It’s college decision time and many of you future CS majors are deciding between UCLA and other schools. Here’s an overview of the UCLA CS experience.
UCLA hasn’t traditionally been known as an entrepreneurial school, but that’s been changing a lot in the last few years.
There’s a growing tech scene in LA and there’s now a large amount of startups here. It’s become the #3 entrepreneurial hub in the world. Snapchat, Tinder, SpaceX, and many more, are all in LA. Our annual startup fair connects you with these companies.
There’s been a rise in entrepreneurial events hosted by student orgs. We have Bruin Entrepreneurs who have different programs like their weekly nights where they bring in speakers, teach workshops and give ambitious students a place to connect. ACM is hosting founder’s school in the Spring which is SoCal’s largest university entrepreneurship conference.
There are many campus resources for entrepreneurship. The StartupUCLA's Summer Accelerator is a great place to go if you have a dedicated team and an idea you really want to work on. There’s the UCLA VC Fund which can help your company raise money. There’s also Blackstone Launchpad which provides support to people interested in entrepreneurship. You can schedule a free consultation with them to discuss your venture no matter what stage it’s at.
From the inventor of Object Oriented Programming, to an ACM Turing Award recipient, to one of the creators of the internet, UCLA has some world class professors. We also have some great teachers, especially for intro CS classes. Professor Smallberg, who you’ll encounter for your very first CS class, feels like your cool grandpa. Carey Nachenberg, who you can take in your second CS class , has some of the most fun and engaging lectures at UCLA.
You might think that the large population makes it harder to make a good connection with the professors, but it’s actually pretty easy. The professors here are usually friendly and accessible. You can go to their office hours and they’re happy to help you. There are a lot of other students in your class but most of them don’t take advantage of these opportunities, so office hours are usually reasonably sized. Office hours are a great place to learn more, bond with your professor and make new friends.
CS classes tend to be half theory, and half practical. The theory is what you’ll be doing in your lecture with professors and what you’ll discuss at their office hours. The practical portion is done through projects. You’ll get most of your help with practical things from your TA’s during discussion and during their office hours. The TA office hours are a great place to meet your fellow classmates who are struggling with the project and bond over your confusion. There’s also free tutoring from clubs like TBP, UPE and HKN. There’s academic counselling, faculty advisers, and many other resources to keep you on track and support you if you choose to use them.
The top companies all recruit at UCLA. Many CS students intern at Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. We have a huge, two day long, Engineering Career Fair in Fall and almost every company there hires CS majors. We also have a Startup Fair where students who are interested in smaller companies can connect to startups around LA. So whether you’re interested in bigger, established companies or young startups, there are opportunities here for you.
We have 18% women in CS and 23% in engineering. 8.5% of engineering students are underrepresented minorities. Our numbers are not the best but we’re actively working to improve it. We have clubs dedicated to creating a more welcoming CS community. Clubs like ACM-W and WATT provide mentorship programs and host useful events for women and minorities in CS and EE. We also have the CEED program that gives support to minorities in engineering. We are certainly not the most diverse by any metrics, but we have a welcoming community that would be happy to have you.
UCLA is located in Westwood, a small college town next to Beverly Hills. It’s near Santa Monica and Downtown LA is only a bus ride away. We have beautiful, sunny weather which means you can almost always do stuff outdoors. The general vibe here is to live a balanced lifestyle. Most of the CS people I know are in clubs that have nothing to do with CS like dance or music If you have interests outside of CS then it’s a great place to be since we have 1000+ clubs. You’ll make friends with the people on your floor, in the clubs you join, and in your classes. We also have some of the best dining halls, and you know you can’t code on an empty stomach.
Student Orgs are the heart of the UCLA tech community. There’s a variety of groups that you can join to build your skills, meet people and have fun.
“We seek to bridge the gap between north and south campus at UCLA by bringing passionate and creative students together to work on cool projects.”
If you already have some coding experience then this is a great club to join if you want to work on projects. It’s especially good if you have an interest in design/art as well. They also host workshops that are open to everyone on design related topics like UI/UX and Adobe Illustrator.
"Build out real-world projects to help tackle pressing problems frustrating the UCLA community, grow your technical skills by pairing up with experienced students, and build a network that lasts beyond graduation."
A new club on campus whose goal is to build products that help improve student life at UCLA. It’s a good place for intermediate/advanced students to build more skills, meet people and work on projects that have an impact on their campus.
“ACM AI aims to nurture curiosity and enthusiasm in artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
They host workshops and community building events like reading groups. In the past they’ve taught a wide range of topics from Python Machine Learning to TensorFlow.
“ACM VRCG aims to provide a community in which developers interested in virtual reality and computer graphics can connect, learn, and create.”
This is a great place to jump in and get started in VR development. If you’re a beginner, they have great workshops on virtual reality technologies like Unity. If you have some skill, you can join a project with other members. They also own an HTC Vive that you can reserve some time to develop on.
“ACM ICPC (Inter-Collegiate Programming Contest) strives to promote critical thinking and problem solving through practice and participation in programming competitions.”
ICPC is a worldwide algorithm competition. This club trains members to participate in that competition, and UCLA qualified for the world finals this year. They also host events like Project A* that help you improve your algorithm skills which will prepare you for job interviews.
“ACM-W supports, celebrates, and advocates for the full engagement of all who are interested in computer science. Additionally, ACM-W endeavors to increase all aspects of diversity in the technical field by providing a range of programs and services to UCLA students.”
They have a great mentorship program and a distinguished speaker series where they bring in prominent members of the CS community to talk. Last week Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, gave a talk on diversity.
“We are a student-run organization that aims to empower UCLA students to influence their world through code. We host events for coders of all skill levels. So whether you've been to 10 hackathons, or you just learned "hello world", we're happy to have you.”
While most of the other clubs on this list cater to more experienced coders, ACM Hack is completely beginner friendly. Their goal is to help students get the skills they need to build cool things.
“Our members contribute to the Computer Science community at UCLA by providing mentorship and career development opportunities for our peers. Our goal is to make their time spent with Computer Science at UCLA as valuable and rewarding as possible.”
This is our CS honor society. They host a lot of career oriented events like company infosessions, resume workshops and mock interviews.
This is our school newspaper. They have a huge web team that even beginners can join. You can join as an intern and they’ll give you enough training to work on their website.
Do you like music? Of course you do. This is the club to join if you want a good balance. You can learn web/mobile development since they have a website and mobile apps. You can also DJ your own show and get involved with other departments.
Here are some of the big events hosted by these student orgs.
Hack On The Hill
This is a 12 hour long, beginner friendly hackathon. It was originally conceived as an introductory hackathon for people who’ve never been to a hackathon. It has tons of mentors and workshops to help the most helpless beginners get their projects up and running.
This is the biggest hackathon on the west coast, held right here on our campus. It is filled with students from all over the world, great mentors and famous speakers. Last year Tinder CEO Sean Rad was one of the main speakers.
California Capture The Flag
The largest student run Cyber Security competition in California. Great event for you to practice your ‘hacking’ skills. You and your team will compete to solve challenges on topics like reverse engineering, cryptography and steganography.
Hacker Expo is an opportunity for students who’ve been working on side projects to demo what they’ve built to the whole school. It’s usually sponsored by Facebook and they come in to judge the products and award prizes.
This is the largest university entrepreneurship conference in SoCal. They bring in tons of startup founders and it’s a great place to network with other students interested in entrepreneurship. Last year the CEO of Robinhood, Vlad Tenev, was the keynote speaker. Kevin Hale from YCombinator also came over to host office hours.
CodeSprint LA is an algorithmic coding competition geared towards those newer to competitive programming. You can team up with two of your friends and race to solve the most problems and win prizes and bragging rights.
RFair is an undergraduate research event, in the format of a career fair, that connects students with research opportunities. The event showcases research projects in the EE and CS departments with presentations and one-on-one time at booths with professors, graduate students, and current undergraduate researchers.
UCLA CS has so much opportunities that it’s up to you to choose the experience you want. You want to study CS but still have balance? There are over a thousand clubs for you to join. You want to do research? Lots of labs would love someone who can code. You want to build cool stuff? Join any of our project based clubs like Creative Labs or DevX. You want to start your own startup? Schedule a free appointment with Blackstone Launchpad to get some good advice.
There’s no ‘normal’ UCLA CS student experience. It’s whatever you want it to be.