With its first classes convened in fall 2005, the University of California, Merced, represents the newest member of the UC system. The campus holds the honor of being the first true research university constructed in America in the twentieth century and is fully accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. As early as the 1980s, the Regents of the University of California foresaw the need to construct a tenth campus to handle the steady climb in enrollment. The Central Valley was targeted as the ideal location, as a huge number of citizens stood to benefit from a new UC campus. In May 2009, Michelle Obama gave the commencement address to the first graduating class at UC, Merced.
The curriculum at the University of California, Merced, is organized into three schools: the School of Engineering, the School of Natural Sciences, and the School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Arts. Most undergraduates pursue a course of study in the life sciences, engineering or psychology.
Students in the School of Engineering can work towards five distinct bachelor’s degrees, from bioengineering to computer engineering. Beyond the baccalaureate level, graduate students pursue one of four master’s or doctoral degrees. High-end facilities such as the Environmental Analysis Lab support student and faculty research projects.
Biology majors pursue “emphasis tracks” rather than traditional majors. The mission of the School of Natural Sciences is to prepare students for cutting-edge, twenty-first century science. Genetic engineering, climate change and the evolution of disease in the modern world are just a few of the topics that life scientists may actively engage with.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Sierra Nevada Research Institute
The Sierra Nevada Research Institute brings students and faculty from various disciplines together to address the most serious issues facing the world today and in the future. These issues include rapid population growth, especially in the Third World, global climate change, natural resource management and biodiversity. A field station in Yosemite National Park allows researches to do some hands-on work investigating some of these challenges.
UC Merced Energy Research Institute
The Energy Research Institute seeks ways to improve renewable and sustainable energy technology. Faculty from all three UC, Merced, colleges participate in research initiatives. A solar energy plant completed in 2009 currently supplies 20 percent of the campuses energy needs throughout the year.
The average high-school GPA of admitted freshmen at UC, Merced, stands at over 3.4. The university sets a high bar for all students and has already earned a reputation as an academically rigorous institution.
In addition to completing a core group of 15 courses throughout their high-school careers, prospective students must maintain a minimum GPA and score well on either the ACT or SAT exam. The Admissions Office at Merced will place each student on a UC Eligibilty Index based upon a combination of grades and exam scores. Intangible factors such as the applicant’s character and interest in the school will also be considered by admissions officials.
Students graduating in the top 4 percent of their class are automatically eligible to attend any UC campus. The only requirement is that they complete the application and submit all transcripts and test scores. Superior ACT or SAT scores will also automatically qualify a student for admission, regardless of performance during high-school.
Applicants with at least 60 credit hours earned at another institution are eligible for admission, provided they hold a GPA of at least 2.4. Students must have completed at least seven general education courses in specific disciplines. Freshman and sophomore transfer applicants must meet the same strict admission requirements as high-school applicants.
Graduate School Admissions
Prospective students must first submit a graduate school application along with the non-refundable application fee. One official transcript of all college work should be forwarded to the graduate school at UC, Merced. Applicants must submit score reports from the Graduate Record Exam, three letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose essay. Individual programs within the graduate school may have additional requirements.
Nearly all incoming freshmen at UC, Merced, apply for some kind of need-based aid. The first step in that process is to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after the first of the year as possible. Information provided on the FAFSA will be the primary factor in calculating each student’s financial aid package. Grants, scholarships and loans are the three main types of financial aid available to all students. The average need-based financial aid package for
students is more than $15,000 per academic year.
The federal government administers both the Pell Grant and the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. These awards are based on financial need. Academic Competitive Grants and SMART Grants are likewise federal programs, although these awards entail a certain level of scholastic achievement.
The state of California administers Cal Grant funds. Only California residents can receive these awards, which include both financial need and academic merit as part of the eligibility requirement.
The University of California, Merced, makes available over 30 scholarship opportunities for high-achieving students. Some of these scholarships require separate application procedures. Academic merit is the largest discriminating factor in the awarding of scholarship funds. Like grants, scholarships represent free money that will not need to be repaid.
Loans include the Federal Direct Loans, PLUS Loans for parents and private loans. Students should explore all other avenues of funding before applying for loan monies. After leaving school, most loan programs allow a grace period of six months to a year before repayment must begin.
Student Financial Aid Details
Total enrollment at UC, Merced, stands at over 4,000. The campus is ethnically diverse, with nearly three-quarters of students identifying as members of minority groups. Campus housing has recently been expanded with the addition of Tuolumne and Mariposa Residence Halls. Most first-year students choose to live on-campus, though only about a third of all undergraduates occupy dorms or other university-affiliated housing options. There are no restrictions on vehicle ownership, so students are free to explore the rural Central Valley, Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks, or San Francisco.
The Office of Student Life fosters involvement both on the campus and in the local community. The Civic Engagement Program offers students a way to apply their classroom learning to real-world problems. Students can volunteer their services to any number of worthy local and national organizations.
Clubs and organizations are an integral part of student life at UC, Merced. Fraternities and sororities have a strong presence on campus, and membership involves living up to high standards as both student and citizen. Numerous clubs are organized around academic disciplines, such as the Merced Pre-Law Society, the Business Society and the Society of Women Engineers.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Many of the faculty at UC, Merced, are well-known experts in their respective fields. Faculty members have received numerous accolades, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement, the Young Investigator Award and the New Faculty Award from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
- The College Board. University of California: Merced. 2011. Web. 29 July 2011.
- Petersons Four-year Colleges 2011. New Jersy: Peterson, 2010. Print.
- University of California Regents. University of California-Merced. 2010. Web. 29 July 2011.
Josh is a full-time professional writer and organic farmer who lives in rural Kentucky.