Don’t Dive in — College Ranking Pool Shallow at Both Ends

    SIX COLLEGES — If you’re a weathered UCSD student, you’re well aware of the unique personality that each of the six colleges has. You know that Eleanor Roosevelt College has the newest dorms and that John Muir College has the chilled-out surfer vibe, equipped with its very own surf shop. You also know that ERC’s Making of the Modern World is a pain in the ass, while Revelle College has the shittiest cafeteria. Everyone loves Thurgood Marshall College for the late-night breakfast burrito binge OceanView Terrace provides, while most freshmen steer clear of Sixth College, because where is Sixth anyway? It doesn’t even have a real name!

    But high-school seniors going through the lengthy application process don’t have any of this information to help them decide where to spend the next four years. UCSD requires its applicants to rank the six colleges in order of preference. Each college has its own Web site, stocked with enough quotes and mission statements to make anyone’s head spin, and a pretty picture of each resident hall. It’s based on these portrayals that naive applicants try to decide which college is the coolest, nicest, easiest or whatever else they’re looking for. When applying to what now seems like 50 colleges at once, your last priority is to search through Web pages, talk to students already at UCSD or pay a firsthand visit just to accurately rank your choices. For the most part, applicants rank the colleges based on name recognition, proximity to the beach or dorm quality.

    Applicants who chose ERC because of its mission statement (to “promote the creation of internationally minded, culturally aware students and citizens”) were not aware, for example, that a six-quarter-long history class would consume our lives for two whole years. Applicants who chose ERC because of its brand-new, ocean-view resident halls boasting a common room bigger than their family’s living room never dreamed that there was a good chance they’d get shipped off to the boondocks that are the Revelle fleets. If housing is the main draw to a certain college, being forced to live in buildings modeled after barracks from the 1960s with remnants of the Vietnam War bloodshed on the carpet and actual holes in the wall is not going to make a freshman feel at home. Many Marshall College freshmen are experiencing this same disappointment, filling an entire building in Revelle.

    “I wasn’t even going to live on campus because I have a sister who goes here, but I loved Thurgood Marshall housing so I made the deposit,” said Marshall freshman Thuan Byun. “When I found out I wasn’t even going to live there, I was really pissed. I don’t feel like I’m a Marshall student at all. It’s very excluding being on the outskirts of campus.”

    Ignoring half of the reasons we chose a college in the first place makes the whole process ridiculous. Our participation in activities, the general-education requirements and, most importantly, living among our peers is what links each student to their college. The six-college system is meant to provide a consolidated community to our giant campus, and UCSD takes that away by not guaranteeing housing in your own college. If Marshall students chose their college mostly for OVT’s bomb reputation, how are they supposed to deal with Plaza’s moldy bread every day? If you chose Muir for the chill vibe, with El Mercado at your beck and call, nothing else quite cuts it. Each college’s Web site provides a very generalized description of its goals, but the details that really matter aren’t properly presented to applicants. If we’re not even going to live in our alleged college, what’s the use of ranking them anyway?

    “To be honest, I had no idea that there was even a six-college system at UCSD,” ERC freshman Bianca Armenta said. “I ranked Eleanor Roosevelt first because it was the only name I recognized out of the six.”
    Armenta said if she’d known more about the colleges, she would have chosen differently to find a college that better suits her academic goals.

    Granted, UCSD has thousands of applicants to consider so it needs some sort of across-the-board system to make sorting and matching easier and fair for each prospective student. It seems more appropriate to have students choose their top choices after they are accepted, once they have the opportunity for extensive tours and more inclusive research. But UCSD also needs a massive Web site overhaul. Instead of vague mottos and quotations, colleges should provide extensive G.E. requirement details, and represent the dorms more realistically. Tour guides should be get more college-specific training so they can provide useful information to applicants, rather than the general “here is where they eat!” crap. Until then, having us believe we choose our fate here is misleading. And a note of advice for applicants: If it’s between having a triple or Revelle, choose the triple.

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