The classes can be huge in freshman/sophomore classes, 200 or more, but as soon as you start hitting junior/senior classes (especially in physics or math or other sciences) the class size drops considerably, and professors will start to learn your name. Office hours is a great way to get to know your professors and get help. My favorite class would have to be anything with Adrienne Steinacker. She's a great astronomy teacher. My least favorite class...well I haven't had a really awful class yet, though Onuttom Narayan's classes are very difficult. It depends on how often students study. I wouldn't say they study more or less than average. A lot of students start homeworks as few days before the homework is due, unless it's really hard. I probably study more than the average student, and I study almost every single day except Friday night and Saturday. Physics students are pretty out-spoken, so there are usually lots of questions and comments (sometimes annoying, sometimes really helpful). UCSC students do seem more interested than usual in learning outside of the classroom. People talk about important relevant issues, like science and technology in society, or the environment, or politics, or social issues. They really seem to care. Students can be a little competitive and they can be a little stuck-up. But most are very, very helpful, willing to help you and show you what they did, etc. There's always the few who are elitist, but I'd say the majority are nice and friendly. My major is physics, and I love my department. The teachers--while some are hard--are so far all at least nice. They will help you if they can. You'll work for a good grade--oh yes you will--but they'll help you as much as they can. Most of the administrators--especially Hua, who is usually the undergraduate adviser for physics majors, though she's out on leave right now--are great. I don't usually spend time with my professors outside of class, unless it's at office hours. Sometimes I'll stick around after and chat briefly with them, but usually I'm far too busy. I think that UCSC has a pretty good academic requirement, but here's a word of advice--if you're transferring in, make sure you finish the IGETC, otherwise you have to finish UCSC's General Ed requirements, and that can be a real pain in the butt, because they do require a lot of GE classes...on the other hand, a lot of classes can satisfy up to three requirements in one shot, so you don't always have to take one class for each requirement. I think the education at UCSC, from a physics standpoint, is pretty practical. They want us to get internships, they want us to do research, so that when they release us into the world we'll do better, whether we work or go to graduate school. Some teachers, I know, change the class schedule and lecture time to focus on things that are important in physics right now so that we'll be better prepared to work in those fields.
I am a Sociology and Feminist Studies double major, and I have taken mostly classes in those departments or closely affiliated with those departments. My first year of classes no professor really knew my name because the general education classes are so large. However, the farther you go in your major, the more common it is that professors know your name because the classes get smaller. My favorite class I have taken was called Introduction to Transgender Studies under the History of Consciousness department. It was taught by a graduate student, but it was phenomenal! We read a lot of theory and often times the work load was quite intense. However, the intellectual conversations we had in that class were like nothing I have ever seen. My least favorite class was a large general education class in the Sociology that had about 300 people it in. The reading was simplistic and the professor was not that enlightening. I have had many intellectual conversations outside of class with friends, it is quite common here. The students here are not really that competitive, there is a general atmosphere that people are here to learn, not to compete for better grades. This may differ within the sciences though. The most unique class I have taken was Introduction to Transgender Studies because it had never been taught at UCSC and it is a class very seldom taught elsewhere. My majors are Feminist Studies and Sociology. Feminist Studies is an incredible major based heavily on post-modern and post-structuralist theory and spends a lot of time talking about places in the "Third World" in relation to Western theory. Sociology is a bit easier of a major, focusing very broadly on a wide range of social issues. There are a lot of Sociology majors so the classes tend to be quite large. As for spending time with professors outside of class, if you go to the professor's office hours you have the opportunity to talk with them. Beyond that, contact is limited. I think UCSC's academic requirements are very reasonable and good. I would say that UCSC is geared pretty equally to both getting a job and learning for its own sake.
As long as a student puts a concerted effort into his or her academics at UCSC, the rewards are paramount. While many of the introduction classes taken during the first two years of undergraduate contain upwards of 300 students, professors still make a point to learn as many student's names as possible. For example, in an introductory film class I took my freshman year, I sat in a different seat during each lecture. However, because I participated during lecture the professor remembered my name out of a class of 350. Later that professor encouraged me to continue studying film. As one's degree progresses the class sizes generally shrink to a more personable setting. At UCSC there are many opportunities for field study classes that give students hands on experience with research and a very close relationship with teaching assistants and professors. One of the greatest classes I have taken at UCSC is Scientific SCUBA Diving Methods, in which I spent 16 days with my instructor, 4 of which included camping with the entire class. Life between students is often productively competitive. My fellow classmates and I regularly study together, pushing each other to gain a better understanding of the course material. Outside of class I often find my fellow marine biology students and I discussing current issues in science or making corny science jokes. The thing I like most about the Marine Biology major at UCSC is that it gives you a solid basis of understanding of various disciplines in marine science while emphasizing the importance of thinking in a research context. It is important to note that while my experience with the academics at UCSC have been very personal and had a great influence in the sort of student I have become, this may not be the case for everyone. At UCSC, the experiences you gain through academics is directly related to how much you participate as a student.
If it's an introductory course, the professor probably won't know your name unless you go to hers/his office hours. But most classes are much smaller and the professor will learn your name. So far, I've loved all my classes for my major and minor. They open up your eyes to a lot of interesting things. But one of my favorite classes has been Psychology 80B: Human Sexuality. It's offered only in Winter. Take it. But I've actually enjoyed all the classed I've taken. All professors and TAs are pretty competent. The only classes I didn't like were Chemistry 1B and Math 3 (Pre-calculus). They were a waste of my time. I thought I was going to major in Chemistry and boy was I wrong! You either don't have a life in that major, or you're under a lot of pressure to do a ton of work and attend a whole bunch of tutoring hours and lab hours, unless you're super-duper smart and have a great memory (then you'll just have a lot of homework to do). Many classes here are not competitive though (unless they're impacted, like psychology and some physical science majors) because many professors want all students to succeed. I really like that because it allows you to do your best by helping out other people instead of just lying to them and mislead them about the answer to a question they don't even understand, for example. The professors all have office hours and TAs who also have office hours, and you can form your own study groups too. So in reality, there's no reason why YOU shouldn't pass any of your classes. I like all the people here that see this as a community in which we all win. Unfortunately though, we sometimes get those weak links that ruin the community spirit. BUt most importantly, there is a lot of out-of-class education here. There are so many chances to learn about SO many things just by attending all those free events that students and faculty plan.
The academics are UC Santa Cruz are great. You get out of it as much effort as you put in. UCSC possesses a unique teaching style where students not only attend a lecture for their classes, but also can attend discussion sections where smaller groups of students can ask questions and learn in a more conducive atmosphere with a T.A. UCSC is very advanced at the sciences and are well-known for their research in astronomy. Students study a lot and the library is pretty packed. Some majors are more difficult or require more studying than others, for example: bioengineering vs. theater. Students are very friendly and definitely communicate outside of class. UCSC is very unique in that it offers some very interesting classes; the most interesting class I took was called Muppet Magic, where we learned about the Muppets and the work of Jim Henson. I know some of my friends have taken the Natural History of Dinosaurs, a class on Disney, analyzing Star Wars, etc. The professors make themselves available for communication outside of class and always list their office hours on the syllabus' so students are aware of when they are available to meet. I am an Intensive Psychology major and I absolutely love it. The teachers are so passionate about what they teach and helpful for the students. Psychology is one of the most impacted majors on this campus, so it can be difficult to get into classes, but the department always makes sure you are taking at least one class you need each quarter. The education here is geared toward getting a job as well as functioning in the world outside of college. They employ many resources to help students prepare for post-graduation plans.
Academic life varies by department. The J. Baskin School of Engineering is pretty amazing, and has state of the art facilities. We just added a new major in robotics engineering, all all those majors are supposed to be very strong. Science, particularly astronomy and astrophysics is phenomenal here - a UCSC astronomy recently led a team that was responsible for discovering a new planet, which is a major point of pride for the university. Psychology is great here as well, but it's by far the biggest major, which means getting into classes can be problematic to say the least. As for social sciences and humanities, it is a mixed bag. UCSC is funneling a lot of its money to research in the sciences, which means less money for other departments. This year the school cut the American Studies department due to lack of funding. It's very possible the school will be cutting more of these kinds of majors. Professors are generally accessible, though you have to go see them - they're not going to seek you out, nor should they have to. In my first year here, I've had some amazing professors, as well as some very lackluster ones. Definitely read reviews of the professors before signing up for the classes - in my experience, the quality of an instructor can make or break the course. And even though UCSC is not the most prestigious UC, a lot of the professors are leaders in the field, many of whom attended Ivy Leagues before coming here.
The classes at most UC campuses are huge, and UCSC is no exception. The high impact classes such as Chemistry, Math, and Psych can get up to 400 people large. The discussions for those classes, however, are much smaller and get up to 40 people. Since the classes are so large, it is hard for professors to get to know students on a one on one basis, but going to office hours helps the professor know you. The TA's, though, do get to know their students fairly well, and are good at remembering everyones name. The smaller classes, such as our core class, are a lot smaller and get to only 20 students. The professors for these classes really do make an effort to help you understand the material and help you improve your writing. Despite the "lack of academics" stereotype UCSC has, students really do focus on academics and spend a lot of time studying. On most nights, you'll definitely find the libraries full, and have a hard time finding a spot to sit. Outside of class, I've noticed that students do have intellectual conversations, but like most young people, they have unintellectual conversations as well. The science program at UCSC is by far the best out of all the departments, especially the marine biology program, since we have the Monterey bay near us. As a whole, academics at UCSC are pretty strong.
The academics at UCSC are fantastic! My first two years, my classes were large (about 200 students in most classes) but as I got further into the requirements for my major, class sizes decreased to about 30 students. This was fantastic because professors knew my name and were able to give me more personal feedback about my work. In classes both large and small, professors and teaching assistants are always available for office hours and also happy to answer questions via email. UCSC offers free tutoring for many classes and small, weekly sections led by the teaching assistants. Tutoring and TA sections are a great place to ask questions, work on homework, and meet other students in the class. Although I am a Business Management Economics major, I had the chance to take classes in all different fields. In fact, I took French all of last year and greatly enjoyed it. Most students at UCSC are like me, interested in many different subjects and points of view. Students take academics seriously, as can be proven by the crowds of students studying in the main libraries on campus at all times. UCSC also offers resources such as a career center and academic advising both within each residential college and within each major to do all they can to help students.
I make a point of it to have them know my name. My favorite class was Literacy and the book with Jody Greene. Least favorite class was Reading Poetry with Hendricks. Class participation is common, and people have intellectual conversations outside of class but it doesn't seem very competitive. Women and the Law (fmst 112) offers a departure from normal studies of jurisprudence and really changed my perspective, it had unique course material. The feminist studies department is awesome! I'm also a literature minor. But the feminist studies department is interdisciplinarian and the opportunity to take classes from many different departments is really neat. The faculty all are very dedicated to their jobs and have different research emphases. It's also a small department so you take classes with a lot of the same people for better or for worse. I do attend office hours outside of class. I am a lower division transfer student so I did not need to complete many requirements but they seem fair and offer you an introduction into many different areas. In the Humanities it's geared toward learning for its own sake, but there are also career panels and all of that, careers definitely aren't ignored.
It's difficult to get close to professors in large classes because you do all of your work with your TA's, which I sometimes find frustrating. You can get close to professors if you work hard to go to their office hours and make yourself visible in lecture discussions. Participation is quite common, at least in literature classes (which are my only experience). UCSC love to have intellectual conversations outside of class. In fact, you hear this happening on buses and in coffee shops more often than not. Students are competitive, but not obsessively so. It is a necessary evil to succeed in college. I'm not sure about UCSC's undergrad requirements because I was a transfer student, but I got IGETC certified and was done with my undergrad requirements before I got there. The requirements for a lit major are reasonable yet rigorous. The classes are interesting and fun. The learning tends to lean toward learning for its own sake. Especially in the literature department, where discussing the significance of novels is basically all we do. We learn to understand ourselves and the world better through literature, which is better for the world socially, but it is not geared toward getting a job.