About UCSC's Colleges

UC Santa Cruz combines the resources of a world-class public research university with a distinctive undergraduate experience characterized by our college system. Each college is a vibrant living/learning community supported by faculty and staff who provide academic support, organize student activities, and sponsor events that enhance the intellectual and social life of the campus. The colleges are committed to fostering a nurturing and academically thriving environment for students of all backgrounds. Each college strives to promote the attributes of a diverse and multicultural community in its own unique way.

In order of founding, the colleges are Cowell, Stevenson, Crown, Merrill, Porter, Kresge, Oakes, Rachel Carson College, College Nine, and College Ten. Self-contained and architecturally distinct, each college is a relatively small community of 30 to 110 faculty members and between 1,500 and 1,800 students, about half of whom live on campus. Each college has its own housing, as well as academic and recreational programming, and each is an integral part of the larger campus. The colleges have their own academic emphases and cultural traditions, although each seeks faculty and students from a variety of disciplines to foster broad intellectual interests. The colleges play a primary role in academic advising and are the center of student life. Students graduate from their college. At the same time, all university academic programs, resources, and student services are open to students of every college.

All undergraduate students are affiliated with one of our 10 colleges, their home within the larger university. During the process of accepting the offer of admission, entering students are asked to list several colleges in order of preference; whenever possible, students are assigned to one of their preferred colleges. The information students need to rank their college preferences can come from a variety of sources—personal acquaintance, a campus visit, literature available from the colleges, campus websites, and the descriptions in this section of the catalog. Students also have the option to indicate “no preference,” meaning they will be fine with any of our 10 colleges, and the Admissions Office will assign those students to one of the colleges.

Similarities and Differences

The colleges are small-scale residential communities, each providing an academically and socially supportive environment and offering special programs designed to help students transition to campus life, build a strong connection with the campus, and get the most out of their UCSC experience.

Each college provides academic advising as well as academic and general campus orientations to help you plan your academic program. College academic preceptors and advisers provide advice on general academic matters outside a student’s major, including general education, choosing a major, and strategies for academic success. Psychological and personal counseling is also available in each college. The faculty, or fellows, of each college come from a variety of academic disciplines; many faculty have their offices in the colleges.

Each college offers a distinctive academic core course for entering frosh. The required course provides a significant bridge between academic and residential life, since all frosh, regardless of major, will be in the course, and most will be in residence as well. The colleges also offer selected courses in their area of interdisciplinary emphasis and host events and speakers that enhance this focus.

Architecturally distinct, each college was planned by a different architect who was encouraged to convey the distinct personality of that college through the design of its buildings and their placement in the natural environment. The particular style of housing varies among the colleges, ranging from residence halls, with a mix of shared and private rooms, to apartment-style housing, where students live together in small groups and may do some of their own cooking. Each college’s residential program is a team effort. Live-in student and professional staff members provide orientation and support services, organize activities and events, provide referral information about academic or personal concerns, and assist with roommate problems.

Changing Colleges

Most students develop friendships and intellectual attachments within their affiliated college, and remain members of that college throughout their undergraduate years. Some students find that changing academic interests draw them to a different college. During specified filing periods, students may request a change of college with the approval of both college administrations.