Student Story
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Is UC Santa Cruz a fit for you?

Students who started as freshmen share their reasons for choosing UCSC.

Transfer students share why they became Banana Slugs.

UCSC alumni reflect on their UCSC experiences.

Lizette’s Story

Meet the Author: 

Hi, everyone! I’m Lizette and I am a senior earning a BA in Economics. As the 2021 Admissions Umoja Ambassador Intern, I shape and conduct outreach to Umoja programs at community colleges around the state. A part of my internship is to create this blog to help support Black transfer students. 

My acceptance process: 

When I applied to UC Santa Cruz I did not think I was ever going to attend. I don't even remember why I chose to apply to UCSC. I actually TAG’d to UC Santa Barbara because they offer transfer students their own apartments. To me that was the best it could get. However I failed to look at the Economics Department at UCSB. I didn't realize that the Economics Department at UCSB focused more on finance -- something I had negative interest in. As in, I kinda hated it. I was forced to look at the only other school that accepted me -- UCSC. 

The first thing I did was check out their Economics Department and I fell in love. There was regular economics and another major called “Global Economics.” I knew Global Economics was for me because it included classes about policy, economics, health, and the environment. It was everything I was interested in. I checked out their resources for Transfer students. I learned UCSC offers STARS, a summer academy, and guaranteed housing for two years which was super helpful because I planned to graduate in two years [please note that housing guarantees are currently revised due to COVID]. The only thing left for me to do was to actually check out the campus. 

Thankfully for me, a good friend of mine attended UCSC. I called her up to ask her if I could visit and check out the campus. Just the drive up to Santa Cruz convinced me of attending. I’m from Los Angeles and never in my life have I seen so much greenery and forest. 

The campus was breathtaking and beautiful! I loved everything about it. In my first hour on campus I saw wild flowers in bloom, bunnies, and deer. LA could never. My second day on campus I decided to just submit my SIR, my statement of intent to register. I applied to the Summer Academy for transfer [now Transfer Edge] in September and got accepted. Around late September during the Summer Academy, I received my financial aid package for the school year and enrolled in my classes for fall quarter. The peer mentors at the Summer Academy hosted workshops to help understand both processes and answer any questions. I don’t think I would have adjusted well on campus without the Summer Academy because I was able to explore the school and surrounding city without the usual student population. When fall quarter did start, I knew my way around, which busses to take, and all the paths around campus. 

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Alumnus Greg Neri, an Author and Artist Who Loves to Give Back

Alumnus Greg Neri, an Author and Artist Who Loves to Give BackFilmmaker and writer, Greg Neri graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1987. In his interview with the Theater Arts Department at UCSC, he expressed his love for UCSC for its community. As a film and theater arts major he took advantage of the lush meadows and never ending forest.  He spent a lot of his free time painting the meadows near the campus barn. Moreover, Greg recalls that his professors at UCSC took a chance on him which gave him the courage to take risks in his life. 

However, Greg did not stay a filmmaker forever, he actually started writing after being stuck on the film project Yummy. While working with kids in South Central, Los Angeles, he realized he found it easier to talk and relate to younger kids. He appreciated writing for its lower budget costs and greater control over his projects. Eventually the film project became the graphic novel that it is today. 

Diversity in writing is really important for Greg Neri. In his interview with ConnectingYA, Greg Neri explained that there needs to be writing that allows other cultures to walk in the same footsteps of the main character without disconnecting. It needs to be written in a way that the reader can understand the main character’s actions and if in the same circumstances, might make the same decisions too. He says Yummy is ‘not a ghetto story, but a human one.” He explains that there isn't any writing for kids who are at risk to become gangbangers and that it’s those kids who need stories the most. Finally he explains that, “the evolution of my books was not planned but they just came along, inspired by real places and people I encountered in life, I haven't looked back.” If you are trying to decide what to do with your life, Greg advises you to “find your voice and use it. Only you can see the world the way you do.”

Student Perspectives: College Affiliation

The colleges at UC Santa Cruz are instrumental in creating the learning communities and supportive environment that characterize the UC Santa Cruz experience.

All undergraduate students, whether they live in university housing or not, are affiliated with one of 10 colleges. In addition to housing students in small-scale residential communities, each college provides academic support, organizes student activities, and sponsors events that enhance the intellectual and social life of the campus. 

Every college community includes students with diverse backgrounds and academic goals. Your college affiliation is independent of your choice of major, and students rank their preference of college affiliation when they formally accept their admission to UCSC through the Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) process

We asked current UCSC students to share why they chose their college and any tips, advice, or experiences they would like to share related to their college affiliation. Read more below:

"I did not know anything about the college system at UCSC when I received my acceptance and was confused as to why I was being asked to choose a college affiliation if I had already received my acceptance. The easiest way to explain the college affiliation system is that each of the colleges have unique themes. You rank your affiliation choices based on which college theme you like the best. I am lucky enough to have been affiliated with my top choice, Oakes. Oakes' theme is 'Communicating Diversity for a Just Society.' This was important to me because I am an advocate for diversifying colleges and STEM. One of the unique things that Oakes has to offer is the Scientist In Residence Program. Adriana Lopez is the current adviser and hosts many events relating to STEM diversity, research opportunities, and advising to become a professional scientist or work in healthcare. When choosing a college, students should definitely take the time to look into every college’s theme. Location should also be considered when looking at colleges. For instance, if you enjoy working out you may want to choose either Cowell College or Stevenson College since they are the closest to the gym. It is also important to not stress over choosing a college. Each college is wonderful and unique in its own way. Everyone ends up loving their college affiliation and it truly makes for a more personable college experience."

      -Damiana Young, TPP Peer Mentor

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tony"When I first applied to UCSC, I didn’t know anything about the college system, so I didn’t know what to expect. After I was accepted, I was able to look at all of the colleges...and their affiliated core beliefs. I chose Rachel Carson College because their theme relates to environmental activism and conservation. Even though I’m not an Environmental Science major, I believe these core beliefs are globally pertinent issues affecting each and everyone of us and will take our collective effort to solve. I would recommend students choose a college that best holistically represents them, their beliefs, and their aspirations. College affiliation is also a great way to diversify your social bubble to include different perspectives that perhaps challenge your preconceived notions."

      -Tony Estrella, TPP Peer Mentor

 

 

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malika"After my friend took me on a tour all over campus, what stuck with me the most was Stevenson College, College 9, and College 10. Once admitted, I became affiliated with College 9. I loved living there. It is located on the upper-part of campus, near the Baskin School of Engineering. Because of the location, I never had to climb a hill to class. It’s also really close to a coffee shop, a restaurant above the dining hall, and a cafe with pool tables and $0.25 snacks. My advice for students deciding which college to choose is to consider where they would feel most comfortable in terms of surroundings. Each college has its own strengths, so it just depends on what the individual prefers. For example, if you like to be immersed in the forest, Porter College or Kresge College would be a great fit. If you want to be close to a gym, Cowell College or Stevenson College would be best. STEM classes are usually held in Classroom Unit 2, so if you’re an Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, or Computer Science major I would strongly consider either Colleges 9 or 10. If you take a look at the layout of the campus and your favorite type of scenery, I guarantee you will find the college that you’ll love to be affiliated with!"

      -Malika Alichi, TPP Peer Mentor

 

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"Ranking my possible college affiliation was exciting. Before applying I knew that each college focused on specific values and qualities. I chose Cowell College because it is near the foot of the campus, meaning it's faster to get to and from downtown Santa Cruz. It is also close to a great field, the gym, and swimming pool. Cowell's theme is 'The Pursuit of Truth in the Company of Friends.' This resonates for me because networking and getting out of my shell has been essential to my success in college. Learning about different perspectives is crucial to growing. Cowell College hosts various events for students that involve networking and expanding your circle. It hosts Zoom conferences that focus on the importance of mental health which I've found helpful."   

      -Louis Beltran, TPP Peer Mentor

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enrique"To my friends, I explain UCSC’s college system as a series of smaller student communities that are spread out throughout the campus. This makes it much easier for students to make friends and build community - two things that make the college experience more enjoyable. I chose to be affiliated with Oakes College for two reasons. First, my uncle was affiliated with it when he was a student long ago and he absolutely loved it. He said that it was inviting, fun, and eye-opening. Second, I was drawn to Oakes’ mission statement which is: 'Communicating Diversity for a Just Society.' I felt that I would feel right at home given that I am a social justice advocate. Importantly, Oakes also provides many resources to their community members. In addition to housing, it offers dining hall services, volunteer and paid work opportunities, student government, and more! When choosing a college affiliation, I recommend that students choose a college that has a mission statement that aligns with their interests and/or values. This will ultimately make your time in college more enjoyable and wholesome."

      -Enrique Garcia, TPP Peer Mentor

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ana"Before applying to UCSC, I had no idea that there were college affiliations. Once I submitted my SIR, I was asked to rank my College affiliation of choice. I was amazed that UCSC had a total of 10 Colleges, all with different themes and mission statements. I decided on Kresge College because it was the first college I visited when I came on a campus tour and just fell in love with the vibe. Kresge reminded me of a small community in the forest. Kresge also houses Services for Transfer and Re-Entry Students (STARS Program). I felt as if I found a home away from home. I have met with the Kresge Advising team and they were extremely helpful in answering my questions/concerns about my graduation progress. I would encourage students to take a virtual tour of all 10 colleges and get to know the mission statement/themes of each. Certain majors gravitate to certain colleges. For example, Rachel Carson College's theme is 'Environment and Society,' so many Environmental Studies and Environmental Science students are drawn to that college. Because of the Transfer Community, Porter College houses the majority of transfer students."

      - Ana Escalante, TPP Peer Mentor
 

Student Perspectives: FAFSA & Financial Aid

Students who submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the priority deadline are considered for and have the best chance for receiving financial aid. We asked current UCSC students to share their experiences and offer advice on the FAFSA process, financial aid, and paying for college. Read their perspectives below: 

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tony“My initial financial aid offer wasn't enough aid to cover all my school expenses, as my initial financial situation had changed since I had applied to UCSC, nearly a year before. Unfortunately, shortly after the COVID pandemic began, my family and I found ourselves unemployed. We couldn't afford to pay the initial amount my family was expected to pay, according to the FAFSA's Expected Family Contribution (EFC). I found out that UCSC had systems in place to help people like me, who had been financially impacted since they had last filled out the FAFSA. By submitting UCSC's Financial Contribution Appeal aka a Family Contribution Appeal, I was able to get my initial EFC amount dropped to zero. This meant that I would be eligible to receive more aid, and that I would still be able to attend university, despite the setbacks the pandemic introduced. There's really no need to be afraid to ask for help when you need it, because these programs are designed to help you succeed in your educational goals, and are free of any judgments.”

-Tony Estrella, TPP Peer Mentor

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“At 17-years-old a private university told me to take out a $100,000 loan in order to pursue higher education. Needless to say, I decided to attend my local community college instead. As a transfer student who spent my college years in both community college and now at UCSC, I was worried about the financial aid disappearing just as I managed to transfer into a University because I did not spend the expected two years at a community college. Luckily there are a few ways to ensure that your Cal Grants continue to help you after you transfer. You may apply for a single year extension if you were still classified as a 'freshman' after your first year or when you transfer by using the Cal Grant Transfer Entitlement Award, which will ensure that financial aid will continue when you transfer to a 4 year institution. Applying for and receiving financial help can be more flexible than people might think!”

-Lane Albrecht, TPP Peer Mentor
 

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“UCSC gave me the best financial aid package out of the two other schools that I applied to: UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara. Financial aid has made me focus less on the stressors associated with being buried with student debt and focus more on learning as much as I can as a student. I have developed meaningful relationships with my professors, excelled in their classes, and have had the time to get involved with extracurricular activities."

-Enrique Garcia, TPP Peer Mentor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"As a transfer student my number one concern was how I was going to afford tuition. Before ever learning about the UC system, I assumed that it was going to be astronomically expensive. To my surprise it’s more affordable than I thought. Originally, my Cal Grant paid for the majority of my tuition. It offered me a little over $13,000 but due to some unforeseen issues it was taken away. Even though this happened I was able to get a UCSC university grant that matched my original Cal Grant award. UCSC (and all UC’s) offer outstanding programs that are meant to help you when unforeseen dilemmas come about. Here at UCSC, no matter what situation you may find yourself in, there is always help."

-Thomas Lopez, TPP Mentor

 

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“One of the reasons I am able to afford to attend UCSC is because of the UC Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. UC's Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan ensures that you will not have to pay tuition and fees out of your own pocket if you are a California resident whose total family income is less than $80,000 a year and you qualify for financial aid. If you have a sufficient financial need UCSC will give you more grants to help you pay for other things as well. I have gotten a grant that helps pay for my housing as well as health insurance. These grants have allowed me to take out minimal loans and attend UCSC for an extremely affordable price-more affordable than most people think it is.”

-Damiana, TPP Peer Mentor