5 Tips to Help you Prepare as an International Student

I attended school abroad and knew, all along, that I wanted to study at a university in the United States. When I finally received my university’s letter of acceptance 3 months later, I was ecstatic! But the emotions that settled in after that were confusing: I was going to leave my family and live alone in a foreign place; I was going to say goodbye to my friends; I would have to adapt to a new culture and speak English every day. I was happy, yes, but I also felt this emptiness in my heart because I was not going to live at home anymore.

I know first-hand how scary the university admission process can be. Although decisions for UCLA have not yet been released (they will be released in late March for freshman applicants), here are a few things I learned from my experience that can help in  your transition as an international student:

  1. Check and read your emails: Almost all information that is shared from our admission office is done electronically. Between now and decision release, we may request more information or provide other announcements. Make sure our emails are not going to your spam box, and that you are reading what we send to you carefully. Some emails may be time-sensitive so make sure you read our messages thoroughly.
  2. Understand what documents are needed. UCLA does not request letters of recommendation or transcripts at the time of application. There are some exceptions if you are applying to our School of Theater, Film & Television, School of Arts & Architecture, School of Music and our School of Nursing, but for the most part, our decisions are based on information you have provided in your application You or your school do not need to mail or email us any documents unless we request it directly from you. We understand that you are a stellar applicant and you want to mail us all your certificates or email us all your projects; trust that you have done a great job in completing the University of California (UC) application and allow us to carefully read through it.
  3. Send your official test scores. If you have not done so by now, you must send your official SAT or ACT and if required, TOEFL or IELTS scores to us. Official scores are sent directly from the testing agency to us. Paper copies or copies that are transmitted outside of the testing agencies are not considered official scores. And remember: if you have applied to more than one UC campus, send your score to one of our campuses and we will share it with the rest of the campuses to which you applied. The only exception is the IELTS exam; you will need to send it to each individual campus.If your name on your UC application is different from the name you used on your tests, please let us know! We want to make sure your scores are matched correctly to your UC application.
  1. Applying for a Student Visa. As an international (non-U.S.) student, you are required to obtain a student visa in order to study in the United States. All universities will ask students to provide proof of financial support (in the form of bank statements, financial documents, etc.), and the amount of this proof will vary by university. Once a proof of financial support is received and verified, the university will mail/issue you a Form I-20. This document makes you eligible to apply for a U.S. student visa (typically an F-1 visa), and you will use data in this document to schedule your visa appointment at your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy.At UCLA, once you are admitted and decide to commit to us, you will receive instructions on how to submit your proof of financial support from our Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars. You do not need to send any of these documents to us until after you decide to commit to UCLA. Don’t worry, our Dashew Center will give you details and guidance on how to apply for a student visa.
  1. Don’t contract “senioritis”. Your final year of high school is also known in the U.S. as your senior year. Just because you are done with university applications does not mean it is time to party! If you are admitted to UCLA, we will still require you to perform at the same level (or better) as when you applied to us. We do check your final year grades so make sure you continue to do well.

130514_UCLA_1283.jpgWaiting for decisions is a very exciting yet nervous time for everyone. And as an international student, you certainly need extra time to make sure documents and other things are done properly. We completely understand, and have consciously built in enough time in between decision release and start of school to allow you to do all of that. In the meantime, keep these 5 tips in mind as you hear back from all your universities (and from UCLA). And once you receive your decisions, don’t forget to congratulate yourself on all the hard work you have put in!

This post was written by Olivia Loo, Senior Assistant Director, International Recruitment
UCLA Undergraduate Admission

Read Season from a Readers Point of View

College admission is an annual cycle. As admission professionals, many of us spend most of our time on the road during Fall. We visit as many high schools and community colleges that time allows, participate in college fairs, and speak with countless students and counselors! While we love the fall, we look forward to putting away our suitcases and beginning the application review season following the application deadline.

After our annual training to kick off reading season, our staff dives into the hefty supply of UCLA applications. And wouldn’t you know it, this year we received over 100,000 applications  from high school students. As a UCLA alumnus, many of my former peers and colleagues share and repost the headlines from different news sources stating, “UCLA breaks 100,000 applicant mark” with captions or comments like, “Go UCLA” or “Proud to be a Bruin!” All I can think to myself when I see those posts are, ”now we get to read them all…twice!”

Heading into my third year of application review, I’m happy to report that read season doesn’t intimidate me anymore. Years prior, I became anxious of review season due the responsibility and number of applications our office receives. Nowadays, the work is manageable and enjoyable as I read about students from across California, the United States, and the world. I am able to get a quick look into the lives of students and learn about who they are and what they have experienced as well as help select them as future Bruins!

After three years of going through this process, the one thing that continues to amaze me is how the quality of our applicants continue to rise. I’m convinced that students who apply to UCLA today no longer have time to sleep! The vast majority of our applicants are doing incredibly well in the classroom, and at the same time doing more outside the classroom than you would expect: learning instruments, playing sports, overseeing organizations, conducting research, building businesses, working part-time, taking care of family members, writing books; I mean you name it, and there is a student out in the world doing it (probably more than you think). These young minds are inspirational and tireless and always make me question whether or not I’m doing enough each day! Which only makes reviewing their applications even more rewarding.

Like many universities, we use holistic review at UCLA. This means that we take every part of a student’s application into consideration . Every application is reviewed at least twice by two different admission readers. We consider the quality of academic work, where and how the student spent his/her time by making an impact outside of the classroom with respect to extracurricular activities or responsibilities, and who they are through their responses to the Personal Insight Questions.

By the end of this month, most Undergraduate Admission office staff will be deep into the read cycle and some of us will be exclaiming, “I’m ready to hit the road again!” However, we remain glued to our reading location of choice, often with caffeinated beverage in hand, as we review every application, one–by-one, until we reach our admission decision release date. For you prospective students awaiting your decision from UCLA, I wish you the best of luck, and Go Bruins!

Joel Ontiveros is an Assistant Director at UCLA Undergraduate Admission and regionally based in San Francisco, CA.

Bucket List: Freshman Year

Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

As the school year draws to a close, seniors in flowing graduation gowns can be seen all over campus, posing for graduation pictures. I can’t believe that my first year at UCLA is almost over (except for finals, bleh). As UCLA prepares to send off a fourth of its population off into the real world, it’s time to welcome the freshman class.

It’s hard to believe that a little less than a year ago, I was the bright-eyed freshman who stepped foot on this campus for the first time. The quarter system does move at a super fast pace, and it seems as though this year has just been a blur. Now it’s time to take a look back at a fraction of the bucket list I composed right after freshman orientation and see what items I’ve crossed off. I was inspired by a youtube clip I had watched shortly before I moved here 🙂

  1. Take part in the Color Run 2014(I ended up participating in Run or Dye with some good friends this May).
  2. Study abroad for one quarter + (I’m studying abroad in LSE this summer! I’ve never been to Europe before, and I’m counting down the days till I’m there!)
  3. Join an a cappella group  (Awechords A Cappella, you have given me the experience of a lifetime. I’m so glad I get to sing with you all for the rest of my college career!)
  4. Volunteer for an educational cause (Project WILD, Unicamp, I am so incredibly lucky to be able to volunteer with you)
  5. University Chorus, UCLA Chorale, Chamber (Performing in Royce was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had during my undergraduate career. As Dr.Neuen’s last choral class, getting to perform the Beethoven Mass inside UCLA’s best venue was incredible.)
  6. Tour Guide ( I served as a tour guide for Bruin Day! Despite getting stranded outside the elevator from my tour group and having to scour the building for them, it was an exhilarating experience)
  7. Experience Spring Sing (Best show ever!!! More to come on this later)
  8. Figure out what major I want to be (This actually turned out to be not that difficult once I was able to figure out what I was really passionate about!)
  9. Thanksgiving in Beverly Hills ( I had the fortune of dining with an alumni for Thanksgiving since I couldn’t go back home, thanks to the Dashew Center!
  10. Road Trip (LOL my friends from my floor dragged me to San Diego during Winter Quarter amid midterm craziness. I am so grateful they persuaded me, that was definitely an fun-filled adventure!)
  11. Learn something completely random  (Wow. I’ve taken a couple of classes purely for the sake of learning outside my academic career and they were some of the best courses I’ve taken thus far.)

So these were a couple of the things I’ve managed to cross off my list. The rest are little goals or checkpoints I will work towards during the future, and I’ll definitely keep on expanding the list! So for anyone looking to create a bucket list: be as deep, as insightful, or as crazy as you’d like: college is what you make out of it! Set a goal to take a random class, do something you never thought you’d do (like leap off a pole on the top of a mountain), meet some incredible people, and get ready for the ride of your life!

Hello World!

Photo Credit: Project WILD UCLA


Hi everyone, I’m Cheechee, the newest contributor to the UCLA Life Blog! I am thrilled to be writing for you all and I really hope that my posts will help shed some light on the day-to-day life at UCLA. Coming here was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that this institution has bestowed upon me.

A little bit about me: I’m a first year hoping to study Communication Studies with a specialization in Computing! I truly feel that human interaction is a wondrous thing and I value the power of being able to communicate well with others. I am particularly interested in the Internet and its impact on society as well as education, and my vision is to someday bring technology to all parts of the world. In my spare time, I sing in Awechords A Cappella as well as the University Chorale and volunteer with UCLA Unicamp and Project WILD (a volunteer project that tutors kids from immigrant families). I also serve as the marketing director for World In-Sight, a mini world exposition devoted to showcasing all the diverse cultures of the student body here at UCLA (more posts to come on this soon!). Career wise, I work as the research assistant for the Center for the Digital Future, which is currently focusing on a study researching the effects of the Internet, and the UCLA English Department, where I am assisting a professor in his study on Anthony Hecht. I love music and kids, and I am thrilled that UCLA has so many student organizations that align with my interests.

I was born in San Jose, CA and moved to Taipei, Taiwan when I was ten, attending local schools there. This unique life experience has blessed me with a strong proficiency in Mandarin, and though overcoming the language barrier was initially challenging, it was also life changing and gave me a much deeper understanding of my heritage. This identity has also proven to be confusing at times, as I never have the answer to “Where are you from?” or “Are you international?”. Yet I wouldn’t give up my background for the world! I am forever grateful to the unforeseen circumstances in my life that allowed me to be acquainted with my culture!

UCLA truly has been an amazing experience so far. Though I’m super involved and busy all the time, I still find the time to balance between my various extracurriculars, schoolwork, and friends. The quarter system does move at a super fast pace, but I’ve discovered that it’s helped me become more efficient at various tasks. I can’t wait to see what the next three years will bring me, and I am so excited to share with you all the stories of my journey through college and beyond.

Well that’s about it for now 🙂 and I really look forward to writing for you all! Comment below, I love getting messages 😀

The Three Historic B’s

When giving tours or talking to prospective students, we like to talk about how safe our campus is (because it really, really is).  One of the phrases we like to use is “UCLA is surrounded by the 3 Historic B’s: Bel Air, Beverly Hills, and Brentwood”.  The more time I spend in LA, the more time I have spent discovering these three areas.

Bel Air: A very nice/expensive neighborhood.  Now, I have no personal experience in this neck of the woods, but I have heard it is very nice to go running in!  I may not know much about this area, but I hear it has a pretty ‘Fresh Prince’.  It is right across the street from UCLA’s residential area.

Beverly Hills: When you think of things like Rodeo Drive, you are thinking of Beverly Hills.  My friends’ dad got to be best man in Rob Schieder’s wedding (the actor in “The Hot Chick” and “Benchwarmers”).  The wedding took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  This is a very fun area to explore and do some window shopping (because everything is out of my budget!).  There are some great finds here, such as Sprinkle’s Cupcakes, Crumbs Cupcakes, Urrth Caffe, and just a bit further away is Millions of Milkshakes!


Brentwood: Typical “Westside” vibe.  Brentwood is easily my favorite of the three B’s.  Everything is extremely accessible via the Big Blue Bus.  There is a great Farmer’s market, good restaurants, and cafes.  One UCLA student hot spot is “Coral Tree”, a cafe that also has great breakfast and paninis.  They once even made an elephant out of the foam for my mocha!  Another gem is “Sweet Rose Ice Cream”.  They make their own organic ice cream in some crazy flavors! Today I sampled some Earl Gray ice cream and ordered a waffle cone with caramel apple with granola ice cream! It was so good!

Exploring the nearby area has been great!  From the Getty (which I went to for the third weekend in a row) to cafes, there is always something to do just a bus ride (or bike ride) away!

3 Day Weekend and Adventures!


As a friend of mine put it: “Winter is my favorite week of the year!”  Despite the cold snap we had last week, this week has been nothing but blue skies! I’ve been able to do a lot on particularly sunny weekends, and it was all so close by!  Seeing as it is only week 3, most of us Bruins had little homework and a lot of free time for adventures!

Taking the Big Blue Bus down to Santa Monica is always fun.  There you can rent bikes, go to the beach, do some shopping, or eat at some of their great restaurants!  I’ve always been a fan of Cafe Crepe!  Hiking in Malibu is another fun option where you can climb up waterfalls and explore some cool boulders!  If you’re not a serious hiker, you could always hike to the Hollywood sign which is more of a nice walk.

While I’ve done a lot of things over my weekends here in LA, one of my favorite things to do is try new places to eat!  This weekend, I got to finally try out a local gem called “Bombay Bite”! I’d never had Indian food before this weekend, but after eating some lamb korma I definitely want to try it again!

In short, there is a lot to do (and a lot that I have actually done)!  The three day weekend gave me the time to do a lot of different things, while still feeling relaxed.  Personally, I got to spend a lot of quality time with my friends between eating Indian food, going to church, making a delicious tarte tartin, and going to the movies!  I even had time to sit down and enjoy the sunset! It was the perfect weekend!  I’ve never felt more blessed to be a Bruin!

The Weirdest Week of the Quarter.

Finals week is crazy for so many reasons!  It’s always been my least favorite week and my favorite week.  Everyone is so sleep deprived and has no class that we all just end up having some of the best memories!  It is not uncommon to go into a dorm study lounge at 3 in the morning to see people studying or snacking.  Coffee shops around Westwood are full of college students.  New friendships are made as you form study groups with classmates for the first time all quarter!  It’s a unique time.

This weekend was a lot of fun for me.  My friends and I were looking for new places to study and taking some creative study breaks.  Here is what we found:

Study Spots

  • Libraries (my personal favorite is YRL)
  • Different apartments (yesterday we studied while listening to Les Miserables and saw an incredible sunset)
  • University Bible Church on Wilshire.  From 7pm-1am they have free coffee, food, wifi, and printing!!
  • Coffeeshops (you can’t go wrong with Jimmy’s Coffeehouse and their awesome music!)

Study Breaks

  • Trying new recipes
  • Taking a walk
  • Hourly dance parties
  • Midnight Yell (a UCLA tradition!)

The last week of the quarter is when you get to see people at their most vulnerable and at their messiest.  Somehow (between practicing equations and writing papers) you make some of your best UCLA memories!

For me, this week has already included some creative cooking, an awesome pink and purple sunset, and dancing to early 2000’s pop music.  My professors have all been great about setting up review sessions and I have already formed some study groups for later in the week.   It has been a lot of fun so far.  I cannot wait to see what the rest of the week has in store!

The best part about all of this?  As soon as it’s over, winter break begins!!!  Merry Christmas!!

New Hobbies

One of my favorite things about UCLA is all of the random activities that go on- particularly on the grass by Janss steps.   On sunny days this is quite a popular spot to go in between classes.  You will see people “hammock”ing, other days it will be people playing the ukulele, but you can almost always find people slacklining.

What is slacklining?  You take a 1 or 2 inch flat rope and you put it between two trees and you tighten it so that you can walk on it.  Apparently it is very popular in the rock climbing community.  The more talented slackliners can do tricks such as jumping, walking backwards, and leaping.  It sounds difficult and at first it definitely is!

Every time I have ventured out to Janss steps, I have found different groups with slacklines just waiting for others to join them.  The first couple times people waved me over to try, I just waved and said “No thanks, I’m not that coordinated” and went back to my book.  But the other day I decided to give it a try.  While I only took one step the first time, I felt so accomplished!  By the time I had to go to class, I had taken five steps!  My new friends had been so encouraging and helped me every step of the way.  I was so sad when I had to go back to class, but I was assured that they would be out slacklining at the same time the next day.

It was awesome!  Not only because I got to try something new, but because I made so many new people.  UCLA is constantly surprising me.  I had never heard of this unusual sport before and never thought that I would try something like it (you should have seen my mother’s face when I showed her the pictures)!  Now, I always have a place to go for some outdoor fun in between classes and know that taking a risk is usually worth it!  I still don’t pretend to be an expert at slacklinnig, but I can definitely call it a hobby of mine!