Picking a college was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I did extensive research on the colleges I got into and slowly narrowed them down based on what I wanted most from my education. After reading countless articles (like this one) and watching endless Youtube videos about people’s experiences, I felt UCLA was the best school for me. Now in my senior year here, I still think it was the right choice.
Considering UCLA? Read pros and cons I considered when deciding where to go to college.
The Pros of Going to UCLA:
1. The Resources
From financial support, physical and mental health services, food security programs, career and academic counseling, or free legal services, UCLA has resources for almost everything. This was a major reason why I chose UCLA. I would get to access to so many things I didn’t need to worry about finding them off campus or feeling isolated.
It even has entire departments dedicated to supporting specific populations (shout out to the Bruin Resource Center, home of wonderful programs like the Veteran Resource Center, Transfer Student Center, Students with Dependents, Undocumented Students Program and so many more). If it’s one thing UCLA does well, it’s offering a variety of resources available to students from all backgrounds with different needs.
2. Extensive Network
Name a career field and I guarantee you there’s a Bruin working in it. UCLA has many programs dedicated to helping students achieve their career goals and getting them connected to alumni. For example, UCLA One hosts an Alumni Mentorship Program where students can pick from thousands of alumni who have signed up to mentor and advise groups of students.
The Career Center often hosts networking events and workshops to get students involved and connected for all career fields as well. It also offers resume and cover letter reviews and one-on-one appointments to help search for internships and jobs.
A school’s connection to the job market was very important to me as I know a lot of it is based on networking these days. UCLA does a great job at this and in my four years here, I’ve gone to dozens of career fairs, workshops, and networking nights.
For two years, UCLA has been ranked the No. 1 public university in the country and 19th by the U.S News and World Report. Regardless of whether we beat out Berkeley, UCLA consistently ranking high for a reason. It’s one of the most academically rigorous and economically diverse schools that brings in top-notch professionals from around the world. Many of the departments themselves have exceptional rankings too.
I did consider this when deciding. Not because of bragging rights but because I really wanted a school where I knew I was going to get a well-rounded education.
Who wouldn’t want to go to a college where it’s sunny and warm year-round? Nestled just across Sunset Boulevard from Bel-Air, UCLA is conveniently located to just about anywhere in L.A. It’s a mere 20-minute drive to Santa Monica beach, 30 minutes to Hollywood, and 45 minutes to Downtown L.A. (on a good day).
If you don’t feel like going too far, head to Westwood Village. The Fox and Bruin Theaters host red carpet movie premiers which are just a 10-minute walk from the dorms. The Getty is just down the 405 and the Hammer Museum is located right in Westwood.
And the campus itself is gorgeous. The architecture is amazing (Royce Hall and Powell Library being the most famous). The campus boasts a large amount of plant life for being in the heart of a city. Plus the scenery is stunning. You get great views of the Santa Monica Mountains, especially from the very top of Janss Steps.
The Cons of Going to UCLA:
1. Too Many Students, Too Little Room
UCLA is the smallest UC campus but has the largest population of all of the UCs. Acceptances have started to increase each year which is great for applicants but is starting to become a strain on the school’s resources.
- All dorms have been converted to triples. UCLA is set to build another dorm and a few more university apartments but they won’t be completed for at least another 2–4 years.
- Commuters, be warned. Parking is hard to come by and expensive. It’s difficult to get a parking permit and each quarter students get waitlisted due to the lack of availability.
- The more students there are, the more strain it puts on UCLA’s resources. For example, CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) is a great service that any student can, in theory, access. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough counselors to meet UCLA’s needs. Students on UCLA’s health plan, UCShip, are limited to six sessions per school year. Those with outside insurance only get three.
UCLA is a research school. This means the professors and the university as an institution are very focused on doing research in all fields, not just STEM. Professors focus on a certain area or topic in which they’ve dedicated their careers to. This is great for anyone looking to get into research but for those of us (like me) who aren’t interested in more schooling or a very niche area of research, it can be frustrating. You don’t get as broad of a learning experience as a traditional liberal arts school.
I didn’t encounter this until actually starting at UCLA. If you don’t plan on going into research or graduate school, this may be a red flag for you.
3. Class Size
Obviously, with more students, come larger class sizes. It’s common to have lectures with over 200 students. Normally you’ll be broken down into discussion sections where students can get more one-on-one attention. But it’s still difficult for a student to feel like they have a personal connection to a professor or TA.
Coming from a small, private high school, this was something I majorly considered. Would I transition well into a large, public school? How would I make friends? Would I get one-on-one help from my professors?
Enrollment is a struggle for many students. Freshmen and new transfer students have it the worst as they get the worst enrollment times. With late enrollment times, many classes fill up with upperclassmen who couldn’t get in as first or second years. This may be a problem when it comes to meeting major requirements or for some, like transfer students, who only have two-to-three years at UCLA instead of four.
Recap of My Time at UCLA
Overall, UCLA has been a great fit for me both academically and personally. I’ve loved my time here so far and although I’m sad to be leaving in June, I feel confident and prepared because of the education and access to resources I’ve received.
If you’re struggling to decide between schools or you’re just starting your research, figure out what you want most out of your college experience. Is it great academics or a big campus culture or top-ranked departments? Whatever it is, use that to guide you through all your research and you’ll find it a lot easier to make a decision.
Bonus Pro: The Food
With four sit-down dining halls and four quick-service ones, there’s a large variety of food for undergrads. The food is also pretty allergy-friendly. From gluten-free to vegan to Halal, there’s many options for those with dietary restrictions. My favorites include De Neve Late Night’s chicken tenders and wings, Cafe 1919’s gelato, Rendezvous’ burrito bowl, and Covel’s ravioli.
You can get anything from a traditional burger and fries to North African-style honey-roasted chicken with Lebanese rice. Not your typical dorm food, right?