Getting ready for the next four years of college is beyond exciting, but it can also be super stressful. These tips for baby bruins will help you start off on the right foot as a freshman at UCLA.
1. Get to know the campus.
UCLA has one of the most stunning campuses in the country. From the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden to the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden to the iconic view from the top of Janss Steps- a freshman at UCLA should spend some time checking out the beauty that the campus has to offer. Plus, a little Zero Week exploration will help you avoid getting lost once classes start.
2. Check out all the booths at the activities fair.
With over 30,000 undergraduates, the school’s size can feel a little overwhelming for a freshman at UCLA. Joining a club, team, or volunteer group is one of the best ways to make campus feel a little smaller and meet new friends with similar interests. UCLA has a giant activities fair at the start of the year in Royce Quad, and you won’t want to miss all the colorful booths and fliers. If you are participating in sorority recruitment, it might be hard to spend a lot of time at the fair, but you should be able to check it out during your lunch break.
3. Download UCLA’s mobile app.
UCLA Mobile has information on just about everything including: campus happenings, the Bruin Bus, the library system, athletics, and recreation. My favorite feature is the dining hall menus. This makes meal time convenient by telling you how crowded each dining hall is. In turn, this allows you to plan what you want to eat ahead of time. It also has detailed nutrition information for every single item served, which is super helpful if you’re trying to avoid the dreaded Freshman 15.
4. Learn how to plan your schedule like a pro.
Your New Student Advisers will walk you through this process during orientation. You should pay close attention so that self-scheduling for upcoming quarters will be a breeze. Make sure you have plenty of alternates for each class and be sure to check the dates of final exams so they don’t overlap. Also, get familiar with bruinwalk.com. It has useful information such as student reviews of professors and grade distributions for each class. I can’t even tell you how many times bruinwalk has saved me from enrolling in a nightmare of a course. Do yourself a huge favor and use it.
5. Consider packing a skateboard or a scooter.
With all of its hills, stairs, and crowds, UCLA isn’t a very bike-friendly campus. Instead, a lot of students have resorted to using skateboards or scooters to get to class quickly. The campus is pretty small and you can get just about anywhere in 15 to 20 minutes, so walking isn’t that big of a deal. However, if you really need those extra minutes of sleep, then a skateboard or scooter could be a smart investment.
6. Coordinate who’s bringing what with your new roommates.
You’ll want to bring a fan, especially if you’re in a classic room with no air conditioning. Coordinate with your roommates over the summer to make sure you don’t bring duplicates of the same item. Also, UCLA offers a microwave and mini-fridge combo rental, so you should decide with your roommates if you are interested in splitting the price, bringing your own, or foregoing a fridge altogether.
7. Definitely get a Den Pass, maybe get a bus pass.
You want to get the most out of your college experience as a freshman at UCLA. That includes watching UCLA’s D1 athletic teams. As a student, you get free admission to all home, regular season D1 games. The only games you have to buy tickets for are football and men’s basketball. If you plan on going to a lot of games, it’s cheaper and more convenient to buy a Den Pass. This is like a season pass to all home football and basketball games. Since our home football games are at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, you also have the option to purchase a bus pass to get to games. This can be a fun and social way to get to the Rose Bowl, but I would pass on it if you’re planning on joining Greek Life. This is because fraternities and sororities usually organize their own buses for members.
8. Walk up the bike path to avoid being assaulted with fliers on Bruin Walk.
Bruin Walk, the main route to get to classes, is notorious for being filled with clubs trying to hand out fliers or fundraise. It’s also a popular place for Youtubers to try to get participants for their videos, and its where the infamous “Scuse me, can I ask you a question guy?” hangs out. If you’re not in the mood to deal with all those people trying to get your attention, take the bike path off to the side of Bruin Walk to avoid these groups altogether.
9. Enroll in a General Education Cluster.
Clusters are year-long, interdisciplinary courses that are taught by multiple professors and focus on one overarching theme. They are only available to freshman at UCLA and there are a bunch of really interesting subjects to take, like America in the Sixties and Frontiers in Human Aging. The best part about clusters is that, even though they’re only three quarters long, you fulfill more than three General Education graduation requirements AND you get out of the Writing II requirement.
10. Take advantage of the Sunset Canyon Rec Center.
The Sunset Canyon Recreation Center is one of my favorite places to spend time on weekends. The rec center has two pools, san volleyball courts, and a big grassy field for tanning and sports. The best part is it’s located right on the Hill by all the dorms, so you basically go to school at resort, no big deal.
11. Prepare to see famous people.
UCLA is in Los Angeles, after all. Celebrities are in Westwood for movie premiers. George Clooney, Will Smith, Mila Kunis, Matt Damon, and the cast of Stranger Things were all there last quarter. Sometimes they are just there to walk around. Last quarter, I saw Oscar-nominated, Timothee Chalamet, while I was running errands. They can also be spotted on campus. Jordan Peele has crashed a few classes this year, Kanye West is known to go to our gym, and just last quarter, Justin Bieber showed up on our Intramural Field to play soccer with friends.
12. Don’t let yourself fall behind in class.
UCLA’s quarter system is no joke. You have finals after just ten weeks, and it sometimes feels like every week is midterm week. It’s important to set up good study habits as a freshman at UCLA, especially in the first two or three weeks before classes get hard. It might seem like there are a million and one things to do between the start-of-quarter parties, football games, and club meetings. If you budget your time right, you should be able to go to the things that sound most fun while still staying on top of your grades.
13. Go to your professors’ office hours before exams.
It sounds intimidating to talk to a professor one-on-one as a freshman at UCLA, but going to office hours is so worth it. Pre-exam office hours are generally a small classroom setting with 15 to 20 students. You should go even if you don’t have specific questions because hearing other people’s questions can help reinforce what you’ve already learned and pinpoint areas you need to focus on more. Also, office hours are the best places to find study buddies.
14. Don’t forget to work out.
I know it’s painful, but do it. It’s so easy to gain weight in college even if you’re eating pretty well. This is because you probably will do less physical activity than you did in high school, especially if you played a sport. Even though UCLA students call it “University of Calves, Legs, and Ass” because of all the hills and walking, you need to actually hit the gym if you want to stay in shape. UCLA has two gyms, The Wooden Center and BFit, and a really nice running trail along Sunset Boulevard. There’s no excuse not to work out.
15. Don’t stress too much about swipes.
If you have a premier meal plan, don’t worry too much about trying to save swipes. I had about 25 swipes left over at the end of last quarter. Then, I had to spend them on pointless things like macaroons just so I didn’t lose my money. UCLA actually sends you an E-mail if you’re ahead of schedule on your swipes usage, so unless that shows up in your inbox, there’s no need to be stingy. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t apply to frat pledges because brothers will steal literally all your swipes from you.
16. Go to The Study.
The Study is a “study spot meets restaurant” in Hedrick Hall with arguably some of the best food on the Hill. It’s a great place to knock out your homework, especially at the start of the quarter when not everybody knows about it yet. Also, it’s open until 2 a.m., making it UCLA’s number 1 “see and be seen” spot at about 1:30 on Friday when everyone is coming back drunk and hungry from the frats.
17. Be super proactive about making friends.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this, this is a big school and it can be hard to make friends as a freshman at UCLA. I definitely didn’t put enough of an effort into my first quarter and I regretted it. Even if you’re shy, try to force yourself to start conversations with people who seem friendly, get people’s Snapchats and numbers, and reach out to them to get dinner or hang out. It might feel uncomfortable to be the one who puts all the effort into a friendship at first, but just remember that everyone else wants to make friends just as badly as you do.
18. Be careful who you go out with.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Make sure when you’re going out to parties, you’re with people you really trust and have fun with. Try to go in smaller groups so you can stay together more easily. One time I went to a frat party with a big group of girls I didn’t know very well, and I drank a ton to compensate for the fact that I wasn’t having much fun and felt out of place. I ended up blacking out and the girls left without me, something you should never do to a friend. In the end, some guy in the frat, bless his soul, had to walk my sloppy drunk ass back home at like 2 a.m.. Everything ended up okay but it was embarrassing. It could have very easily turned into a bad situation, all because I didn’t go out with a solid group of girls.
19. Don’t overload yourself with difficult GEs.
General Education classes should be a fun and low-stress way to explore different subject areas. Especially if you come in undeclared or unsure of your major. There are so many easy GEs out there that there is no reason to stress yourself out with a very difficult one. Use bruinwalk to check grade distributions. Better yet, befriend an athlete so you can get an inside scoop on the “blue backpack classes”, which are notoriously easy classes that busy athletes are encouraged to enroll in.
20. Don’t base your expectations for UCLA off of your experience at orientation.
The amount of fun you have at orientation depends a lot on how you vibe with the people in your New Student Advisor group. If you find yourself not really clicking with them, don’t stress. You will meet many new and different people once school actually starts. Try to branch out at orientation and meet people from other groups during lunch and at the presentations. It’s nice to have some numbers and Snapchats of people to hang out with once school starts.
There are a lot of things about college that you have to learn on your own. I hope you can also learn from my experiences and mistakes to help you make the most of being a freshman at UCLA. Welcome to the Bruin Family!