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
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 www.westsiderentals.com 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 http://computing.pa.ucla.edu/. 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 http://www.astro.ucla.edu/computing/mycomputer/ 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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
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 LA.com and CitySearch, and talking to fellow graduate students.