Incoming graduate student's guide


UCLA, here I come... now what? You have made the big decision, but there are still other things to think about.
Housing, financial support details, class registration, research opportunities the summer before you begin, computer accounts, and california residency are all things that need to be worked out. Most of these topics have their own sections on this page as well as on the general UCLA graduate admissions page.
If you are interested in doing research during the summer before you start, there are usually opportunities available. Decide whom you would like to work with and contact them either by email or phone to see if they are taking on new students and if funding is available.
Housing. Your housing arrangements are a primary concern for incoming graduate students. The Weyburn Terrace apartment complex is about 20-30 minutes walking distance away from the Physics and Astronomy Building. Most first year students live here. This is guaranteed for incoming graduate students for 2 years provided they have submitted their intent to register (SIR) online and have asked to put their name on the department priority housing list. UCLA also has off-campus graduate apartments, but there is a wait list. Send in your application IMMEDIATELY if you are interested. These apartments are located about 5 miles from campus but there is a nice shuttle service, and the Big Blue Bus is an excellent way to get to/from campus. According to past graduate students, there is officially a wait list, BUT it is really a matter of who is aggressive about calling and bugging them that determines how apartments get handed out. Call everyday and see if anyone currently living in an apartment gave notice that they are moving out. If someone did and you happen to call at the right time and have an application on file, then quite frequently you can get the apartment.
Most astronomy graduate students plan their own living arrangements off campus. The UCLA Community Housing Office has a listing service for apartments, roommates, etc. Also, check out the classifieds section of the Daily Bruin. Finally, you can use professional listing services such as or the classified section of the LA Times (this is by no means advertising for these services).
Financial support details. During your visit (or possibly mailed to you at a later time) you should have received some information on your options for financial support. There are several avenues of funding that are made available on an individual basis.
  • Teaching Assistant (TA) -- teach recitation and lab sections for the various undergraduate astronomy or physics classes.
  • Research Assistant (GSR) -- work with a faculty member on a research project. You must reach a mutual agreement with the faculty member you are interested in working with.
  • Fellowships -- some UCLA fellowships may be awarded on an individual basis. Additionally, if you have won a substantial national fellowship (NSF, etc.), the department will usually supplement it up to a certain level. All incoming graduate students are encouraged to apply for national fellowships.
One of the first things you should do upon arriving in Los Angeles is to meet with Cecile Chang in the Physics and Astronomy admin offices in 2-707F PAB (Physics & Astronomy Building) to fill out employment forms so that you can be paid in a timely manner. Your first check may be delayed if these forms are not processed before classes begin. At some point (possibly during orientation), you should receive a packet of forms and information from the Graduate Student Support Office. Fill them out and return them to the Graduate Student Support office in order to receive your financial benefits in a timely manner.
Classes and registration. At the top of your acceptance letter, you should have a University ID number. Once you have this number, you can go to UCLA's online administration system called URSA. From this site, you can enroll and register for classes, update your address information, etc. Usually, class enrollment doesn't begin until late July but the schedule of classes can usually be viewed online in early June. For a sample schedule of courses that grads usually take, see the Grad FAQ.
Computer accounts and email. UCLA Astronomy has it's own computer network and there are some things you should do before hand to get set up. Some of the steps may need a lead time of several weeks so if you wait until you arrive, your access to computing could be delayed. Start acting on the recommended procedures indicated below as soon as possible to avoid any possible delay.
General. You can find out a lot about our computing environment at the computing web page. The section about UCLA Astronomy policies & procedures is probably what you need to familiarize yourself with at this stage. 
Accounts. To have your account set up, please follow the instructions on It's preferable to submit this form several weeks before you arrive.
Your Computer. If you have your own computer (e.g., laptop) that you will want to bring to your office and connect to our network, please see and e-mail us the information listed in the "notification" section. (That web page is still under construction...) 
If you have any other question, please do not hesitate to ask (
California Residency. Domestic students who are not California residents will need to establish residency to avoid assessment of nonresident tuition. U.S. citizens or permanent residents can usually become California residents after living in the state for one year. You should contact the Registrar's Office, Residence Classifications for complete details on establishing California Residency three to five weeks prior to fall quarter. This is VERY IMPORTANT, otherwise, you may have to pay non-resident tuition during your second year.
Getting to School. There are several options available to get to campus. The most frequent ones are driving, taking the bus, biking, and walking. For details about parking availability and permits, please contact the personnel office. For those living in the Weyburn Terrace apartments, you will not be able to get a campus parking permit in addition to your apartment parking space. Contact the Weyburn Terrace office or Parking Services to determine when and where you can park on campus during off-peak hours. The UCLA Transportation Office is your best source for transportation methods and information. It has information about the campus shuttle, ridesharing (such as FlexCar and RideMatch), BruinGo! (reduced cost for the Santa Monica and Culver City Buses), etc.
Several bus routes run through UCLA and to nearby areas (e.g., Hollywood, Beverly Hills, the beach, Valley, etc). The Metro Trip Planner is the best tool in determining how to get from point A to B via the buses and trains. The most frequently used bus systems in West Los Angeles are the Santa Monica, the Culver City, and the Los Angeles Metro. For cyclists, a list of designated bike lanes throughout Los Angeles can be found here. If you have further questions, you can always ask your fellow astronomy grad students for their experiences.
Fun stuff to do on campus and in L.A. Just like any big city, Los Angeles has more things to do than you have time to do it all. The diversity of the city provides hundreds of restaurants with unique entrees that you probably never tried. Museums such as the famous Getty, Hammer, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) are just some examples that have on-going public exhibits. Musical performances from alternative to classical to pop are available at several locations (e.g., the Staples Center, historic Hollywood theaters, and small music venues) throughout the city. Also, amusement parks such as Disneyland, Six Flags, and Universal Studies are less than two hours driving distance away. The Griffith Observatory, whose director is a UCLA astronomy alumni, has recently opened after a $93-million renovation and restoration project. Its new exhibits and planetarium will certainly not disappoint prospective astronomers.
The beach is about 15 minutes away from UCLA, and outdoor adventures, such as hiking, are not far away with the Will Roger State Park and more hiking trails in the Topanga Canyon. UCLA also has an Outdoor Adventures program. There are also a few hundred clubs on campus and can be found at the UCLA Students Group Web Service. 
There are also events on campus. The UCLA Happenings page provides up-to-date information on performances, shows, and sporting events on campus. Some of these have free admission for students. Westwood has several movie theatres, which occasionally have private red-carpet screening for the stars It also has a few tens of restaurants, which can be found here.
The city is also filled with massive shopping centers (both indoors and out) and hundreds of bars and clubs for those nightlife enthusiasts. This page only summarizes some stuff, and it is far from complete. More general and specific information about Los Angeles can be found at and CitySearch, and talking to fellow graduate students.