Irene Tu_The Highlander
Irene Tu_The Highlander

Choosing a college to attend can be a lot of pressure for anyone. It feels like a major moment in life, and though it’s not an end-of-the-world kind of decision, there are quite a few key factors to consider when picking the right college to attend.

In my case, the University of California, Riverside was not my first choice. In fact, I didn’t even seriously consider the idea of attending UCR while I was applying. I was aiming for UC San Diego, but when the UC portal allowed me to submit my application to multiple campuses, I picked Riverside off the list because it was close to home. If I had to make the decision again, even if I had been accepted by UCSD, I would have chosen UCR because I discovered that this campus suits me perfectly.

One great thing about UCR is that it is centered in a much smaller city than many other UC campuses, which allows the campus to foster a close-knit community of students and allow a closer connection to nature. With Box Springs mountains just off campus that serve as excellent hiking locations, the UCR citrus groves and the botanical gardens on campus provide students with plenty of California’s natural beauty. It is still a UC campus and receives all the benefits of one, including government funding and advanced research technology.

UCR is also a campus that puts a lot of emphasis on its commuter services, as it’s not based in a large city like many other UCs. This includes free bus passes for all undergraduate students every quarter, allowing students to ride every RTA line free of charge, including the 3 separate lines that end on campus. There is also a commuter lounge which is a great study space, a comfortable spot to nap, provides microwaves for packed lunches and lies right beside the HUB dining locations. Being on campus can be a learning experience in itself. Finding and paying for parking is difficult and has, for me, resulted in a particularly costly game of trial and error, so I recommend taking advantage of the bus passes, walkable pathways or on-campus housing provided to students. 

Picking a university that’s right for you isn’t all about the campus, as the right college is different for everyone. Each UC campus has different majors and opportunities to choose from. If you’re applying with a major in mind, you can apply directly to your major of choice, but if you’re unsure, many universities allow you to apply undeclared. It’s always a good idea to research what majors your campus of choice offers, even if you’re still not sure. I applied to UCR as an undeclared freshman in 2021, and when I decided to declare in creative writing a year later, I found out that UCR is the only UC campus to offer creative writing as a major, with a well-known and well-published staff no less. I was very fortunate in that respect, because now I can’t imagine majoring in anything else.

Deciding to attend a specific college isn’t an irreversible decision, but choosing well the first time can save students a lot of trouble. UC Riverside might not be right for everyone, but for me, it was close enough to home to commute when I couldn’t secure housing in my second year, offered my preferred major and has a large campus filled with lots of natural beauty. Choosing a college is about personalization, not about a uniform experience, so what might not be everyone’s perfect fit was definitely mine.