College Connections: Kaili Nguyen at UCLA

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Photo courtesy of Kaili Nguyen.

Which American university receives the most applications? That distinction goes to the University of California, Los Angeles, a public university located five miles from the Pacific Ocean, in the Westwood neighborhood. UCLA receives more than 100,000 undergraduate applications, and only 14% of applicants are admitted, including Kaili Nguyen (19).

With 31,009 undergraduates, UCLA has the largest student body of the nine undergraduate colleges in the University of California system. At UCLA, there are 125 majors to choose from and over 1,000 student organizations. Instead of semesters, UCLA has a 10-week quarter system for the fall, winter, and spring that allows students to take more classes. U.S. News & World Report ranks UCLA #1 in top public schools, and Kaili offers insight into what makes UCLA special.

Describe UCLA’s personality and what attracted you to UCLA. 

Kaili: UCLA is definitely a school of overachievers, so it is easy to feel intimidated. At the same time, people are extremely welcoming. There’s definitely a strong sense of community amongst Bruins. I also love the location. I always wanted to move to a big city. Los Angeles is a cultural hotspot. I love all the pop culture that is produced in LA in terms of movies, music, tech, and fashion. The cultural diversity also results in great food. I’ve had some of the best food in my life just walking around areas near campus. I really love food, so that was a huge pull.

Due to coronavirus, it is not currently possible to visit colleges and take campus tours. What advice do you have for looking online to get a sense of each college’s personality?

Kaili:  Take advantage of the Casady Alumni network! Ask [current and former] students from the schools you’re looking at. Try and find opinions from students online. A lot of universities have a ton of publicity photos of campus, so you can get a sense of what it looks like. Some people may take for granted how beautiful Casady’s campus is. Also, make sure you try to figure out how large classes typically are and what your lecture halls or classrooms look like. That’s probably going to be a bit more difficult online, but since you’ll be spending a lot of time in that environment, you might want to make sure it looks comfy.

If you were giving a campus tour of UCLA, what are the most important places you would visit and what makes those places special?

Kaili: Honestly, I would just bring you to the different dining halls/take out places because that is the biggest pull to me. Royce Hall and Powell Library may be gorgeous, but do you know what else is gorgeous? A Rendez California Steak burrito.

What is your major/minor and what do you want to do after completing your education at UCLA?

Kaili: I have officially declared a statistics pre-major with a double pre-major in economics.

What tips do you have for freshman year of college?

Kaili: Go to class. That’s the easiest way to stay caught up. I know so many people who struggle with this. Once you start skipping, it will be hard to stop, so go to class. Don’t sign up for 8:00 a.m. classes if you’re not a morning person. Definitely join some clubs to grow your social network and try to make some friends with upperclassmen. Those relationships may prove to be invaluable in the future.

What was the most important lesson you learned while at Casady?

Kaili: Try everything at least once. Keep an open mind because you might find yourself surprised. You never know if that somewhat daunting club/sport/activity will bring you some of your closest friends.

What advice do you have for Upper Division students preparing for SAT and ACT tests and beginning to write college essays? 

Kaili: Study. Save your parents the money and try to do well the first time because you’ll be spending a lot more of their money paying for school in the future. For writing, listen to your English teacher and your college counselor. I was lucky to have Dr. Hubbell for both, but every member of Casady’s faculty are valuable resources. I didn’t realize how incredible Casady’s English department was until I got to university. I hear similar things from my former classmates at various universities. I feel beyond prepared for UCLA’s English Comp/Writing Curriculum. I had Dr. Hubbell and Mr. Banecker for the majority of my English classes at Casady, and I am so appreciative of that right now. I just took a year long English/Musicology/Political Science/History course at UCLA about the 60s that was centered on writing and I never made below 99% on a single paper. Respect the English department – they are so underrated and under-appreciated.

What advice do you have for finding a college that’s a good fit?

Kaili: If you can visit, that’s great, but with COVID-19, travel is unrealistic. I would recommend getting in touch with current students to see how they like it. Students will probably tell you the truth about some of the difficulties at the institution rather than just the benefits listed on the college brochure. The good thing about Casady is that we are a college prep school, so the alumni network covers just about every school you could think of. I’m sure the college counseling department could help you get in touch with a fellow Casady alum at any school you’re interested in. I do recommend trying to find pictures of the campus including dorm rooms and classrooms online, since that’s where you’ll be spending a lot of time. Casady’s picturesque campus can leave some of us spoiled, so just be aware if the aesthetics of the campus are important to you.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Casady community?

Kaili: If anybody is specifically looking into UCLA or colleges in the Los Angeles area, I would love to answer questions or help in any way I can.

(Left to Right) Timothy Bryer-Ash (’19) attends USC, and catches up with UCLA students Kaili Nguyen (’19) and José Alberola (’19) at UCLA’s Griffith Observatory. Photo courtesy of Kaili Nguyen.

Founded in 1919, UCLA is the second smallest campus in the UC system. The campus is on 419 acres in the nation’s second most populated city. Niche ranks UCLA #1 for best college campuses in America as well as #1 for best college food in America. Their dining management team has even won a national award for culinary creativity during the pandemic. 

With 118 NCAA team championships, UCLA is well known for their sports. Many iconic sports stars played for the UCLA Bruins, including basketball players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Russell Westbrook, football player Troy Aikman, and baseball legend Jackie Robinson. UCLA colors are “True Blue” and gold, which represent California’s ocean and wildflowers. The Bruins mascots are two bears named Joe Bruin and Josephine Bruin. UCLA is rivals with the University of Southern California, and they compete for the Victory Bell at their annual football game.

Fun Facts: The movie Legally Blonde was mostly filmed at UCLA, although the film is set at Harvard College. Ray Bradbury wrote his novel Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of Powell Library. Go Mighty Bruins!