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

Located in the La Jolla community right on the Pacific Ocean, the University of California – San Diego is a public university that was established in 1960. It is one of the ten schools making up the University of California system, offering both graduate and undergraduate degree programs. 

UC San Diego itself contains seven undergraduate colleges, six graduate and professional schools, and six academic divisions, all of which are led by highly-esteemed faculty members. 

As of 2017, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities named UCSD an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University, a title thus far conferred upon only 60 universities in the country. 

The purpose of the designation is to honor colleges that have shown a deep commitment to bolstering local economic conditions through innovation, business, and workforce development.

The college’s urban campus occupies nearly 2,000 acres. While first-year students are guaranteed campus residence for their first two years of study, they are not required to do so for any period of time.

In addition to numerous academic buildings and student residence halls, the UCSD campus also features the Large High Performance Outdoor Shake Table — used to test objects’ ability to withstand simulated earthquakes — and an aquarium.  

As of the 2020-2021 academic year, UC San Diego has a total undergraduate enrollment of 31,824 students and nearly 8,000 graduate students. 

It is more likely than not that you have heard of UCSD, but do you know why this college has been able to establish itself as a household name? 

For those who want to learn more about just what makes UCSD the well-respected, well-known institution of higher education that it is, here we have compiled all the most essential information to know about this school, including the most prominent clubs, most popular major programs, and so much more.

What Majors & Academics Are UCSD Known For?

Myasuda, 2020 UCSD Natatorium, CC BY-SA 4.0

At the University of California — San Diego, students can choose from among more than 130 major programs. 

The most popular degree programs at the school are those in the social sciences, with about 37% of the student body electing to pursue a degree in this field of study. 

However, the most popular major at UC San Diego is actually a STEM field: biology majors make up a little more than 17% of students at the school, suggesting that the college offers appealing programs in many different academic subject areas. 

In fact, the second, third, and fourth most popular fields of study at UCSD are all in the STEM field. These are engineering, biology, and physical sciences. 

When it comes to the rankings, the biotechnology and bioinformatics program offered by UC San Diego is perhaps the college’s most highly-esteemed academic program. 

UCSD is currently tied — with MIT — for the #1 spot on the list of best schools for undergraduate biotechnology in the United States.

UCSD is also well-known for its academic offerings relating to mobile and web application development, currently ranking #7 in the country. 

In terms of its cybersecurity and computer systems programs, UCSD is ranked #11, just barely outside of the top 10.

In addition, UCSD has been named #12 in the country in terms of best undergraduate data science programs, further establishing this university as a leading institution for computer science education.

Is UCSD a Good School?

There is no doubt about it: the University of California — San Diego is an outstanding school. 

In fact, all of the nine schools in the University of California system are often regarded as some of the best public colleges in the United States. 

Much like all of the UC schools, UC San Diego is known for having a competitive, selective admissions process, a diverse, high-achieving student body, and a strong reputation for student research programs. 

According to the 2022 editions of US News and World Report’s annual list of the best universities in the country, UC San Diego is tied for the #34 spot in the rankings.

Further contributing to UCSD’s status as an excellent undergraduate school to choose from are the solid academic backgrounds of students who are accepted to the school. 

In 2021, the middle 25-75% of those who were admitted to UCSD as first-year students earned a high school GPA between 4.07 and 4.29. 

With so many students at the school earning nearly straight As over the duration of their entire high school careers, it is safe to say that UCSD admits only the most exemplary students to be a part of the college’s rigorous academic community.

UCSD Traditions

Tktktk, Warren Mall, UCSD, CC BY 3.0

UCSD has a number of exciting, highly-anticipated traditions and annual events during each of the four seasons. 

In the fall, there is Welcome Week, a seven-day celebration with various festivities to kick off the start of the new school year. 

Welcome Week activities include a pool party, movie screenings, a bonfire, and late-night Target runs to help get new students initiated to life on campus. 

Shortly after this week of fun, there is Snoopy’s Fall Festival, during which students can enjoy seasonal treats, activities, and pumpkin painting. 

In the winter, the UCSD office for Residence Life hosts Let It Flow. 

UCSD welcomes the spring season with Kunchocshun, an annual Spring Festival with live musical performances, vendors, chocolate, other foods, and much more.

To help students decompress before finals week and celebrate the close of the quarter, UCSD hosts Breakfast and Boardgames. 

One of the college’s most cherished traditions, Breakfast and Boardgames, is a cost-free event where students can enjoy their favorite breakfast foods while playing games with friends. 

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at UCSD

The University of California — San Diego offers more than 500 clubs and extracurricular activities for students to choose from. 

A number of Greek life organizations are among the hundreds of student organizations at the school. To be precise, UCSD is home to 21 sororities, 24 fraternities, and 16 cultural-based Greek letter organizations

Over 2,500 students — or about a quarter of the student body — participate in one of these 61 Greek life organizations over the course of their years at UCSD.

Of course, Greek life is just one of the many types of extracurriculars offered at UCSD. The college is also home to more than a dozen student publications, including the KSDT radio station and the UCSD Guardian newspaper. 

For students looking to show their Triton spirit, UCSD has a pep band and a cheer squad. All students, regardless of skill level or instrument of choice, are invited to try out for the pep band, which plays at sporting events.

The UCSD cheerleading squad is open to students of all genders, with a varying number of male and female students on the team each year. The cheer squad boosts school spirit at sports games and various other Triton Athletic department events.

What Sports Are UCSD Known For?

The University of California – San Diego is home to a number of strong athletic teams, which are known as the Tritons. Since 2020, UCSD has been a member of the NCAA’s Division I, competing primarily in the Big West Conference.

Since the NCAA does not sponsor rowing, UC San Diego’s rowing teams are members of the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association. 

Similarly, the fencing team is a part of the Intercollegiate Fencing Conference of Southern California, men’s water polo competing in the Western Water Polo Association.

The men’s basketball team is UCSD’s most well-known athletic program. Before the school transitioned to Division I, the men’s basketball Tritons were ranked the #1 team in Division II. 

The team made five Division II tournament appearances, four of which were consecutive from 2016 to 2019. The team also brought home five California Collegiate Athletic Association conference tournament championship titles, first in 2008, then four years in a row from 2017 through 2020.


If going to college in one of the liveliest, most beautiful urban areas in the sunshine state is not appealing enough to convince you that UCSD is a great choice of undergraduate institution, then perhaps the university’s remarkably high first-year retention rate — a commonly accepted indication of how content students at a given school are — will be. 

With 95% of first-time freshmen at UCSD returning to the school for an additional year of study, we can see that the average Triton is generally quite satisfied with all the college offers. 

Looking at what past UCSD alumni have been up to since completing their degrees, one can see that the college has a history of producing highly-employable, successful graduates. 

91.2% of UCSD’s graduating class of 2020-21 is either employed or pursuing a graduate program, showing that earning a degree from UCSD almost guarantees that you will be able to find work. 

Furthermore, UCSD is not just an excellent school for those who want to start their careers in San Diego or the Southern California area. 

Although almost half of UCSD graduates find jobs on the west coast, more than a quarter are employed in another country.
Although Californian cities — San Diego, San Francisco/San Jose, and Los Angeles — make up three of the top five cities in which UCSD alumni are employed, Washington D.C. and New York also make the cut.

In terms of international cities, Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing are among the most common, showing that a degree from UCSD can take you worldwide.

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