About Colleges

Everything About University Of California, San Diego

Everything About University Of California, San Diego

Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 30,285

Institutional Type: Public

Curricular Flexibility: Less Flexible

Academic Rating: 4

Top Programs

Biological Sciences

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Cognitive Science


Computer Science



Political Science

Who Recruits

1. Nordson Corp

2. Sherwin Williams


4. Hulu

5. Netflix

Notable Internships

1. Inuit

2. Dow Jones

3. American Express

Top Industries

1. Business

2. Engineering

3. Education

4. Research

5. Operations

Top Employers

1. Google

2. Qualcomm

3. Apple

4. Amazon

5. Illumina

Where Alumni Work

1. San Diego

2. San Francisco

3. Los Angeles

4. Orange County, CA

5. New York City

Median Earnings

College Scorecard (Early Career): $59,900

EOP (Early Career): $65,300

PayScale (Mid-Career): $123,700

Inside the Classroom

Becoming a Triton used to be a disappointing consolation prize for applicants hoping to become a Bruin or a Golden Bear. While UCLA and Berkeley remain the crème de la crème of the UC system, the gap between those uber-elite jewels and UC-San Diego has closed significantly in recent years as applications have skyrocketed to the cusp of six figures, and the profile of the average freshman has risen commensurately. In 2003, there were fewer than 20,000undergraduates at the university; there are now in excess of 30,000. An extremely strong academic school, UCSD offers forty-two bachelor’s degrees with many concentrations as well as fifty-five minors, all available for less than$15,000 per year in tuition.

There are six undergraduate colleges at UCSD that are meant, in the Oxford and Cambridge model, not to separate by discipline but instead, to forge flourishing small liberal arts college communities within the larger university. Core curriculum at all of the colleges includes first-year writing, advanced writing, oral communication, mathematical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and second language. Additionally, undergrads must complete coursework in science and technological inquiry, historical inquiry, literary inquiry, social and behavioral inquiry, artistic inquiry, theological and religious inquiry, philosophical inquiry, ethical inquiry, and diversity and social justice. Two “integration” experiences in which students make connections across disciplines also must be tackled, including one during freshman year.

Over 7,600 graduate students and a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio are two numbers that don’t bode well for those hoping for an intimate classroom experience. Yet, reality is a mixed bag. While 32 percent of course sections are held in larger lecture halls and contain fifty+ students, 43 percent of undergraduate courses sport an enrollment under twenty. Sixty percent of undergrads complete at least one research project as part of their coursework, and roughly one-quarter assist a faculty member with research outside the classroom. Study abroad numbers are approaching1,000 undergraduates per year, which is only a sliver of the total undergraduate population. Still, opportunities in forty-two countries are available for those who desire a semester of study outside of the United States.

Altogether, the social sciences have the highest representation of all majors (29 percent) followed by biology (19percent) and mathematics (7 percent). UCSD’s computer science and engineering programs have stellar reputations in the corporate and tech communities, and programs in biology, economics, and political science are among the best anywhere.

Outside the Classroom

Just shy of 95 percent of freshmen live on the UCSD campus, but only 44 percent of the undergraduate population live in dormitories or college-owned apartments. Fraternities and sororities have a solid but not overwhelming presence on campus, drawing 14 percent of men and women. Unlike UCLA and Berkeley, San Diego doesn’t offer prime-time football or basketball teams; in fact, it hasn’t fielded a football team since 1968. Rather, the twenty-three Triton squads participate in NCAA Division II and fare quite well within that less competitive environment. A diverse student body (37 percent minority and 9 percent international) enjoy an equally diverse array of clubs. There are over 500 to choose from with many options in the areas of student government, media, and a popular intramural sports program that has a 60 percent participation rate. The 180-acre campus is situated within the wealthy beachfront town of La Jolla, a thirteen-mile highway ride from downtown San Diego. While La Jolla is not a typical college town, many students live in beachfront apartments overlooking the Pacific Ocean or Mission Bay, and few complain about the heavenly weather.

Career Services

The UC-San Diego Career Center has eighteen full-time employees who work with or on behalf of undergraduate students, many of whom specialize in a particular discipline such as pre-law, pre- health, the social sciences, the humanities, business, or engineering. UCSD’s 1,683:1 student-to-counselor ratio is toward the highest of any school featured in this guide. To compensate, it puts on a multitude of annual career fairs, many of which attract 1,000+students. Those include large-scale fairs in the fall, winter, and spring, a Graduate School Fair, an Engineering and Computing Career Fair, and an event called Impact Career Fair: Companies for a Brighter Future. Each quarter, hundreds of companies are on campus to recruit undergraduate students.

Last year, the school listed 8,356 jobs/internships on Handshake, and those efforts led to 79 percent of graduates having participated in an experiential learning activity—internship, research, or community service. Thirty-minute one on-one appointments can be scheduled, but scoring one of those appointments, particularly with a “good fit” counselor can be a challenge. Students, via op-eds in the school paper, have been clamoring for an increased number of advisors to accommodate the growing number of undergraduate students at the university. Thanks to the rising prestige of the school, UCSD students have enjoyed increasingly positive post graduation outcomes, but there is still room to increase the level of support offered.

Professional Outcomes

A healthy 92 percent of UC-San Diego graduates are employed or in graduate school within six months of receiving their diplomas. Among the 73 percent who were employed, 95 percent had one or more job offers only three months after graduation. The most commonly entered industries were marketing/sales (14 percent), finance and banking (12percent), accounting/auditing (11 percent), technology (9 percent) and health/medical (9 percent). Employers of last year's graduates included the Walt Disney Company, Tesla, NBC Universal, PwC, Northrup Grumman, and EY. More than 1,000 current Google employees are UC-San Diego alumni, and Qualcomm, Amazon, and Apple all employ 500+each. The median starting salary for San Diego grads was $55,000. Those entering the engineering field averaged $65k,those in marketing/sales averaged $51k, and those majoring in education had a mean income of $40k. The bulk of grads remain in San Diego or relocate to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Sixteen percent of graduates moved directly into a graduate or professional program. Remaining at UC-San Diego was the most popular choice followed by USC, San Diego State, UCLA, George Washington, NYU, the University of San Francisco, Pepperdine, and Columbia. Between 400 and 500 seniors apply to medical school each year and typically experience average to slightly below average levels of success; between 34 and 40 percent of applicants have been admitted in recent years. Pre-law students most frequently head to California-based institutions such as the University of San Diego School of Law, California Western School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law. However, grads also found law school homes at the University of Chicago, Pepperdine, UCLA, Notre Dame, and Fordham.

Students' Voice: Pros and Cons of Location

Pros of La Jolla, CA

• “Downtown San Diego is close, so you can get some nice city life but it’s not rubbed up in your face.”

• “It’s a very safe area.”

• “La Jolla is extremely beautiful. There are beaches all around.”

• “We have access to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography because we’re close to the beach. They have a ton of labs which are great opportunities for students.”

• “You get the chance to be more independent since it’s a more urban environment.”

• “I’ve gotten opportunities to go volunteer in Mexico since we’re close to the border, which is very unique and stand out.”

Cons of La Jolla, CA

• “La Jolla is a little farther from downtown San Diego, which makes it hard to travel there. There’s Convoy Street that people like to go to because there are lots of restaurants, but it’s a 15-minute drive and many people don’t bring their cars down so it’s hard to access.”

• “Parking is a serious problem We’ve increased the number of students here but have not increased the number of parking spaces.”

• “There is not a ton of nightlife in La Jolla. Everything closes pretty early.”

• “Living in La Jolla is very expensive.”

• “There’s no strong public transportation. There are bus systems, but they take a long time.”

Students' Voice: Reasons to attend and not to attend

To Attend

• “It’s absolutely beautiful.”

• “I’ve had really good professors and I feel like they do care about the undergraduate population. They want you to succeed and many of them are well-established.”

• “There are a lot of research opportunities if you’re interested in biology or chemistry.”

• “The academic environment. Even though it’s a little bit competitive, people are supportive of what you want to do.”

• “The professors are pretty good about being available to you. So, if you’re worried about being at a big college, you can still get the help that you need to thrive in your studies.”

• “I really like that Greek life here is not that serious. It’s like a glorified club, so it’s a lot more open to other people. It’svery open-minded and not very demanding.”

• “It’s a very diverse community.” [The undergraduate student population is about 20% Hispanic, 3% Black, 19% White, and 53% Asian.]

To Not Attend

• “It’s primarily a STEM school, so if you’re not a STEM major and want rigorous programs in your field, maybe look at other places.” [In 2018, about 59% of students graduated with a major in a STEM field.]

• “The social life is not going to throw itself at you, so if you’re somebody who can’t get themselves out of the house or get themselves to go out and make friends you won’t make many friends. It’s not a good place for people who want to be social but are not already.”

• “Going here, you will always be in the shadow of Berkeley and UCLA.”

• “The on-campus housing is not the best.” [See The Triton article, “UCSD Needs to Address Its Housing Crisis” and article, “Planning for Failure: How UCSD Created the Housing Crisis.”]

• “UCSD is very research-based, so there’s a lot of teaching yourself and reading the textbook. In my opinion, your professors could be a little more helpful. If you’re coming here, be prepared to teach yourself a lot and not rely on others.”

• “We’ve had a large number of people that the chancellor has been admitting, which makes the school very busy. We have a huge undergraduate population but not necessarily enough housing to put everyone in there.” [There has been a 22% increase in enrollment since 2014.]

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