Ladies and gentlemen, the freshmen are back.
Sporting brand new UCSB sweatshirts and nervous grins, they wander about in packs. It can be awkward just to watch them, knowing that what look like groups of friends are actually groups of possible friends, being that they’re still in that stilted phase where they are trying out people, testing to see if they mesh. Some will, some won’t, obviously—but that can’t be seen quite yet.
However, the freshmen will find their friends soon enough, and they will learn their way around the UCSB campus and Isla Vista. Places like Freebirds and Caje, DP and the Pardall tunnel will become tableaus—though I must admit, I’ll miss being asked for directions to “the Del Playa.” I find it endearing.
Also endearing is the comforting (and slightly disappointing) realization, which surfaced during the Septembers of my own sophomore and junior years, that what I myself had experienced during freshman year was not, in fact, as unique as it felt at the time.
It’s funny. Though I was a freshman not long ago, what the current freshman class is experiencing seems so distant. They’re lucky, I can’t help but think. Lucky to have a clean slate to work with, to have four years at a top university in a location so beautiful that it is in the list of top 10 most expensive zip codes in the U.S.
However, I don’t envy them everything.
On Friday, October 1, in Sacramento, University of California President Mark G. Yudof was slated to discuss a new UC analysis of admissions data. The data focuses on the socioeconomic background of the current freshman class, UC-wide. Given the terrible race and cultural offenses committed at UC campuses in the past year, one hopes any news about diversity in the UC system is positive.
Getting into a UC has become more difficult than ever. According to an L.A. Times blog from last April, of the 82,056 California applicants to UC, “71.6 percent were offered freshman entrance to at least one of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses. That was down from 72.5 percent last year and 75.4 percent the year before, reflecting in part cutbacks in enrollment due to state budget reductions, the figures show.” Additionally, many were wait-listed for a spot—a system that was used for the first time this past year. So basically, students had to be markedly more impressive to gain admittance into a school system that is plagued, currently, by tuition hikes and furloughs.
However, I still count this year’s freshmen as lucky in that, no matter what else may plague their years at UCSB, they are here now, the heat wave has come and gone, and Santa Barbara is pleasantly sunny, and it’s going to be a beautiful year.