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Campus Spotlight: UC Merced

About_UCMAs the kick-off to my UC campus spotlight series, I have decided to give an overview of UC Merced. Merced holds a special place in my heart; it’s the little engine that could, the UC that gets sand kicked in its face, and is the butt of countless jokes.  But the real joke, in my opinion, is a lot of the opinion-making is short-sighted. I foresee UC Merced being a force to be reckoned with. And there are a lot of perks that come with attending such a small-size UC.

Some of these include:

Merced Stats
Campus enrollment:  6000+
Established: 2005
2015 transfer admits:
— applied:  2550 
— admitted:  1154, 
— admit rate:  45%

Surrounding area: rural (cows!)
Driving distances:
Yosemite National Park: 90 minutes
— Oakland: 2 hours
— Silicon Valley: approx 2-1/2 hours
Public transit:
Shuttles and commuter club (carpooling, car and bike sharing)
— Train from Merced to San Jose: 3 hours
— Train from Merced to Oakland: 2-1/2 hours
— off-campus housing can be as low as $300/month
— newest dorms in the UC system

Merced is committed to sustainability and has won numerous environmental awards for their building design and energy efficiency. (See links at end of this post.) Among the notable achievements:

  • 30,000 acres of vernal pool grasslands established
  • A solar system provides 20% of the university’s electricity
  • LEED-certified buildings use 44% less water than comparable buildings, and half the energy of other universities in California (30% over required Title 24 numbers)
  • Zero net energy targeted for 2020
  • native plantings, no grass

Things to Do
Downtown: about 12 minutes
OK, it’s the elephant in the room. The city of Merced is the biggest negative to going to UC Merced (sorry Merced). Let’s face it head-on: The downtown area is not the liveliest of places. However, there are things to do, including a spanking new movie theatre, bars, coffeehouses, museums, and art galleries. If this is anything like Davis, what will slowly happen is the city will inch toward the campus and the campus will extend toward the city. Maybe not in your time, but eventually I see a vibrant college town and excellent ranking. Merced may be in last place now but twenty years from now it won’t be.

Outdoors:  One of the best fits would be students who love nature, the environment, and a small campus feel. There is so much outdoors out-there. Here are just a few:

  • Yosemite National Park – 2 hours away
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks – 2 hours away
  • Yosemite Lake – 7 miles outside of Merced
  • Merced National Wildlife Refuge
  • numerous lakes and parks –  all nearby
  • And did I say cows?  Yes!
  • Plus, snowboarding and skiing in winter; kayaking, rafting, camping and hiking in spring, summer and early fall.

UC_MercedSchools at UC Merced
The current (and future) schools offered at Merced are the following:

  • School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts
  • School of Natural Sciences
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Medicine
  • School of Management

Majors offered at UC Merced
Merced’s current list of majors:

  • Anthropology
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering
  • Biological Sciences
  • Business Administration and Management
  • Chemistry
  • Cognitive Science
  • Comparative Literature
  • Computer Engineering
  • Economics
  • Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering
  • Geology/Earth Science
  • History
  • Management Science
  • Materials Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Political Science and Government
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Department rankings
For being only 10 years old, it’s quite impressive that UC Merced has already broken into the U.S. News and World Report grad department rankings. Engineering is ranked at #140 nationally, while the Psychology department is ranked at #158.

Research opportunities
As touched upon above, one of the huge perks of being on a small campus such as Merced are the research opportunities not afforded students at other UCs.  Undergrads have opportunities in numerous arenas, including environmental partnerships with nearby institutes, including the Health Sciences Research Institute, the University of California Advanced Solar Technologies Institute, the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, the Wawona Field Station and the Environmental Analytical Laboratory, as well as the natural resource of Yosemite National Park. Other research areas include biological sciences and solar technology.

Count Me In and Regents
Merced offers the highest pay-out for Regents scholars at $7,000 a year (compare that to the $2,000 annual offered by UC Berkeley). And don’t forget the Count Me In Program, which offers admission to competitive UC applicants not admitted to any other UC.

Long-range plans
There is a huge expansion planned for UC Merced over the next several years. You can read more about it in the links below. Projected enrollment is set at 10,000 students by the year 2020.

Quick Links
UC Merced overview
UC Merced fast facts 
UC Merced transfer stats
Things to Do around Merced
Sustainability and water
UC Merced long-range plans

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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