Mark Montgomery, educational consultant and college admissions coach, uses the University of California in Santa Barbara as an example of a school that gives students multiple avenues to getting a degree.
So here at the University of California in Santa Barbara, I was interested to learn that there are really three colleges here. There’s the College of Letters and Sciences, there’s the College of Engineering, and then there’s this really interesting, different kind of place called the College of Creative Studies, and this is the smallest of the three colleges. It’s only got about 300 or 400 in it, and this is a place for — again, Creative Studies. So as soon as I saw that I assumed, okay, that’s going to be literature, writing, creative writing, that’s going to be arts, that’s going to be music and drama and things like that.
Well, no. As it turns out, there are seven majors in this school, this college, and they include — I’ve got the list here — art, yes, and music composition, but also biology, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics. So you can major, here at Santa Barbara, you can major in biology either in the School of Letters, College of Letters and Sciences, or in the College of Creative Studies.
What’s the difference? The College of Creative Studies is really set up for students who have a passion, they have a really narrow focus in their academic studies that they really want to take to the maximum and create new knowledge. They call it kind of the graduate school for undergraduate students. It’s a place where you’re really going to focus in on your particular major and begin to create new knowledge one on one with a professor in a way that really isn’t possible in most university settings, especially a large university like the University of California, Santa Barbara. So if — the examples that our tour guide gave us was a young man who is interested in ornithology. He wants to do biology, but he is about birds 24/7. Other students who are writing computer programs from day one, that they are really already narrowly focused in this discipline and they want to dig deeply into it.
By contrast, if you are in this College of Letters and Sciences, you’re still going to have a lot more of your general education requirements, you’re going to be more broad in your approach to biology or biochemistry or chemistry. The College of Creative Studies is a place for a very special kind of student who has a very deep interest and wants to pursue that from the first day they arrive on campus. It is possible, however, to transfer into that college once you arrive on this campus if you get into the College of Letters and Sciences and want to move because you gained some sort of a passion, you take a class and all of a sudden you’re really, really interested in something, or if you’re taking music composition in the College of Letters and Sciences and you say, no, I’m ready to start composing my symphony, I want to begin now. Then you might want to transfer over.
So this is another lesson in understanding what it is you want out of your college education, and then finding the place that best fits. Here, even at the University of California, Santa Barbara, if you’re interested in Sciences, you have two very different paths you might take to pursue your interest in, say, physics or biochemistry. So check it out, know what you want, and then find the best match.