Choosing a College at UC San Diego

One of the features that sets UC San Diego apart from other major universities in the United States is its family of undergraduate colleges: Revelle, John Muir, Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Sixth.

The division of the campus community into small colleges was patterned after the concept that has served Oxford and Cambridge so successfully for centuries. The founders of the UC San Diego campus were convinced that students learn more and find greater fulfillment in their personal lives when joined academically and socially with a relatively small group of students. At the same time, the advantages of size in a university, including a faculty of international renown, first-rate teaching and research facilities, laboratories, libraries, and other amenities, were to be an important part of the design.

The result was an arrangement—the UC San Diego college system—that combined the academic advantages of a large research university with the finest features of a small liberal arts college. Each of the semiautonomous undergraduate colleges has its own campus neighborhood, residence facilities, staff, traditions, general education requirements, and distinctive educational philosophy. Each faculty member on the general campus is assigned to a college as well as to a department. The system was inaugurated with the opening of Revelle College in 1964. In the following years, five more colleges—John Muir, Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Sixth—were established. Although many university campuses in the United States have a separate college structure, in most cases, these colleges are designed to serve specific disciplines, such as engineering or business administration. At UC San Diego, however, any undergraduate may select from the full range of majors available. The choice of a college is not based on a student’s major, but on preferences in terms of the various educational philosophies and environments offered by the colleges.

UC San Diego’s college system allows undergraduates to choose from among six distinct general education curricula supplementing their major requirements. These curricula range from a very structured liberal arts program to a program with a broad range of electives. By contrast, most universities offer only one general education curriculum.

Students must rank the colleges in order of preference when applying for admission. Brief summaries of the various college curricula and philosophies follow. Later in this section, these variations are spelled out in considerable detail, college by college.

Revelle College Programmatic Theme

Revelle College stresses breadth and depth in its general-education curriculum. A structured liberal arts program of study establishes a strong educational foundation for any major and prepares the student for a lifelong process of intellectual inquiry. All students complete a highly respected core humanities sequence and courses in the arts and social sciences. Students either meet proficiency in a foreign language or complete the fourth quarter of college-level instruction. All students also complete sequences in calculus and science, with separate courses available for science and nonscience majors. Throughout the final two years, students concentrate on developing a high level of competence in an academic discipline.

Revelle College is distinguished by its emphasis on specific general education requirements and rigorous academic standards. A high percentage of Revelle College students enroll in graduate or professional schools (law, medicine, management, etc.), graduate with double majors, design individualized interdisciplinary majors, work on a research project, and graduate with university honors.

John Muir College Programmatic Theme

John Muir College has established a set of general education and graduation requirements that ensures breadth and depth of learning and encourages Muir students to take an active role in their own intellectual development. Students complete four year-long sequences in social sciences, natural sciences or mathematics; and two sequences from the following three areas: humanities, fine arts or foreign languages. Many choices are available for each of these yearlong sequences. In addition, students must complete two analytical writing courses. Other graduation requirements at Muir include a one-course US cultural diversity requirement and the completion of eighteen upper-division four-unit courses (seventy-two upper-division units) among the 180 units required to graduate.

Muir’s general-education and graduation requirements accommodate a wide range of interests and aptitudes. Muir’s academic advisers meet with students to help them make informed decisions. The general structure and options of the general-education requirements make Muir College particularly attractive to students with well-defined academic interests, as well as to students who are still exploring their academic options.

John Muir College is distinguished by its atmosphere of friendliness, informality, and deep concern for the rights and welfare of others. Concern for one’s fellow students goes well with Muir’s educational philosophy, which stresses individual choice and development. The environment thus created fosters responsibility for informed academic decisions, consequences of academic choices, and, ultimately, well-rounded students.

Thurgood Marshall College Programmatic Theme

The dedicated focus of Thurgood Marshall College is the active development of the student as scholar and citizen. The college, a small liberal arts and sciences community, is characterized by an open, warm environment in which students pursue any major in the natural and physical sciences, social sciences, engineering, humanities, and fine arts offered at the university.

The college’s educational philosophy is guided by the belief that, regardless of a student’s major, a broad liberal arts education must include an awareness and understanding of the diversity of cultures that comprise contemporary American society, and the richness that a cultural and intellectual tapestry brings to the lives of American people.

Integral to the Marshall experience is the unique, three-quarter core sequence, Dimensions of Culture—Diversity, Justice, and Imagination. This interdisciplinary, issues-oriented curricular experience explores both the complexity of American experiences across race, religion, class, and gender, and also the shared resources all Americans draw on when their different identities and interests conflict. Students also choose courses in mathematics or logic, natural/physical sciences, writing, humanities, and fine arts to fulfill general-education requirements.

In addition to the strong academic program, Thurgood Marshall College is proud of its emphasis on the student as citizen. Students are encouraged to integrate educational alternatives and public service opportunities, such as Partners at Learning (PAL), for which they earn academic credit, into their curriculum. There is also a public service minor that champions the cocurriculum idea. Other exciting options—such as study abroad, internships, public service and leadership activities—allow Marshall students to develop skills learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world experiences. Toward that end, the Student Leadership Program is especially designed to encourage active participation in the governance of the college and in public service.

Thurgood Marshall College’s hallmark is community, where students are inspired to be active participants in their university education and to take advantage of the abundance of opportunities to learn and develop as exemplary scholars and citizens in a multicultural twenty-first century.

Earl Warren College Programmatic Theme

Earl Warren College was founded in 1974 and named in honor of the former governor of California and chief justice of the United States. Consistent with Earl Warren’s principles, the college is committed to preparing students for life intellectually, socially, and professionally as responsible citizen-scholars. Warren’s guiding philosophy, “Toward a life in balance,” helps students define their individual educational and career paths. The college strives to provide all students with an experience that underscores the harmony necessary between academic and cocurricular endeavors.

Earl Warren’s focus on the individual’s relationship with society is reflected in the required Ethics and Society courses. These classes examine ethical principles and their social and political applications to contemporary issues. All students enroll in the two-quarter Warren College Writing Program, which stresses written argumentation based on primary and secondary sources. The college sponsors two interdisciplinary minors, open to all UC San Diego undergraduates. The Law and Society minor emphasizes the interrelationship of legal, social and ethical issues in their historical context. The Health Care–Social Issues minor analyzes complex social and ethical implications of health-care policies and delivery systems. Additionally, Warren College is home to the Academic Internship Program, which offers qualified UC San Diego third- and fourth-year students the chance to acquire valuable credit-bearing work experience related to academic and career interests.

Warren students are encouraged to pursue academic internships as well as study abroad; both opportunities create well-rounded students with heightened cultural and intellectual curiosity.

Warren College’s general-education requirements and academic philosophy guarantee that students will acquire both the breadth and depth necessary to successfully compete in graduate school, professional school, or the workplace. The college’s requirements include a major and two additional programs of study that encompass academic areas outside of a student’s major. Additional courses in formal skills and cultural diversity provide an essential educational complement. Earl Warren College offers students flexibility in fulfilling their general education requirements, and provides a vibrant and welcoming home for the pursuit of rigorous academic study and personal growth.

Eleanor Roosevelt College Programmatic Theme

Eleanor Roosevelt College (ERC) prepares students to thrive as global citizens through scholarship, leadership, and service. The college is named after Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman of passion, intelligence, and independence who dedicated her life to public service at home and abroad. Roosevelt believed that the challenges of the modern world must be met with comprehensive knowledge and understanding. Students must “learn to be at home” in the world: “they must understand its history, its peoples, their customs and ideas and problems and aspirations.” This is true for future scientists and engineers as well as aspiring doctors, lawyers, and politicians. Professionals in every field and discipline need to have a global perspective if they are to succeed in the twenty-first century.

The core of ERC’s general-education curriculum is The Making of the Modern World (MMW), an interdisciplinary sequence designed and taught by faculty from the departments of anthropology, history, literature, political science, and sociology. MMW teaches students to think historically and comparatively about Western and non-Western societies, and the many ways humans have organized their experiences in different places and times. MMW also provides intensive instruction in university-level research and writing.

Each student at ERC selects a geographic region for in-depth study. Additional course work in natural science, quantitative methods, foreign languages, and fine arts ensures that all students gain the knowledge and skills needed to compete in graduate school, professional school, or the workplace.

A friendly and supportive campus community, ERC seeks to help each individual reach his or her full potential as a scholar, as a leader, and as a citizen. Cocurricular opportunities range from the Global Marketplace and intercultural workshops to Sunday Suppers at I-House and alternative spring breaks held across the hemisphere.

ERC sponsors UC San Diego’s International House, as well as undergraduate minors in Global Health, Human Rights, and International Migration Studies.

Sixth College Programmatic Theme

Sixth College opened in 2002. As the newest college at UC San Diego, Sixth is characterized by a spirit of creativity and collaboration. The college theme, Culture, Art, and Technology, embraces the rich opportunities available in new interdisciplinary approaches to learning and practice. In doing so, it bridges the divisions traditionally separating social and natural science, humanities, technology, and the arts. By piloting educational initiatives and building partnerships with such groups as the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts, the Jacobs School of Engineering, and the University Events Office, we are developing opportunities for our students to participate in meaningful creative learning experiences across the campus, as well as the larger community. A supportive yet challenging integrated learning environment, both in and out of the classroom, helps our students develop the cultural competence and understanding necessary to become fully engaged, effective global citizens in the twenty-first century.

Sixth College’s theme is woven into an educational philosophy and curriculum intended to prepare students for a future that demands ethical integrity, creativity, self-understanding, critical reasoning, appreciation of the powers and implications of science and technology, and flexibility. At Sixth College, students learn interactive skills and approaches needed for success in an increasingly global society: teamwork, cross-cultural understanding, strong writing and multimedia communication skills, and information technology fluency.

All students must complete the three-quarter core sequence in Culture, Art, and Technology (CAT). The sequence, with its imbedded writing program, develops the students’ abilities to achieve a reflexive understanding of themselves and their society by approaching issues and problems from interdisciplinary perspectives. It examines the foundations, historical interactions, and future possibilities of culture, art, and technology in relation to the problems and potentials afforded by human nature and the larger environment on which we depend. The Sixth College breadth requirements build on the core approach by including courses in art making and information technology fluency, as well as social science, humanities, natural science, mathematics and logic, and statistical methods. The curriculum culminates with the practicum experience. The practicum is an opportunity to put education in action, and an academic learning experience in which students address a real-world problem by undertaking a project. Under faculty mentorship, the students plan, execute, and reflect upon the project and its effectiveness. The practicum reflects Sixth College’s commitment to form bridges with UC San Diego campus units and to San Diego’s communities, to engage students in communal issues, and to foster students’ ethical obligation to service.

College Administration

The provost is a faculty member who acts as the college’s chief academic and administrative officer. In addition to the provost, each college has a dean of academic advising, a dean of student life, and a dean of residence life.

The academic departments and the college academic advising offices are designated campus units responsible for providing academic guidance and direction to undergraduate students. The college academic advising staff has primary responsibility for providing academic advice and services that assist new and continuing students in developing educational plans and course schedules that are compatible with their interests, academic preparation, and career goals.

In collaboration with the student affairs unit, the college academic advising offices conduct orientation programs for all new students. They also provide enrollment programs for new students and advise continuing students about college general-education and graduation requirements. The advising staff of each college provides general academic and curricular information, clarifies academic rules and regulations, reviews all aspects of academic probation, monitors academic progress, assists students with decision-making strategies, and gives information about prerequisites and screening criteria for majors. In conjunction with the academic departments and the Office of the Registrar, the advising offices certify students for graduation and facilitate their academic adjustment to the university.

Moreover, college academic advisers are available to counsel students about educational alternatives, selection of courses and majors, program changes, new academic opportunities, and special programs such as exchange programs, honors programs, and outreach programs.

With a central concern for student development beyond the traditional classroom, the staff of the dean of student affairs provide a variety of nonacademic services such as coordinating leadership and social programs, overseeing residential programs, assisting students with decisions and procedures regarding withdrawal from school, coordinating disciplinary procedures, and making referrals to other student services on campus. (See also “Student Services and Programs.“)

Whatever the question or concern, the provost and staff stand ready at all times to assist undergraduates.

Phi Beta Kappa

The UC San Diego chapter of Phi Beta Kappa elects student members on the basis of high scholastic achievement in academic programs emphasizing the liberal arts and sciences. Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and is the oldest, most prestigious, academic honor society in America.


Each college awards honors to outstanding students on the basis of criteria approved by the Academic Senate. These honors are posted on students’ transcripts and noted on their diplomas.

Transfer Students

Students transferring to UC San Diego must complete the requirements of the chosen undergraduate college. Students are strongly advised to complete all lower-division preparation for the major prior to enrollment at UC San Diego. The college academic advising staff will review the transfer course work for applicability to general education and college graduation requirements. Students are encouraged to carefully rank the UC San Diego undergraduate colleges in the order that best fits their prior general-education program or course work. Academic departments will review courses applicable to students’ majors. See “Undergraduate Admissions, Policies and Procedures, University of California Transfer Agreement.”

Graduation Requirements in the UC San Diego Colleges

Unless otherwise indicated, the figures in this chart refer to the number of courses rather than the number of units. Most UC San Diego courses carry four quarter-units of credit, and a student usually takes four courses each quarter. Academic disciplines are classified as humanities/fine arts, social sciences, and mathematics/natural sciences/engineering. The term “noncontiguous” refers to a discipline that is different from that of the major as determined by the faculty of each college. Students must meet the Entry Level Writing requirement prior to enrolling in the writing courses of their respective college. Each college’s cultural diversity requirement can be fulfilled as noted by an asterisk (*) below.

Revelle College

General Education


Includes intensive instruction in university-level writing.


Proficiency exam or number of courses.


Art, music, theatre


Includes physics, chemistry, and biology. (Sequences are available for science and nonscience majors.)


(Sequences are available for science and nonscience majors.)


Two lower-division courses in the social sciences chosen from an approved list, to include two courses in the same social science.


Three courses in one area, noncontiguous to the major.

Minor/Additional Graduation Requirements

Optional Minor

Minimum Number of Courses Required for Graduation

BA/BS degrees require a minimum of 46 courses (184 units); at least 15 courses (60 units) must be upper-division.

John Muir College

General Education


A three-course sequence


A three-course sequence in either category. Specific sequences are available for nonscience majors.


A three-course sequence in two of these categories

Minor/Additional Graduation Requirements

Optional Minor

*One US cultural diversity course to be chosen from an approved list as part of the major, optional minor, elective, or an appropriate general-education course

Minimum Number of Courses Required for Graduation

BA/BS degrees require a minimum of forty-five courses (180 units); at least eighteen courses (72 units) must be upper division.

Thurgood Marshall College

General Education


Core courses include two six-unit courses with intensive instruction in university-level writing.


One course each in biology, chemistry, and physics. (Courses are available for science and nonscience majors.)

MATHEMATICS, Statistics, or LOGIC—2

(Courses are available for science and nonscience majors.)


Noncontiguous to the major. Two must be upper division; one must include writing.


The four-unit public service option may be used to fulfill one course in disciplinary breadth.

Minor/Additional Graduation Requirements

Optional Minor

Minimum Number of Courses Required for Graduation

BA/BS degrees require forty-five courses (180 units). At least 60 units must be upper division.

Earl Warren College

General Education


Calculus, symbolic logic, computer programming, and/or statistics.


(for BA/BS degrees in arts/sciences)
Two programs of concentration, each containing six courses, and each noncontiguous to the major and to each other.


(for BS degrees in engineering)
Two area studies, one in the humanities/fine arts and one in the social sciences, each containing three courses.

Minor/Additional Graduation Requirements

Optional minor—May be used in lieu of a program of concentration or area study if noncontiguous to the major and to the other program of concentration or area study.

Cultural Diversity in US Society

One cultural diversity in US society course to be chosen from an approved list. This course may overlap with the major, programs of concentration/area studies, or be taken as an elective.

Minimum Number of Courses Required for Graduation

BA/BS degrees require forty-five courses (180 units). At least fifteen courses (60 units) must be upper division.

Eleanor Roosevelt College

General Education


Includes two quarters of intensive instruction in university-level writing


Proficiency exam or number of courses


Includes study of both Western and non-Western arts


(Courses are available for science and nonscience majors.)


(Courses are available for science and nonscience majors.)


To include at least two courses taken at the upper-division level

Minor/Additional Graduation Requirements

Optional minor—Students may combine foreign language and regional specialization course work to create a minor focusing on a particular geographic area.

Minimum Number of Courses Required for Graduation

BA/BS degrees require forty-five courses (180 units). At least fifteen courses (60 units) must be upper division.

Sixth College

General Education


Includes two quarters of intensive instruction in university-level writing and digital literacy.


This requirement may be satisfied with courses from a variety of departments.


Two courses in the social sciences, two courses in the humanities, two courses in the natural sciences, one course in math/logic (different options available for science and nonscience majors)


One course in statistical methods (different options available for science and nonscience majors)


One course in ethnic or gender studies; one course in ethics


Two courses in music, theatre (including dance), or the visual arts


Capstone project with a four-unit course in upper-division writing

Minor/Additional Graduation Requirements

Optional Minor

Minimum Number of Courses Required for Graduation

BA/BS degrees require a minimum of forty-five courses (180 units). At least fifteen courses (60 units) must be upper division.


Note: Students normally may pursue any major, except for college individualized majors, regardless of the college they choose. Majors are identical regardless of the student’s chosen college. Most majors require twelve to eighteen upper-division courses based upon adequate lower-division preparation; such preparation may be part of the general-education requirements. Majors in certain engineering programs may require as many as twenty-one upper-division courses.