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Tips for Your Student

UC San Diego is home to more than 33,000 diverse undergraduate students, and no two students will experience campus in the same way.

Smiling student wearing a blue cape with a hand-painted Sun God holding a trident.

A student’s life and experience at UC San Diego is dependent on the identities they possess, including culture, values, language, geography, previous education and more. Every student will face different challenges or transitions as they navigate life on campus.

The information on this page provides context for parents and family members to help you better understand and support your student’s experience. Keep in mind that your student will likely fall into many of the following categories.

Commuter Students

The college life of a commuter student (living at home and/or walking distance from campus) is different from the college life of a resident student (a student living on campus). Commuter students have extra scheduling considerations around travel, resources, classes and activities that contribute to feeling disconnected from the campus or feeling overlooked for their specific needs. Commuter students who fill in their time in between class with campus-oriented activities like meeting with professors and studying with peers, eating on campus, going to the gym, taking a nap at The Zone or in Commuter Lounges, or joining a student organization (each of the colleges has a commuter student organization, too!), will form a stronger connection to campus and engage more purposefully with UC San Diego community. Commuter students living at home with family will also have to learn the art of negotiating family responsibilities to get involved at and make the best of their college experience.

Resources and tips for your student

  • Spend time on campus doing a variety of things (other than going to class) to connect with the campus.
  • Learn about the services available to commuter students on TritonLink, search Commuter Students.
  • Study abroad! It’s a great opportunity to leave home and explore academic and social interests in an international setting.
  • Work on-campus.

 Tips for you

  • Understand that college will be different from high school, and previous family responsibilities and expectations of your student will have to be negotiated.
  • Get involved as a parent or family member, even though your student may be living close or with you. Reach out to the Office of Parent and Family Programs and join the Triton Family Ambassador Program.

First-Generation Students

 First-generation students — the first to go to college among their parents — lean on their parents and families for emotional support to further explore personal identities and for other types of guidance. This population will rely on other resources to learn how to navigate the political, social and academic culture of the campus. It is extremely important that first-generation students connect with a community that will support their overall success and well-being at UC San Diego.

Resources and tips for your student

Tips for you

First-Year Students

For many first-year, first-time college students, adapting from the academic expectations and structure of high school to those of college is one of the most significant challenges they face. For example, high school teachers are available daily to assist students and initiate conversations with students who are struggling or in need of assistance. In college, professors are available during designated office hours or by appointment, and it is up to the student to initiate a meeting according to the professor’s availability. In addition to taking initiative and utilizing various academic support systems, developing a peer group can also be crucial for incoming students, especially on a large campus.

Resources or tips for your student

  • Get involved in your residence hall (if living on-campus) and connect with your house advisor (HA) or resident assistant (RA) for support and guidance.
  • Talk with your colleges’ student activities coordinator and become a member of a student organization.
  • Befriend classmates and form study groups (this is especially important for first-year commuter students).
  • Check out New Triton, an informative website made for students new to UC San Diego.
  • Get off-campus and get to know the cities of La Jolla and San Diego.
  • Go to a Triton Athletics game and participate in traditions like the UnOlympics.
  • Find an on-campus job via Handshake to begin building on professional skills and meet other members of the campus.

Resources or tips for you

Former Foster Youth Students

Though many foster youths aspire to earn a degree, only about 10% enroll in higher education; of those, only about 3% obtain their degree (Gamez, Hoffman, and Whitman, NASPA, 2019). Youth in foster care report that they lack the guidance and support needed to prepare for and succeed in higher education (Casey Family Programs, 2010). The Hope Scholars program at UC San Diego supports former foster youth, homeless youth, and formerly incarcerated and other disconnected students by helping students with access to on-campus housing, priority enrollment, student employment opportunities, assistance with financial aid application, and more.

Resources or tips for your student

  • Check out the Hope Scholars webpage for information on scholarships, priority enrollment in classes, academic advising, tutoring, personal counseling, cultural activities and more.
  • Connect with someone who can be a mentor and show you more resources at UC San Diego.
  • Learn about research internships and graduate school by connecting with Career Services and Academic Research.

Generation Z students

Generation Z (or Gen-Z) are people born between 1995 and 2010. Gen-Z students are a socially diverse group and are graduating from high school with more diverse friend groups than previous generations. They “prefer face-to-face communication and value human connection” (Seemiler and Grace, 2016, p. 61) despite growing up with often unfettered access to technology. They are described as loyal, thoughtful, determined, compassionate, open-minded and responsible. These students grew up with the economic downturn, witnessed parents lose their jobs, and worry about post college employment. They may have “anxiety over being able to afford a college education” (Seemiler and Grace, 2016, p. 98). Gen-Z students will turn to their parents, whom they often consider trusted advisors, when making important decisions; when it comes to navigating college, parents and their Gen-Z students have been described as co-pilots.

Resources or tips for your student

International Students

International students at UC San Diego represent over 100 different countries, including China, South Korea, India, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Adjusting to life on campus can be challenging for international students; navigating language barriers, adapting to new or different foods, traditions, social or academic expectations, and living thousands of miles away from family can easily lead to culture shock and a sense of isolation. International students often struggle with social integration and academic adjustments (Tsai, 2015). It is crucial for international students to consistently make use of the community and resources offered by the International Services and Engagement Office (ISEO) - Student Services as they navigate these initial transitions. ISEO is supported by professional staff, international and U.S. domestic students, and visiting faculty and family members who can help your student adjust to the campus community and build a community of other international students through programs like Friday International Café, English-in-Action Tutor Program, Thanksgiving with Local Families, and more.

Resources or tips for your student

Tips for you

  • With your student, participate in the webinar hosted by the International Students and Programs Office. Email invitations will be sent to your student or, occasionally, to you from the Parent and Family Programs Office.
  • Participate in the International Parent and Family Orientation in September and plan to visit the campus for Homecoming and Family weekend in October.
  • Plan months ahead for travel and university holidays. Visa processes can be lengthy and university resources and accommodations are limited during closures and breaks.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students

The LGBT Resource Center, along with other community resource centers, works to eliminate “traditional notions and historical structures of diversity and equality.” The centers create a sense of belonging for LGBT students and work to educate the UC San Diego community by engaging in interactive dialogue and self-awareness. Undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and allies of the community are supported by the centers to engage in healthy and productive ways at UC San Diego.

Resources or tips for your student

  • Visit the LGBT Resource Center in the Old Student Center (second floor) and get familiar with supportive resources, events and programs. The LGBT Resource Center also educates and supports allies of the community.
  • Consider living in the LGBT Residence Hall, an on-campus living-learning community located in Muir College.
  • Check out UC San Diego's list of gender inclusive, single occupancy bathrooms located throughout campus.
  • The LGBT Resource Center hosts an annual Rainbow Graduation celebration for graduating LGBT students and their families.
  • Students can provide their preferred name and pronouns to be included in records and indicate how they prefer to be addressed. Learn more.

Military-Connected Students

Military-connected students at UC San Diego come with various life experiences. They are often transfer students (defined as students who transferred to UC San Diego from another college), they may have families, and have possibly traveled the world as part of their military service. Military-connected students tend to be protective of their military-supported financial package, focused on classes, and have a full- or part-time job and family obligations. Because of their distinct experiences, military-connected students usually have very different needs than “traditional” college students (18 – 22 years old, first-time college students). Military-connected students will benefit from finding an on-campus community that will support their social and academic goals. The Student Veteran Resource Center is the first place military connected students should explore. The center is focused on providing relevant tools and resources to assist military connected students to integrate into the community.

Resources or tips for your student

Millennial Students

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) have also been called Generation Y, the Net Generation and Echo Boom. They have been described as civic-minded, self-reliant, high achievers and as having high self-esteem, and they are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation (Brooks, 2016; Manning, Everett, and Roberts, n.d.; Pew Research Center, 2010). Some have also described younger Millennials as “digital natives” (Helmer, 2015). Today’s robust technology has made Millennials much more social with technology than any other generations. Technology has also become the drive for students and families to remain connected while in college, especially with the use of texting and social media forums. College students communicate with parents an average of 13.4 times a week, and 40% of college students are in touch with home by phone, email or text (NPR, September, 2012). As college students are urged to exercise independence, the ever-changing landscape of technology challenges universities to be innovative in keeping families informed while promoting student development into adulthood.

Resources or tips for your student

  • Connect with Career Services on how to use technology professionally to build networks and to engage mindfully.

Tips for you

Resident Students

Students living on campus are positioned to get to know the campus well, exercise independence, negotiate space with roommates or suite mates, access various resources, and have greater time to intermingle with students, faculty and staff. Residential life programs contribute to student’s overall development and ability to engage with students, faculty and staff through student organizations, leadership opportunities for resident students, and specific living-learning communities that meet the needs of certain student groups by supporting student-allies’ learning and educating the campus community on supporting and engaging sensibly and responsibly with one another.

Resources or tips for your student

  • Get to know your resident assistant/house advisor, who is knowledgeable about on-campus resources and will plan fun events, both on- and off-campus.
  • Join a student organization within your college. UC San Diego is a large campus and the college system helps to downsize the campus to an intimate community.
  • Get to know, spend time with and learn from roommates. This is a great time to meet new people and learn about the world from a different perspective.

Sophomore Students

In a phenomenon referred to as the “sophomore slump” or the “forgotten year,” sophomore students are more likely to disengage with their university (Freedman, 1956). Second-year students may face challenges associated with self-authorship, which helps individuals to manage interpersonal relationships and expectations through self-selected values, beliefs, interests and understandings of the self in the world (Kegan, 1994). The second year of college can be a time where students learn more about themselves, test assumptions about the world, gain energy and acquire the ability to make decisions for themselves (Schaller, 2018). Fifty-seven percent of second-year students rely on external sources in their decision-making process, and 43% struggle to find their own voice (Magolda, 2009). UC San Diego provides students with holistic experiences to reflect on their personal, academic and professional development, but families play an important role in this process, too.

Resources or tips for your student

  • Check out the Second Year Experience programs (2excel, 2Conenct), which offer community, advising and other resources to help your student navigate issues, topics and challenges common among second-year students.
  • Talk with an academic advisor, student success coach or academic internship program to explore and declare a major.
  • Take advantage of UC San Diego’s dine-with-a-professor program to connect with faculty and learn about their lives and professional journeys.
  • Find a mentor who can help explore a variety of career paths, campus involvement, and local and international experience.


About one in five college students — or 22% — of all undergraduate students are parents (Cruse, Holtzman, Gault, Croom, and Polk, 2019). Research shows that 2.7 million (70%) of students raising children while in college are mothers (Cruse, et al., 2019). Many student-parents enroll in community colleges. Student-parents are more likely to be students of color, tend to be older than other students when enrolled in college, and have nearly twice the student loan debt as other students. Student-parents also tend to achieve higher GPAs than other students (Cruse, et al., 2019), but lack of childcare support can be a barrier for student-parents. UC San Diego understands that student-parents have competing responsibilities. Resources are available to support student-parents on their way to the degree.

Resources or tips for your student

Students of Color

Students of color are students who self-identify as African American, Mexican American, Latinx, Asian, Native American or a mix of racial identities. On a large campus like UC San Diego, some students of color may feel like “the only” in many areas of the campus such as in the classroom, residence halls and walking across campus. For this reason, and for many others, it is urgent that students of color feel a sense of belonging no matter where they are on campus and no matter whom they interact with. Community and belonging are essential for every student to reach their full potential — both at home with their family and on campus.

Resources and tips for your student

Tips for you

  • Talk to your student about their cultural heritage and racial identity, how their identity will shape the journey through college, and how the university can support your student.
  • Engage in conversations with your student about their overall transition to UC San Diego and desired outcomes for a successful college experience.

Transfer Students

There is a misconception that transfer students will adjust to UC San Diego with little to no challenges because college is not as new to them as it is to a first-time student. The truth is transfer students will experience adjustments to UC San Diego because the campus is unique and different from other colleges and drastically different from a community college. Some of this will have to do with UC San Diego’s academic calendar, which operates on a 10-week quarter system as opposed to a semester system. The academic quarter moves very fast; it is likely students will have a midterm within three weeks of the start of the quarter. Typically, transfer students are halfway through their college career. This means it is incredibly important for transfer students to connect immediately with resources and support services like transfer student organizations and resources, career services, and more.

Resources or tips for your student

Undocumented Students

An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from the nation’s high schools per year. In California, 25,000 graduate from high school, with fewer than 7,000 going on to a community college and lower enrollment figures going on to a UC and CSU system (Perez, W., 2009, p. xxv; Perez, Z. J., 2014; Undocumented students navigate with emotions and experiences that cannot be shared to just anyone on campus, and undocumented students’ pre-arrival experience is rooted in family advice that firmly shape their experience at the university. Undocumented students are urged to connect immediately with the Undocumented Student Services Center.

Resources or tips for your student:

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