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IECA Conference and College Tours in San Diego

on December 31, 2013 in College Visits
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University of San Diego

The IECA Conference in San Diego included visits to both the University of San Diego (USD) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). These tours and updates from admissions counselors were invaluable. The conference sessions provided the opportunity to hear updates from admissions deans at many Southern California colleges and universities. Topics from sessions included the admissions interview, a focus on finding fit, and writing the special circumstances essay.

University of San Diego: One of the three founding principles of USD, a private Catholic university with 5300 undergraduates (45% female, 55% male) is beauty, and there is no doubt that this well-manicured campus with luscious gardens lives up to its mission. Tranquility abounds in this safe atmosphere perched above the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a recent $25 million donation to the engineering program, the faculty has launched an extensive national tour of top programs to design an expansion of the programs at USD, including a new building. The highlight of the engineering program is that students need not apply as freshmen, and admission to the program is open to all students by junior year. In addition, USD is unique in requiring all engineering students to focus on the liberal arts as well, completing both BS and BA degrees, sometimes resulting in a fifth year.

Research is emphasized at USD, and students often take part in international research through faculty grants. Internships and research are emphasized in all fields, from healthcare to anthropology. Opportunities abound for students throughout the San Diego area. Over 80% of students study abroad, placing USD at number three in the nation for students studying internationally. Merit scholarships are available for top students, and the Honors College invites students to apply upon reviewing their applications.

We toured the excellent Art, Architecture + Art History department, where many students continue on to strong graduate programs. Internships are critical for those in the arts, resulting in career opportunities upon graduation. I found it very interesting that the art students do not specialize early, but rather are required to take courses in studio, architecture, and art history, developing strong platforms for later specialization in graduate school. The also toured the topnotch facilities for the strong Marine Science Program, and which includes access to two vessels for research.

ucsdStructural Engineering

UCSD Structural and Materials Engineering Building

The University of California, San Diego campus is located in La Jolla, north of downtown San Diego. While many students live on campus freshman year, others commute from outside the area either by car or bus. The highlight of UCSD is the residential six-college system, a structure unique to this somewhat new UC campus. When applying, each student ranks each of these six colleges in order of preference, in most cases getting their first choice. Each college has a unique philosophy, and students take different General Education requirements based on their particular college. College selection does not affect a student’s major, and students in each college come from a wide range of disciplines.

As is the case throughout the University of California system, some majors are impacted at UCSD, meaning they are restricted majors that only take a limited number of applicants. The only majors that are currently impacted are within engineering. Students check an interest in applying to these engineering majors and once admitted to UCSD are then further selected for their major of interest. Engineering applicants are encouraged to take SAT subject tests and have very strong high school records, as admission into their majors is competitive. Federal facilities and local companies like Qualcomm support internships and academic programs.

The campus had a somewhat tranquil feel, with a serious academic focus and extensive research facilities. With 22,000 students, UCSD is smaller than some of the other research universities in the UC system. Theater and dance programs are strong here, with a close association to the La Jolla Playhouse. The social sciences are popular, and a new program in public health has been added. UCSD is on the quarter system, so students need to be able to hit the ground running. I noticed students at the bus stops with surfboards heading to the beach, highlighting the work-hard, play-hard atmosphere at UCSD.

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