No Place Like UCSD

With 94,200 freshmen and transfer applications for 2015 Fall Quarter, UCSD claimed the third highest spot among University of Califonia schools for number of applications. Cue the never-ending jokes about our perpetual role playing catch up to UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Still, with a 6.4-percent rise in freshmen applications and 2.1-percent rise in transfer applications, it’s apparent that UCSD will continue to grow as students recognize what we have to offer as a university.

Correlating with the rise in application numbers will likely be a spike in UCSD’s selectiveness of candidates. And as we pick the best and the brightest, we need to shift our focus to what we can do to distinguish ourselves from other schools, including the perennial champs, UC Berkeley and UCLA, as well as how to grow and diversify our campus in a tenable way.

One of the most promising statistics from this year’s application numbers is the rising number of historically underrepresented students who have applied to UC schools. For the first time in history, one-third of California freshman applicants were of Latino origin, a major step for a state whose Latino populations are quickly rising.

UCSD itself saw a 7.9-percent rise in applications across all minority groups. And while that still isn’t much, it’s a major improvement for a campus that has struggled in the past to attract and support underrepresented students in their education. Continuing an emphasis on diversity once students have arrived on campus is important, and spaces like the Black Resource Center and the Raza Resource Centro are essential in this initiative.

It’s also perhaps time to gingerly approach the subject of Division-I athletics once again, keeping in mind that one of the most striking differences between us and the top two UC schools is not academics but a robust sports program. Apart from just unifying the school under a general sense of sportsmanship, Division-I athletics could attract alumni attention and donations, as well as greater national attention. All of these phenomena translate into the prestige seen at our sister UC schools.

UCSD’s application numbers will likely climb no matter the presence (or lack thereof) of Division-I sports. Our university is an internationally acclaimed school with all kinds of departmental awards in everything from the hard sciences to performing arts. Third place or not, UCSD is overall a prestigious destination for a student of any major.

And so the next logical step is how to manage the ever-expanding influx of students that will descend on our campus at the beginning of every fall quarter. Last year’s response was to convert single dorms into doubles and doubles into triples, thereby piling freshmen into rooms like sardines. It’s up to Housing, Dining and Hospitality to respond to rising application and admissions numbers in a more sustainable and far less comical way.

Furthermore, a significant portion of the applicants this year, and in previous years, are biology and engineering majors who already face impacted classes and overcrowded lecture halls. With more of this talented bunch coming to study at a university renowned for these subjects, we want to make sure they have access to what they need to excel at their areas of study. In classes of over 400 people, a single student is certainly not getting an abundance of personal guidance from his or her professor. And while teaching assistants try to make up for the difference, it’s difficult to build a connection to the professor if the class is watching him or her lecture on a screen from the next room over. While new lecture halls are currently being built, we would like to see even more spring up over the next few years. Equally important is a better utilization of the space and resources that we already have.

The final consideration is a UC systemwide problem as tuition goes up. With increases imminent next year, it’s important that we keep fees low so that the students who are eventually accepted are actually able to attend UCSD.

We’re thrilled that our campus is catching the attention of brilliant, young students everywhere. But in order to grow our student body sustainably, we need to ensure that incoming students will have access to facilities that aren’t a fire hazard, as well as the diversity and athletics programs still developing at UCSD.

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