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Understanding Your Student's Journey 

Student and professor working together at a board in the lab.


Get to Know Your Student's School

Your student's major is housed in one of eight academic schools. Within each school, students have access to unique support through various academic departments and programs that emphasize real-world experience, cutting-edge research and public service.

Explore Your Student's School


Making Sense of Your Student's Quarter

UC San Diego operates on a quarter system. The academic year is broken into four quarters (fall, winter, spring and summer). Most students only take courses during the fall, winter and spring, but summer session is an option, too!

Quarters move fast. With only 10 weeks to a quarter, each week matters. Students measure quarters by week, and will often talk about weeks in terms of numbers. 

(On your phone? Use landscape mode to scroll through the guide below!)

Your Student's Academic Year

Every year of your student’s journey will be different and come with its own challenges, successes, and opportunities. Explore below to get a sense of what might be in store for your student in any given year.

First-Year Students

Your student’s first year will be full of transitions, like adjusting to college learning, getting used to the pace of a 10-week quarter, and transitioning from predetermined schedules to creating and managing their own. On top of all that, many first-year students go from living at home to living on their own for the first time. All these transitions require patience, support and effort to be successful. Don’t be surprised if your student is still figuring things out after their first quarter. There’s a lot to learn and adapt to, and this year is full of firsts.

Remember that transition is normal — for you and your student. Going to college is a big change for the entire family, and there are bound to be both challenges and triumphs. Parents and family members may need to take a step back and give their student the space to figure things out on their own. Start encouraging your student to take ownership over their academic career — but reassure them that everyone’s academic journey is unique and that mistakes are part of learning.

Most importantly, be sure to stay connected with your student and the university throughout the year. The Office of Parent and Family Programs hosts Homecoming + Family Weekend  in October, which welcomes all families of undergraduate students to spend time with their students on campus, learn about their new experiences, and support their students during their transitions. Attending Homecoming + Family Weekend is a great opportunity to reconnect with your student and learn more about their life on campus and how they’re doing. The Thanksgiving holiday is a great time to check in with your students on their successes and challenges during their first quarter, and support them as they start preparing for their first finals week. After winter break, it may seem like the year is moving by fast, so be sure to check in with your student regularly: ask them if they are feeling supported in their classes, suggest they meet with their college advisor, recommend they find campus involvement to strengthen their connection to campus.

Second-Year Students

As students kick off their second year, they’ll be focused on a mix of their general education requirements and their major requirements. It is important for students to routinely review their academic plans to ensure they are completing the required courses and to stay on track for graduation. Encourage your student to check out our and YouTube channel, which help students better navigate the challenges that come with their sophomore year.

But just because your student has a plan doesn't mean they won’t have doubts. Sophomore year can be full of students questioning their plans and even themselves. This is often when students learn more about their interests and passions and test their assumptions about themselves and the world. It’s not unusual for students to call home expressing some anxiety or uncertainty about their plans or current path — or about social situations. Remember that your role has changed since your student started college, and how you might help them through challenging times might look different than it did while your student was in high school. Pointing your student towards resources they can explore is a great way to offer support and encourage personal growth.

If your student hasn't declared their major, or if they’re expressing doubts about the major they’ve chosen, suggest they talk with an academic advisor or student success coach or explore an academic internship program to learn more about different academic areas and decide what they’d like to study. Students can also take advantage of UC San Diego's Dine with a Professor program to learn about their area of study and potential career opportunities in their field. It can be important for students to find a mentor who can help them consider various academic and career paths, opportunities for campus involvement, and a variety of career paths, and explore enriching experiences like study abroad.

One important reminder: During winter quarter, it’s vital for students living on campus to start exploring housing options for next year, be it on campus or off campus.

Third-Year Students

Junior year tends to mean an increased focus on major requirements and post-graduation aspirations. Third-year students should begin the year with a plan to complete all their graduation requirements, develop strategies to pursue professional or post-graduate opportunities, and continue to take advantage of opportunities for hands-on experiences and learning outside of the classroom . Encourage your student to meet with a career advisor during the fall quarter to discuss their post-graduation plans and identify steps to take during their final two years at UC San Diego.

Winter break is a great time to check in with your students and reflect on how their journey at UC San Diego has gone so far. Do they feel accomplished? Are they certain they are happy with their choice of major? Are there opportunities they want to take advantage of that they haven’t yet? It’s important to ask these questions leading into winter quarter; as the year comes to an end, your student should feel confident in moving forward to their final year, with a solid understanding of graduate school application requirements and deadlines for those interested and a clear plan for their year senior year courses and completing their degree requirements.

Fourth-Year Students

Senior year is an incredibly exciting time for students and families, full of reflection, celebration and preparation — and probably some stress. There’s a lot for students to keep track of this year, so be sure to check in with your student about completing their degree requirements, applying for graduation and registering for commencement, and finding time to enjoy their final year on campus and celebrate the years of hard work that got them here.

Seniors should look to meet with their major advisor in the fall quarter to ensure they’re on track to complete their degree requirements and that they are confident in registering for their final two quarters. Career fairs happen throughout the year, and students looking to move directly into the workforce should plan to attend any and all that apply. They should also take advantage of one-on-one career advising for help with resumes and searching for jobs. Students should also look to get (and stay) involved with UC San Diego Alumni to leverage our Triton Alumni network. Remember, job searching can be overwhelming — add in classes and extracurricular commitments, and your student may be feeling stressed and under pressure. It’s a good opportunity to remind them of the hurdles they’ve already cleared and the skills they’ve developed along the way.

During the winter quarter, families and students should keep an eye on to stay up-to-date on all commencement news, announcements and details for the celebration in June. Registration for students to participate in commencement takes place in the first half of spring quarter. Be sure to book travel and hotel accommodations early!

The start of spring quarter is a great time to check in with students about their UC San Diego bucket list. There’s no shortage of fun to be had in San Diego, both on and off campus. Are there any experiences or activities that your student has been meaning to take advantage of before they graduate? Now’s the time!