Founded in 2005, UC Merced is the newest of the University of California campuses, and down the road it aspires to have the largest number of students. With just 5,000 undergraduates now, Merced students are trailblazers. “You get to create the culture,” say current students; “You get to be a pioneer.” The downside, however, is that Merced is 45 minutes from Fresno – where students say the nearest movie theatre is – and 2 hours away from the Bay Area.
The campus is dotted with new buildings, and plans to build significantly more on the 810 acre campus. Housing is currently guaranteed and recommended, but not required for first year students. About 1500 students live on campus. The dorms range from standard shared rooms to suite style apartments, and the students find it convenient that the laundry machines will text you when your wash or dry cycle is complete!
As for academics, Merced is looking to make its name in the natural sciences. Biology and psychology are the most popular majors and Merced is one of only two UC campuses that offer a cognitive science degree (UCSD is the other). Merced faculty and students are deeply involved in energy and health research through several institutes funded by state, federal and private sources.
Merced students take advantage of the fact that Yosemite National Park is just an hour and a half away. There are multiple opportunities for students to explore, hike and conduct research at Yosemite, with outdoor adventure trips, environmental and leadership programs available to students.
You can see all of my photos of UC Merced here.