Finding My Bruin Family: Why I Chose UCLA Over An Ivy League

IMG_1630Decision season is upon us, which means it’s a reflective time at UCLA. My friends and I have had conversations over the last few weeks talking about our acceptance stories to UCLA- where we were, who we cried tears of joy with, and who we thanked immensely for their mentorship and guidance the next day at school. We’ve talked about our decision making process too- where else we looked, who we met at other schools, but ultimately we all came to the conclusion that UCLA was (from the first moment we stepped on campus) the absolute best choice for us to call home for the next four years.

For me, it was between the sunshine-dipped hills of Westwood and the snow covered landscape of an Ivy League on the East Coast. Both schools offered incredible academic programs, with faculty that had changed the world. Both offered opportunities for professional development, study abroad, and everything else that I had associated with the typical college experience. But what stood out to me about UCLA was that, despite its size, it was truly a family, and it was a family that made me feel like one of their own from the minute I received my acceptance letter to now, after my first winter quarter.

I felt a part of a family when the Pacific Island Student Association, an organization I am now a part of, hosted me during Bruin Day weekend and welcomed me into Westwood with warm hearts, open arms, and genuine smiles.

I felt this familial aspect most when a student who has become one of my greatest role models generously spent her entire Bruin Day showing me around campus and answering all of my questions about UCLA even though we had just met. She even introduced me to who was then the Student Body President of UCLA; I now work in that office on campus.

I felt a part of a family when the Pacific Island Student Association, an organization I am now a part of, hosted me during Bruin Day weekend and welcomed me into Westwood with warm hearts, open arms, and genuine smiles. As we bonded over good food and conversation, I knew that these were the people I wanted to spend the next four years growing alongside.

Perhaps most importantly was that I was welcomed into two families in the Alumni Association with scholarship offers that have enabled me to be successful as a Bruin. Because of their financial support for my education I’ve joined networks of scholars and gained mentors that I know will help me for years after I leave UCLA.

The concept of family is usually felt inwards and intimately, but UCLA extends this idea to include the entire Los Angeles community. In my first week at school I volunteered in a community garden as a part of UCLA’s Volunteer Day, a day that bonds all of LA in the values of service and community.

Some might say that UCLA’s size is what prevents it from feeling like a family to them, but I’d say that that just makes the impact and depth of the Bruin family even greater. That size comes from UCLA’s existence as the #1 Public University in the United States- our family reflects the diverse makeup of California and the entire nation to ensure that we serve as many communities as possible. Growing up having only attended public school, this was of immense importance to me. UCLA’s family reflects the real world. In the words of another role model who also chose UCLA over an Ivy League, the real world demands you work for opportunities- no one is going to hand them to you. UCLA fosters this spirit in its students and makes them infinitely better for it.

Now a year later, I’ve become immersed in my Bruin family. I have mentors, role models, and am a part of an entire student body in which I feel supported and valued. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to attend UCLA last year, and to the Class of 2023 and every class after, I hope you too make the decision to join the Bruin family. We can’t wait to meet you!

Lauren V. is a First Year Political Science major from San Bruno, CA.

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