One of the not-so-secret things you need to know about UCLA is that it is huge. Over 25,000 undergraduates and maybe half as many graduate students, a pretty good balance, in my opinion. (Often lost in the shuffle is the fact that there is about one paid administrative staffer per undergraduate student – ludicrous!) Of course, this girth cedes some benefits too – fourteen Nobel Prize laureates, over one hundred NCAA team championships, unparalleled diversity within the student body – the list could go on for days.
But in deciding if you would like or want to attend such an intimidatingly large institution, where does the buck stop? How many classmates is too many? Can you set yourself apart from the masses? Is big, beautiful, when it comes to college?
The answer is, of course, unsatisfyingly nuanced – maybe.
Here are the “pros.” You have access to opportunities at UCLA that you would be hard-pressed to get anywhere else. You can do research on the masters of Modernist aesthetic or the phylogeny of Indonesian reef fishes. You can volunteer at our top-ranked hospital, or in inner-city Los Angeles. You can tutor, sing, work, preach, perform, demonstrate, flyer, explore, play, and teach at UCLA in any field, your choice. If you are lucky, someone will pay you to do it, too. Everything you could ever want – facilities, funding, faculty, friends – are at your fingertips. All you have to do is get them.
But therein lies the rub, the big “con.” You are the one that has to make things happen. No one will tell you what to do! You can do as much or as little as you want at UCLA – everything is right there – but you have to hustle to make it happen. I personally have had this dichotomous experience with UCLA before. I spent a summer in Hawaii fulfilling my Marine Biology Quarter with days of snorkeling and hiking, an adventure that was exactly as fun as it sounds. But the logistics leading up to and following the trip – sending transcripts, applications, dealing with administration – were exactly as mind-numbingly idiotic and arduous as it sounds. Was it worth it? Totally. But did it take a lot (and I mean a lot) of work? Of course.
All this to say, if size is what you are worried about in regards to UCLA, take a moment and reflect on what kind of person you are. If you can see yourself handling your own affairs and commitments like an adult, then by all means, come on in, you will love it here. We at UCLA are always happy to welcome motivated, intelligent individuals!