dorms and two buildings for apartments. And these buildings are probably the ugliest buildings you’ll ever see. Current Eleanor Roosevelt student Matt Peterson said, “The place looks like a prison with the cement walls and tiny windows.” But if you go inside one of these buildings, you get the real dorm-life feeling. Two floors are connected by spiral stairs so you get to know people on your floor and below you pretty quickly.
Current Muir student Chelsea Baker ranked Earl Warren third, claiming it’s because “Warren has crazy engineering people.” This is why I properly call it “the computer science geek” college. Again, the G.E.s are few, giving students enough time to hurt themselves with calculus homework or physics problem sets. Warren’s core G.E. isn’t that bad either – two quarters of writing and one quarter of learning about ethics and society. The housing is pretty decent with huge balconies and cozy rooms, and their dining hall Canyon Vista isn’t bad either. Freshman year, my roommate and I would trek all the way across campus for their pizza. The dining hall even has their own fireplace, which I thought was a pretty cool touch. The best part is the coffee stop slash mini-market called Earl’s Place, which is open until 2 A.M. So if you’re carless and need shampoo or deodorant, you can still smell good tomorrow. The worst thing about the campus that most prospective students don’t know about is its location – everything is uphill from Warren, so bring your walking shoes.
From there we cruise into what I like to call the “liberal artsy” schools. Eleanor Roosevelt College is the “international studies” college. All of the international courses are offered there, the core G.E. teaches about cultures around the world, and the International House (or I-House) is located there. It has the second most G.E. requirements next to Revelle so most science majors tend to hate ERC. Also unless you’re studying towards a liberal arts degree, you won’t like the core G.E. “Making of the Modern World” very much either. It’s a 2-year course that not only makes you study the history of mankind for the past 21 centuries, but expects you to write 10-12 page papers too. So unless you like writing, find another college. But ERC is known for the best housing. Everything from the outside to the inside looks new in these buildings – they have modern designs and light colors. Almost the entire campus is so white that you have to wear sunglasses just to look down at the pavement. Current ERC student Michael Le agrees with the aesthetics of the campus, but also says the buildings “could use some real walls and floors. It gets annoying when you can hear the people living above and below you snore late at night.”
Sixth college, or the “baby college,” is where we get into murky gray areas. Since it’s the youngest of all the colleges located in possibly the farthest corner of UCSD, it remains a mystery to most students. I’m a junior here and I finally have a class in one of its buildings. It’s still in the process of being named and doesn’t even have a campus of its own yet, but uses rundown hand-me-down buildings in the meantime. Sixth college student Phil To describes his housing as “a snoopy camp.” I didn’t really get what he meant until I visited it myself. The dorms look like I just walked into a summer camp (or the set of Disney’s show “Bug Juice” if any of you have seen it). They got the log cabins down; all they need is the gross lake and the tire swing. Also, their dining hall “FoodWorx” has a small variety of food choices. Its core G.E. “Culture, Art, and Technology” seems the most useful of all the core G.E.s because it involves contemporary issues, but its location in the boonies of campus drives most students away. Unless you want to become a part of shaping the growth of a baby college, I suggest you choose a college with an already established name and identity.
Roger Revelle, or the “ghetto” college, is the bane of everyone’s existence. As a current ERC junior I think Revelle sucks all-around. It’s the college with the most rigid curriculum. Students are forced to take a ridiculous load of G.E. classes before they can even touch courses for their major – most colleges have on average 15-18 G.E.s, but Revelle has 24. Also, Revelle’s core G.E. “Humanities” consumes five quarters of your life. And it gets worse. The housing is probably the least college-friendly on campus – current Marshall student Kevin Thai said, “I walked into one of their bathrooms and it felt like I walked into a Chinatown bathroom. The only upside to it are their chicken strips and pizza.” It was the first college built at UCSD back in the 1960s so the buildings are kind of shabby, but some have been remodeled. To make matters worse, Revelle only offers housing to their first year students, while second year students are moved over to the extra buildings at Sixth. Revelle also takes in ERC overflow students, which I never quite understood. While they kick off their second year students to another college campus, Revelle goes on to accommodate extra ERC students who couldn’t fit on the ERC campus. It gives a sense of disunity for both colleges, so if you think you’re the type of student who would identify with your college, I wouldn’t pick Revelle.
Even though UCSD’s huge campus is divided into six different schools, that hasn’t stopped students from mingling with kids from other colleges. Each college holds concert events, such as Rock N Roosevelt, MuirStock, and Marshallpalooza and semi-formal dances that are open to everybody. In the beginning of every year, UCSD holds an all-campus dance that mainly gives freshmen a chance to meet people outside of their respective colleges. UCSD offers a ton of clubs and fraternities that I’m sure would fit any person’s needs – trust me, I’ve seen the list. In San Diego, there are plenty of chances to meet people all over campus, but if you’re more of the shy type who likes to study, the six-college idea still gives you a way to meet people. But each college has a different feel to it – something you can’t get from reading descriptions off the UCSD website, but from actual students themselves. I suggest searching for each college’s Facebook group and seeing what current students have to say. UCSD’s website will give you the broader picture and the benefits of individual colleges, UCSD students will give you the nitty-gritty details.