Visiting UCR – The University of California Riverside

Visiting the University of California Riverside, in short UCR, has been on my list of college visits for the longest time. Last week, I finally toured the 1,200 acres campus with a group of IECs led by our knowledgeable tour guide Lilly, a recent UCR graduate. 

A large public research university with over 26,000 students that offers an immense array of academic opportunities, UCR impressed me with its lush, green campus and modern facilities, including state-of-the-art research laboratories, libraries, classrooms, and recreational spaces. 

Founded in 1954, the University of Riverside is one of ten campuses of the University of California. Today UCR is recognized for its diverse student body and commitment to promoting inclusivity. The campus thrives on multiculturalism and proactively nurtures an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds can flourish.

UCR’s location in Riverside was strategically chosen to serve the inland Southern California region. The campus was built on former citrus groves, reflecting the area’s agricultural history and where the UC Citrus Experiment Station, Riverside, was founded in 1907, which can be seen as the predecessor of UCR today.

Inventor of Cuties and Halos – Scientific Research at UCR

Research on citrus and other crops has been a cornerstone of UCR’s contributions to agriculture. As our enthusiastic tour guide pointed out, UCR’s plant scientists deserve credit for introducing the innovative new mandarin species Cutie and  Halo.

Housed in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS), UCR’s agricultural research extends to areas such as plant sciences, entomology, genetics, and environmental science. Researchers at UCR work on developing sustainable agricultural practices, crop improvement, pest management, and addressing challenges related to climate change and food security.

UCR’s Wide Academic Offering

While UCR’s extensive agricultural research remains a defining feature, the university’s academic opportunities span a broad spectrum of disciplines.

UCR has three colleges and four professional schools and offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs across various fields of study, including humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, business, education, and the arts. It is known for its programs in agriculture, environmental sciences, engineering, and creative writing.

In fact, UCR is the only institution within the University of California system to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing, specializing in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

UCR’s School of Medicine 

In 2011 UCR opened its School of Medicine. UCR undergraduates are offered an exclusive pathway and have the option to participate in an early application to UCR’s medical school as a Junior. Successful candidates secure a guaranteed seat in a future UCR School of Medicine class, bypassing the obligatory MCAT examination. 

The Early Assurance Program is only open to in-state residents who have completed UCR School of Medicine prerequisite courses with a cumulative BCPM (Biology/Chemistry/Physics/Mathematics) GPA of 3.40 or higher. Once accepted to the program, students can not apply anywhere else and are contractually bound to apply and enroll only in the UCR School of Medicine. Find more info regarding all the requirements here.

Quoting Lilly, our tour guide, 73% of UCR alums get into medical school in general, and UCR reserves 25 seats for UCR alums who want to study medicine at UCR’s School of Medicine.  

Bourns College of Engineering

While several engineering majors are offered at UCR, the Computer Science program with over 1,000 students is the most popular major in the College of Engineering. Accredited by ABET, the program adheres to rigorous standards.

All engineering disciplines begin their path by taking laboratory-based coursework in every engineering field. The end of the senior year marks a capstone engineering project showcasing adeptness in engineering design.

The latest addition to the undergraduate majors offered at the Bourns College of Engineering is a Bachelor’s in Robotics

University Honors

UCR offers motivated students with a 3.8 GPA a four-year learning community at its Univeristy Honors program, a honors college open to about 200 students each ear. Selected students take classes with other University Honors students of their cohort and have access to exclusive support and resources from University Honors faculty and staff, among other tailored benefits like specialized scholarships.

Housing & Dining

While every student is allowed to commute to college since the Covid-19 pandemic, UCR offers guaranteed housing for all first-year students and has various dining options on campus. One can find food court-style dining at the HUB Plaza Dining and residential restaurant buffet-style dining at “The Barn.”

Other Interesting Facts about UCR

  • UCR’s School of Public Policy was founded in 2012. As one of only four schools of Public Policy in the University of California System, it is the only one to offer an undergraduate public policy major.
  • The Dynamic Genome Program, or BIOL020, is a unique program open to first-year life science majors. Organized in two parts, it allows students to participate in ongoing research projects in the second half of the course.
  • UCR competes in NCAA Division I sports and is a member of the Big West Conference. The university’s athletic teams, known as the Highlanders, compete in various sports.


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