Student Life @ UCLA: Starter Pack

Person with floral background welcoming incoming Transfer students.

Person standing in front of rail. Behind rail you can see bushes and tree. The building behind is UCLA Royce Hall.

Hello Bruins! First, let me start by congratulating you on your admission to UCLA. Whether you’re a freshman or transfer admit, campus is eagerly waiting for your arrival. My name is Marilyn Martinez, I am a second-year transfer double majoring in Sociology and Chicana and Chicano Studies. I commute to campus from Glendale, California. Although commuting proved tricky at first, I quickly got the hang of it. I mostly schedule my classes in the morning to avoid traffic. When I am on campus and have a little extra time, I go to different places and experiment studying in them. I realized that bruin squirrels have no concept of personal space, so for now I stick to studying indoors mostly at the libraries closest to my next class or activity. On-campus, I have the privilege of being involved in many organizations that have both enriched my experience on campus, and challenged, broadened, and positively contributed to my worldview.


Before I discuss my experiences with student life, let me offer you this piece of advice. I suggest that you sit down with yourself at the beginning of each quarter to identify and list your priorities. My first quarter at UCLA my top 3 priorities were (1) academics, (2) finding academic and professional resources on campus, and (3) locating an inclusive and empowering community. Now, as I enter my last quarter at UCLA my top 3 priorities have shifted. Identifying and adjusting your priorities will help you organize your life as a student to achieve balance inside and outside the classroom. Additionally, you will have a clear vision of what is worth your energy, time, and resources.


The first organization I encountered at UCLA was the Academic Advancement Program (AAP). I had interacted with their organization while in community college through their program, the Center for Community College Partnerships. Based on those early interactions, I knew that this was an inclusive and empowering organization for low-income first-generation students who had been historically disadvantaged and underrepresented. As a result, I participated in their Transfer Summer Program. This program really kicked of my student life at UCLA, because it introduced me to the rigor of academics, the unit of the AAP Research Assessment and Evaluation Team (RAE) and the AAP Peer Counseling Team (PC).


As a transfer, the rigor of academics really frightened me. However, as I completed the Transfer Summer Program, I realized that I was equipped to succeed at UCLA. I had worked hard all throughout my two years in community college to develop productive study habits, efficient organization skills, and effective time management. Thus, the biggest barrier I had to overcome as I made my transition to the university was my own mind. Consequently, once I had adjusted to the rigor of academics and the new organization of the quarter system, I decided to apply for a position within RAE. This position or internship gave me the opportunity to pose as a research assistant and to work closely with graduate students and other doctoral staff. It was through this experience that I not only gained the necessary knowledge to work with qualitative data, but it also gave me the confidence to pursue my own independent research. This is because this internship was really the first exposure I had to research. From here I realized that I had a passion for creating and sharing knowledge.


I subsequently decided that I would apply to be an AAP Peer Counselor. You see from my research in RAE I learned that most student who navigate academic or professional hardship suffer a lack of resources rather than a lack of intelligence. So, I knew that if I connected students to the right resources, then their academic and professional experiences could be improved. Thus, this experience not only positively impacted my life as a student, but it also allowed me the opportunity to share my knowledge, and to connect students to the right resources to aid them in their pursuit of higher education. It was these same motivations that motivated me to also become a Bruin Ambassador at the admissions office. As a Bruin Ambassador, I work with high school students to improve their lack of access to higher education and to provide them with information about the college application process.


Throughout, my time at UCLA, I have centered my student life around giving back in the form of mentorship and research. Most of the populations that I work with at my two jobs and internship are students who are historically underrepresented, and first-generation students of color like myself. It is through giving back that I can maintain my motivation despite my busy and sometimes overwhelming schedule. I have personally experienced and witnessed how higher education can open doors and opportunities and I thus wanted to ensure that the doors and opportunities remain open for the generations that follow. You see the coolest thing about UCLA is that it is a very hard place to stand still at. This means that there will be a surplus of opportunities to follow your passions, goals, and interests. If and when you become overwhelmed, remember that student life at UCLA is a privilege that you have earned through your tenacity, hard work, and dedication. So, to my fellow bruins, welcome to the family. I know you are going to crush it.


Just in case, here are my top 24 tips or UCLA hacks for the class of 2024.

  1. Identify and rank your academic, professional, and personal priorities.
  2. Schedule at least one day off during the week (Monday-Friday). In other words, schedule a self-care day, it can be a day to catch up on readings or to do nothing at all.
  3. Make at least one friend/acquittance in every class. This will be especially useful if you ever need to miss a day, or if you need further clarification.
  4. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes.
  5. Meet with a counselor/advisor/peer counselor/mentor at least once a quarter.
  6. Become familiar with your Degree Audit Report (DARs) available on MyUCLA. DARs keeps track of your academic progress, and it also lists out the requirements you have yet to fulfill. If you are unsure of how to read it, please visit your counseling unit (CAC, AAP, Honors, or Athletics).
  7. Use message center on MyUCLA to contact various departments such as, financial aid, (CAC, AAP, Honors, or Athletics) counseling offices, major/minor advising etc.
  8. Follow your passions.
  9. Find and join at least one identity-based organization, doing this will increase your sense of belonging.
  10. Study at Powel Library or Young Research Library when you need a little extra motivation.
  11. If you’re going to the sculpture garden, then bring snacks for the squirrels.
  12. Learn to ride a bird scooter, it can come in handy if you are ever in a crunch for time.
  13. Locate all the restrooms in the buildings where you have class.
  14. Call your parents and send them pictures of campus, they are very proud of you.
  15. Change your study habits to cater to each class.
  16. Use Google Calendar or the UCLA academic planner to keep track of due dates, class times, and other responsibilities.
  17. Visit the Career Center, and the Writing Center.
  18. Take up space, meaning please take advantage of all the recourses offered to you and ask questions unapologetically.
  19. Get lost on campus and wander around
  20. Don’t touch the inverted fountain after your first initiation. The bruin superstition is that if you touch the water, then you will have to stay an extra quarter before graduating. Once you have taken your last final as a senior, you will be free to touch (or get in) the inverted fountain.
  21. Self-advocate.
  22. Never compare yourself to your peers.
  23. Research (Google) your professors before visiting their office hours to familiarize yourself with their work.
  24. Please, savor the most mundane of experiences every single day such as, walking to class and sitting through a long lecture.

Right: Person standing next to UCLA Bruin Bear statue.

Left: Person with backpack walking in the UCLA Royce Hall building.

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