For the 2018-2019 academic year, UCSB received an all-time high number of applications (109,803). As acceptance rates decrease and the university’s prestige soars, UCSB seems to be attempting to shed the party school image it was once famous for.
Being considered a serious research university could enhance the value of students’ degrees, as studies show that what you study matters just as much as where you study it.
However important the presence of top notch facilities and programs may be, many students choose UCSB because they believe that the university offers a good education that comes without the cutthroat atmosphere of some of the top tier public and private institutions. In addition to being ranked in the top 10 public universities on US News and World Report, UCSB is also ranked as being one of the top 15 happiest universities by The Princeton Review.
“I came to UCSB because it’s a great university and also has a really supportive atmosphere,” said Yafte Cardenas, a first year sociology major. “I felt that UCLA and UC Berkeley both had hypercompetitive atmospheres, whereas UCSB is academically oriented, but everyone has each other’s backs. I think that’s what really sets the university apart.”
“I’m also a tour guide and I think that it makes prospective students feel proud to know that they’re attending a really good school,” said Cardenas.
The university’s reinvention as a top tier research university doesn’t stand in opposition to its reputation of being a social school where students are happy and enjoy partying.
“I chose UCSB over other institutions I was accepted to that are better schools on paper,” said another UCSB student. “People that dismiss it as a party school are out of date. The school has a party scene, but over the past 20 years, it’s become a school that’s also a fantastic academic experience. I think the balance draws people here.”
As Chancellor Henry Yang said in a recent memo to the student body, “Our successes are the result of a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration that is responsive to the needs of our state, our nation, and our global society. We strive to nurture not just great scholars, but good stewards that will go out and impact the world.”
The administration’s push to improve the university’s reputation doesn’t seem to directly conflict with the university’s existing collaborative and balanced atmosphere. To a large extent, it serves as a complement, drawing new collaborative, balanced students to the university and enhancing the degree value of alumni and current students.
However, the university’s desire to present itself as prestigious can sometimes interfere with the students’ priorities. Aside from having recognized research and academic programs, being a prestigious university also involves maintaining modern facilities and a strong academic reputation.
UCSB’s new image is beneficial to the student body and enhances their existing pride in their school, but the other aspects that come with being a prestigious school should be incorporated into UCSB’s existing identity rather than coming at the expense of it.
What draws students here is the integration of strong academic programs and a culture of “Gaucho Back” — increased prestige is merely another item to add to the pros column.