What is UCLA Known For? Is UCLA a Good School?

The flagship of the legendary University of California system, UCLA was founded in 1882 as the California State Normal School’s southern branch. 

The second oldest of the campuses in the system, UCLA leads the way in innovation, education, and athletics.

One of the rare “Public Ivies” – public schools with academic output and reputation similar to those of the vaunted Ivy League schools, UCLA has a long list of impressive alumni and faculty. 

In fact, UCLA has been associated with recipients of the highest honors in the world, including 27 winners of the Nobel Prize and five winners of the Turing Award. 

Graduates of UCLA include legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, comedy stars Carol Burnett and Steve Martin, and Senator Kristen Gillibrand.

Although one of the smaller U California campuses, UCLA makes the most of the space it has. Roman architecture marks the oldest buildings on campus, while newer buildings have a clean, more modern look. 

Accentuating these structures is a wide range of greenery, including ficus and sycamore trees, including a visually striking area known as “the Sunken Gardens.”

Thanks to its Los Angeles location, UCLA enjoys strong connections with the entertainment industry. This association includes not only the University serving as a film location for movies such as Erin Brockovich and Legally Blonde but also internships offered at nearby studios and firms.

Apropos of a Los Angeles school, many aspects of UCLA make it a famous university, from its research initiatives to its sports teams.

What Majors & Academics Are UCLA Known For?

UCLA Haines Hall
Beyond My Ken, UCLA Haines Hall 2, CC BY-SA 4.0

Because of its association with the entertainment industry, many of UCLA’s best-known programs are related to film, music, and television.

The UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television is recognized as one of the best in the world, regularly receiving top ranks by outlets such as U.S. News & World Report and The Hollywood Reporter. 

Part of that praise comes from the resources offered by the school, including the Geffen Playhouse, which stages award-winning programs every year. 

Students can also visit the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which boasts more than 220,000 motion picture and television titles and 27 million feet of newsreel footage.

However, with a staggeringly low acceptance rate of just 4%, it is very difficult to study at UCLA’s TFT. 

This low rate helps the school keep small classes, with an average ratio of 5 students to every teacher. Thanks to this outstanding program, the school counts among its alumni writers and directors such as Shane Black, Marielle Heller, and Gore Verbinski.

On the legal side of things, UCLA has one of the nation’s best entertainment law programs, housed at the Ziffren Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law. 

Students take meetings with major companies such as Microsoft and Warner Brothers and work on subjects such as copyright and patent law. 

Ziffren also gives students externship opportunities with talent agencies and production companies in the area.

Away from entertainment but no less important is the David Geffen School of Medicine. One of the best medical schools in the United States, Geffen trains future physicians in its various teaching hospitals. 

These include the UCLA Medical Center, a level-I trauma center for children which is often ranked among the top five in the country.

Is UCLA a Good School?

Unsurprisingly, UCLA comes in near the top of nearly every ranking of American universities.

According to U.S. News & World Report, UCLA is the 20th best university in the United States, above such schools as UC-Berkely, the University of Michigan, and Georgetown University. 

On specialized lists, UCLA does particularly well. U.S. News ranks UCLA as the 10th best school for nursing and computer science, the fifth-best school for veterans, and the #1 public university in the country.

Although it uses slightly different criteria, Niche.com agrees with these rankings. The site awards UCLA an A+ grade, with special acknowledgment for its academics, its diversity emphasis, and the overall value it provides. 

Even better, Niche places UCLA in the number one slot on its lists of the Best College Campuses in America, Best College Food in America, and Top Public Universities in America.

Perhaps the best indication of UCLA’s qualities comes from the high ranking given by Washington Monthly

Where most outlets rank schools according to alumni donations and high-profile research, Washington Monthly assesses schools according to social mobility, public service, and scholarly research. Even by those exacting standards, UCLA fairs well, coming in at 22nd place overall.

UCLA Traditions

As we’ve seen, UCLA has a vaunted reputation to maintain. But that doesn’t mean it’s all work and study. UCLA has its share of traditions, both formal and strange, to help keep students engaged with campus culture.

One of the most important traditions is also one of the silliest. Every year during finals week, students get together to do the “Midnight Yell.”

As the name suggests, the gathered students yell at midnight in a cathartic shout at all of the stress caused by exams.

A more constructive project is the UCLA UniCamp, designed to serve young people in urban Los Angeles. 

Every year, over 1200 children participate in UniCamp, where they learn to read and play alongside UCLA students. With a fully apportioned outdoor summer camp to play on, participants in UniCamp have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others.

For techies, there’s the annual LA Hacks competition. A combination of a tech conference and a skills competition, LA Hacks allows students to show off their abilities. But it’s all for a good cause, as participants raise money for the needy.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at UCLA

Beyond My Ken, UCLA Royce Hall 2, CC BY-SA 4.0

In addition to the various traditions, UCLA offers a wide range of clubs to help students feel connected and invested in their college experience. These clubs run the gamut from pastime groups to organizations dedicated to self-improvement.

The Dancesport Club is a competitive ballroom dance group open to anyone at the school. Not only does it offer ballroom dance instruction, but it has an emphasis on collegiality. 

While the group does work towards competitions, it ultimately exists to have fun and meet new people.

One of the more important UCLA clubs is the Bruin Leaders Project. The BLP exists to make “better students, leaders and citizens” out of its members. It achieves this goal by making connections in the local political and business community and through various service projects.

Finally, if you’re just a kid at heart, you can check out the Disney Club at UCLA, an organization for those who love everything from the Mouse House. 

Members watch Disney movies, plan trips to Disney Land, and simply enjoy spending time together.

What Sports Are UCLA Known For?

In addition to its first-class academics, UCLA also has a proud tradition of great sports teams.

Part of the Pac-Ten conference in NCAA Division I, the UCLA Bruins have won 119 NCAA team championships, a number topped only by its cross-state rival Stanford. 

Twelve of those championships come from the women’s softball team, while the men’s basketball team has won eleven championships. 

The football team may have won just one national championship in 1954, but it has taken several division and conference titles.

While UCLA’s sports dominance makes it a target for other programs in the state, its chief rival is the University of Southern California. 

Each year since 2001, the school awards the Crosstown Cup to the school with the most wins in the 19 sports in which they both compete. 

Although UCLA has taken the Cup a respectable seven times, USC edges out the Bruins with 13 total Cup wins.


As you can see, UCLA is an excellent institution, offering the best possible academic experience, not just in the state of California, but in the entire country. 

Its graduates have gone on to win some of the most important awards and lead some of the most influential organizations in the world.

But is it the right school for you?

Unlike many schools of its caliber, UCLA is relatively cheap for in-state students. Students pay only $36,297 a year, which is nearly half of what attendees pay across town at USC. 

And while nobody would consider its 14% acceptance rate easy, that is less competitive than many top-notch California schools.

For that money, you get the chance to study with those who count among the greatest minds of our generation, teachers and scholars whose work affects the future. 

That’s particularly true of UCLA’s entertainment programs, such as the film school or entertainment law courses. But it’s also true of its law school and medical school, which give the doctors and lawyers of tomorrow the resources they’ll need.

On top of that, UCLA offers more fun than you would expect at a school with such a scholarly tradition. 

The University boasts a proud tradition of athletic excellence, including many national championship wins. On-campus, students can participate in numerous clubs and college traditions, to blow off steam or do some real good.With so much on offer, it’s hard to think of a reason someone would not want to go to UCLA.