College Decision Time: A Visit to UC Davis

Yesterday, it was our turn to visit UC Davis for their “Decision Davis” event, designed to sell the campus to prospective students.

We drove up on Thursday night, stopping at China House in Vacaville for dinner – while I wouldn’t make a special trip to eat there, I’d be quite willing to go back if I was in the neighborhood. We spent the night at the Comfort Suites in Davis, which lived up to its name. And we had an excellent breakfast at Caffe Italia before going to the campus for the actual event.

We were pleasantly impressed by the campus and by the town. Even though the campus is huge, the relevant parts are walkable (but most students bike — and, like UCSB, bike theft is the biggest crime on campus), and downtown Davis is immediately adjacent to campus. The student government and the town jointly operate Unitrans bus service, which is free to students and has good service throughout town (a good thing, because housing is basically limited to first year students). I had to be careful when walking through campus, because there were bicyclists everywhere, and they weren’t interested in stopping for me — it reminded me of Amsterdam.

Davis has a Freshman Seminar program, somewhat like Willamette’s, but it’s not mandatory. Like other UCs, most lower-division courses have TAs for the discussion sections, so this would be the best opportunity to actually work with a tenured professor for the first year or two.

Some classes are constrained (again, like other UCs); they do a two-pass registration process, and then they have waitlists and “crashing” to get into classes that are otherwise full. *sigh*

Unlike UCSB, Davis invited us to eat in a Dining Commons along with current students; it was a much more pleasant experience than our 45-minute wait for Panda Express last week. There was a good variety of food (even Jeff found things he liked), and the cookies were very good. The dorms weren’t all that impressive, even by dorm standards; the one we toured had been built in 1960. So I guess students aren’t all that unwilling to move off-campus after the first year.

Like UCSB (and, I suppose, other UCs), advising is largely at the initiative of the student — they have a peer-advising program called The First Resort which is available in the dorms as well as in the Academic Advising Center, and which does most of the advising; faculty/staff-led advising is also available, but unlike some other schools we’ve looked at, it’s not mandatory.

Davis also reaches out to parents with the Aggie Family Pack.

The Memorial Union (student union) was a lively place, with good vibes, and Davis itself is definitely a college town, with coffeeshops (other than Starbucks!) and lots of little restaurants and shops.

Downsides? Well, it’s a UC, so it’s going to be under budget pressure. And you can smell cows from some parts of campus (apparently the Tercero dorms are on the ag side of campus).

Everyone we talked to was enthusiastic about the school; it definitely moved up on Jeff’s list (and mine).

Next stop: Tulane.