As mentioned, we flew out to CA with 14 schools on our list to visit. In reality, there were only a handful she actually wanted to see, and UCLA topped that list. I’m not sure why, but it’s been the school she wanted to attend more than any other since 6th grade.
By this point in the trip, we’d seen 8 schools, with UCLA being the 9th. As mentioned in the previous post about Loyola, the day hadn’t started out well due to traffic delays, parking issues, etc, but we were all determined to move on. When we got to Westwood, the traffic in the area quickly put a damper on any good mood I’d salvaged, so we weren’t off to a great start :(. We were trying to get to the In-N-Out near campus to grab a quick lunch, which proved nearly impossible due to the traffic in the area, and the fact that this location doesn’t appear to have any parking of their own. We decided to go ahead and park on campus and walk over, but as it turned out, it was too far of a hike in the time we had before the tour, so we just ate on campus. Considering we’d hardly eaten anything so far that day, it was nice to finally get some food down.
One of the things that stood out during that time was the traffic around the campus itself. It’s not the first time I’ve driven around that area, so I knew what to expect for the most part, but my daughter didn’t, so I made sure to point it out. That was actually something we talked about at each school, as it’s important to know whether you’ll even need a car, and if so, how expensive will it be to park on campus, and what the neighborhood traffic is like.
Moving on, after we ate, we headed for the spot where the tours meet. After some confusion surrounding where the tour actually was set to start, everyone broke up in to groups. There were a ton of people there for this tour, and I should point out that this was the most difficult one to schedule, mainly because when my wife did it (two months in advance), there was only one open slot on one of the days we were there, so everything else had to be scheduled around this to be sure we got to tour it. It’s a very popular school, obviously.
As far as the tour itself, once again some very beautiful buildings, that ranged from older 60s/70s looking buildings, to the more traditional Collegiate Gothic. One of the downsides to this campus that we noticed along the way, it’s quite hilly in places. I’ll call one of those spots out in a minute, but it was a stark contrast to UCSB and USC’s flat campuses. The other thing that stood out: it’s a fairly small campus for the number of students enrolled. Campus size is 419 acres, with just under 40k students enrolled last year. Compare that with UCSB, which has a campus size of ~1050 acres, and roughly half the student size. UCLA had a bunch of stuff going on the day we were there (camps, Freshman orientation, athletics, etc), and the campus felt pretty busy as a result, and that’s during summer. I wish we’d have been able to see it in full swing during the school year.
On the topic of student body size, those 40k students split to more undergrads than grad students, but it’s important to note that UCLA is a research-focused university. During our tour, that did bring up the question of how much time undergrads could actually get with professors if they needed it, but our guide was quick to assure the group that he’d never had an issue with that, and all of his professors up to that point had been good about making time for students. He also pointed out that grad students weren’t the only ones who could be involved in research projects, undergrads have that opportunity as well, and that it’s up to the student to get involved in those programs.
Overall we really liked the campus tour, and our guide did a great job talking about the school and answering questions. At one point in the tour, we stopped for a few minutes to hear from one of the admissions counselors, who also took the time to answer questions. Again, much of the same data as all the other schools, with UCLA’s specific stats mixed in. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not going to write about the admissions stats for each school, as I don’t really put a lot of stock in the numbers thrown out (back to the whole “73.6% of all statistics are made up” thing). Each school has this information on their admissions web sites.
One of the areas we didn’t go on the tour were the dorms. This didn’t bother us, because we knew we’d be seeing them later. One of my daughter’s best friends from school was flying in that day to check out a couple schools in the LA area before they headed down to San Diego, and the first night they were staying in the UCLA dorms. After we finished the tour, we had some time to kill before they arrived, so we headed over to a little shopping area right off campus to stop at an ice cream place a friend of ours out there recommended that specializes in custom ice cream sandwiches: Diddy Riese. You choose your cookies, selecting two of the same or two different ones, as well as what kind of ice cream you want. For this, you pay $1.75. Seriously! Here’s what I got:
(Chocolate w/ white chocolate chip cookies, and peanut butter cup ice cream)
All 3 of us got different things, and I think we paid just over $5 total. Insanely good prices, and that ice cream sandwich was awesome. I highly recommend the place if you’re ever in the area.
After we finished that, we headed back to campus, as our friends had arrived and were checking in. We hiked up to the dorms and quickly learned why we don’t go there on tours. With the distance and uphill hike, it would have extended the walking tour by at least 45min. That was one of the hilliest spots we’d seen on a campus yet, which our guide had also joked about at one point. The dorm they were in was a bit small, but nice, other than the hike you’d have every day as a student.
After hanging out with them for a while in Santa Monica, we headed back to our apartment to pack, since we were done in L.A. and heading down to San Diego the next morning. Reflecting on what we’d seen to date, my daughter almost seemed a bit sad about the UCLA tour. While she still loves the school, and would easily feel honored to go there, I think the idea of UCLA proved to be quite different from the reality. She admitted that as much as she hated to say it, two of the other schools were ahead of UCLA in her mind now. I’ve gone on long enough here, so I won’t elaborate how her thought process of the schools grew on the trip, I’m actually going to save that for my “conclusions” post after my last school tour recap. I will say that after hearing her tell us why it had moved down the list, I was proud of how much she’d grown in the past few days and how much of what she was hearing she was using to plan out her future. I think the acceptance rate got her down somewhat, too, as UCLA is one of the most competitive schools we visited, with an acceptance rate of ~17% last year.
Time for pictures! I hope you’re finding these useful. This post will have more than some, but I snapped a ton here, and it was hard to weed some of them out.