UC Alumnus & Parent of Two UC College Kids - ASK ME ANYTHING!

@aggies1989 is a UC Davis alumnus and parent of two college kids (UCLA senior and UC Berkeley freshman). He recently went through the college admissions process for his two kids and would be happy to answer any questions parents may have regarding applications, test prep, or anything else.

@aggies1989 is mostly familiar with the University of California system, but his kids did apply to a few out of state schools. Feel free to ask him anything!

Are you a parent who accumulated expertise with certain schools or topics (e.g. financial aid, FAFSA, essay writing, test prep, etc.)? Do you have a unique story you want to share to help and inspire other parents? If so and want to be part of our Parents4Parents initiative send me a private message and we’ll connect on next steps.

I don’t have a question for you, but because I am feeling nostalgic at the moment, I just want to say that I was at UCD at around the same time and have many fond memories of the school. I wish I had appreciated my time there. Little did I know how lucky I was to get a blueberry muffin and coffee at the Coffeehouse, ride my bike everywhere, and study English poets. You are right that time has passes quickly, and now when I see the possibilities my own kids have with college, I want to be the one applying! Hope this comment doesn’t constitute hijacking or going off path.

I had visited UCD for picnic day about 4 or 5 years ago with my family, I was shocked by how much the campus had grown and how much I didn’t recognized. When I attended, they had just finished the Shield’s library extension, there was no ARC (we called the old one the rec center), no baseball stadium. My dorm complex (in Primero) was long gone, it was torn down shortly after I graduated.

I grew up and went to school in a dense urban area, and Davis is/was a very rural college town. So I had a set of expectations based on where I went. When we did the whole college tour around California, I didn’t particularly like UCLA or Berkeley because they are urbanized and crowded, everybody looked harried, and didn’t fit what my experience was. I actually liked the other campuses much more, Irvine, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. Ironically my kids are attending UCLA and Berkeley. I guess the lesson is everybody’s school experience will be different and to not expect that your kids must have the same as yours.

Davis grad here as well (‘94) and my D20 is starting at Berkeley next month. I loved my 4+ years at UCD!! She was NOT interested in going to Davis…I kept trying to tell her she would have a totally different experience, but she did end up at the perfect school for her. :slight_smile:

Thank you for doing this! I have a few questions:

What’s your sense of tolerance for a diversity of opinions at the UCs? Is there healthy debate and discussion in classes?

Also (and unrelated) is the reputation the UCs have for being crowded, impersonal, and bureaucratic warranted? Any specific examples either way on that?

How well has UCLA done in helping with career guidance and services for you eldest?

@ccprofandmomof2 personally, I went to UCSB undergrad and UCB for grad school. I have a rising senior at UCD so can answer your questions based upon my perception of what UCD is like today.

First year STEM classes are large (not necessarily crowded but large). That said, each class has a weekly discussion with approx 30 kids as well as a lab with less than 30. The professor and TAs all have weekly office hours. There is free tutoring for math and chemistry in each dorm. As you move away from the traditional entry level chem, bio, physics and math, class sizes generally become smaller.

Classes and administration might feel impersonal and bureaucratic as a freshman but as soon as one gets the hang of it, that feeling goes away. I think that is the case at just about any school. As an example, my child got to know one of his TAs well and the TA encouraged him to try working in a lab to see if he might be interested in research. He emailed a few professors and simply said that he was a sophomore and was wondering if there were any undergrad opportunities available. He didn’t share his grades or that he knew the TA, just that he was interested. He heard back from all four professors and was offered positions in three of the labs. The fourth professor said he didn’t have space at the time but would keep his contact info if something opened up in the future. An example of things not working out was when there weren’t enough spots in the second course in a three quarter series (ex. chem) so some kids had to wait a quarter before progressing. I didn’t think that was planned well and felt that they should have been able to better estimate how many kids in Chem 1A would be taking Chem 1B.

Regarding career guidance, I think UCD is similar to the other UCs in that there is a lot available but the student needs to take the initiative to seek it out. One example at UCD is the pre-health advising with their boot camps, test prep, practice interviews, etc. https://hpa.ucdavis.edu/preparing-health-profession Another example is the MAST (Math and Science Teacher) program where they will pay for your CBEST/CSET admission test fees if you are enrolled in one of the courses. https://mast.ucdavis.edu/

@ccprofandmomof2: I have to agree with @lkg4answers assessment of UCD and much of the information can be applied to the rest of the UC’s. Of course, different individuals can have different experiences.

Not a UC alumni, but a CSU alumni. I have a CSU grad and a UC grad and many of the same issues are present at both type of schools.

Large classes for lower division courses but if the student makes an effort to attend TA and Professor office hours, then there is a chance to connect with your instructors and seek any help if needed.

For any large institution, administration is viewed as being impersonal but again it is up to the student to make an effort to try and navigate the bureaucracy and deal with the situation.

My older son that attended UCD got lucky when it came to being involved in research. He had 2 professors approach him and offer him a position but in general, taking the initiative is usually expected of most students.

Job/Internship/Career guidance is available but it is up to the student to take advantage of all opportunities offered between workshops, professor/TA contacts, job fairs etc… Being a “go-getter” will definitely help any student.

There’s plenty of tolerance and diversity of opinions in all UC’s in general, and most particularly at UCB. My UCLA kid is ChemE i.e. south campus, so he doesn’t have many classes, such as humanities, in which there is a lot of debates going on, but I’ve never heard any negative from him about it.

Some intro lower division classes will be very crowded. I think the largest class at UCLA for my kid was maybe 400-500 people. I’ve been told of CS and bio classes at UCB being 1000 students. But he said most of his upper division major classes are about 50-60+ people. I think UCLA does a good job of guiding students to graduate in 4 years, there’s plenty of help and guidance if the student seeks it. Same with knowing professors and TA’s, you need to make the effort. He did tell me there was commonly a line of students for office hours. That was news to me, I went to office hours plenty at UCD and never had to wait (over 30 years ago!)

A negative would be my kid has told me how hard it was to get into the engineering career fair, that it was a multi-hour long line just to get into the building. UCLA has the highest student population in the smallest land area, so it’s crowded. I haven’t heard much else from him about career guidance, he’s pretty much does it on his own.

If your kid is self driven, able to advocate for themselves, seek help when needed, then they’ll be fine in the UC system. All the kids there are bright and motivated. Another frame of reference, my kids went through public schools entirely. When I spoke with other families with high school kids in private schools (common in bay area), I was surprised by how much the counselors did for them, and all the hand holding involved. Our public high school counselors actively discouraged kids from taking AP classes, and really did the absolute minimum. They only cared about maintaining graduation rates, and not college guidance. So from that perspective, it’s way better now my kid is at UCLA. The help is there but you do need to seek it out yourself, there’s no hand holding.

Congrats to your daughter! Will she be attending in person next month? I thought we would be empty nesters by September, but due to COVID19 both our kids will be home for online classes during the fall quarter/semester.

Thanks all! Very helpful perspective!

My child who is studying cognitive science at UCD has never had to wait in line. That said, the week before midterms or finals there are a lot of students going to office hours. In those cases, TAs and professors often bring in a group of students at once.

Wow that surprises me. Maybe they should have the students register in advance for a time to enter.

My midwest kid dreams of going to school in Cali but alas, I dont think theres any possible way for that to happen financially.

The out of state tuition portion for UC’s are about $30k, and that’s on top of the regular tuition of $14-15k. Then add in room and board of about $15k. I don’t see how that’s worth it myself, other than perhaps at UCLA or UCB, or if you can get a lot of federal financial aid.

I know private schools are at the same cost compared to out of state UC, if you have highly qualified students, there’s a lot of aid given by the private schools. My kids have friends going to USC, they get $20k scholarship off tuition, but that’s still >$30k tuition a year, way more than in-state UCLA, yet cheaper than out of state UC tuition.

My daughter and her best friend planned to room together in Bowles Hall, but they need to “thin the herd” there per the City of Berkeley and offered guaranteed housing for Spring, if COVID permits. She is super sad but hopeful that she will be in attendance in the Spring. Luckily she can continue her job to stay busy and 3/5 classes are asynchronous.

Post #7 above by the OP (@aggies1989) shares important information about class size at UC-Berkeley & at UCLA that may diminish the appeal of these two flagships for those who would pay non-resident tuition rates.

It is difficult to imagine classes with 400 to 500 students and even more difficult to accept that paying non-resident–or even resident–tuition for classes with 1,000 students. Seems as though an online course might be more personal than sitting in a lecture hall with 999 other students.

I wish that more posters would share information about class size at public flagship schools throughout the country.

Thank you @aggies1989 for sharing this information & for starting this thread.

@aggies1989 - My D is a ChemE rising senior @ UCLA. (They probably know each other.)

My D started UCLA as a math major and switched to engineering fall of her sophomore year. While kids do need to be assertive to gain research and internships, plenty of opportunities exist. My D, gained a position in a lab sophomore year - which led to a paid internship that summer where her work got published. Junior year she attended a career fair which led to a paid internship this summer with a company that offers the possibility of a job upon graduation. (Fingers crossed!)

What is really impressive abt the opportunities mentioned is my D is a shy, introvert. She attended a very small, private hs, where (as you mentioned) there was a lot of guidance and hand holding. We had no idea how she would navigate a big, bustling campus and stand out amongst all the other brilliant students. But UCLA has forced her out of her comfort zone and has taught her to be proactive. Her friends and fellow students are all extremely motivated and bright. They support and push each other.

My youngest D will be joining her older sister this fall, as an incoming, north campus, freshman.

@gratefulmama You’re right, they probably do know each other! My kid is not that assertive either, he really needs to be pushed sometimes. When he started, he said that every ChemE freshman is assigned a older class individual as a mentor. Then when he entered his 2nd and 3rd years, he became a mentor to ChemE freshmen. I don’t know if that’s just a ChemE department or engineering school thing, but I thought that was a great idea.

@aggies1989 - Since mine transferred in her sophomore year, she missed out on having a mentor as a freshman but she did become one herself last year. It’s a great program. I don’t know if they do the same for majors outside of chemE or engineering but I have to think there is support for all.

We are fortunate to have several great CSUs and UCs available, each with their own vibe and personality. It will be fun to hear your perspective of UCB once your youngest gets started - so please keep us updated.

I like what I know about Davis, but I worry about air quality, how bad is it? Also, how feasible is it to get to Sacramento and to Berkeley both using a car and public transport?

@InfoQuestMom: UCD offers a shuttle to UCB campus for UCD students, staff and faculty. UCD started off as an extension of the UCB campus for their farm university and science research.


UCD to Berkeley around an hour drive time depending upon traffic. Also Amtrak has a route from UCD to Berkeley.

My son used the Davis Airporter for shuttling back and forth to Sacramento airport. Sacramento is around a 15-20 minute drive from UC Davis depending upon traffic and where in Sacramento you are heading.

The Yolobus also has a route to Sacramento including surrounding towns such as Woodland, Winters, Vacaville etc… https://www.yolobus.com/

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