UCSD Graduate Student FAQ


Is there on campus housing available at UCSD?

The short answer is yes, housing is available, but not easily accessible. The long answer is that on campus housing at UCSD is significantly cheaper than off campus housing options, and consequently there’s usually a very long wait list for on campus housing. So usually most people start in off campus housing and gradually move into on campus housing when they get the opportunity

What are the on campus/affiliated housing alternatives?

Many thanks to Susan Slocum for her feedback, suggestions and corrections to the information below!

For graduate students, there are four UCSD affiliated housing options:

  • Single Graduate Apartments: Commonly known as SGA, these are 4 bedroom apartments — you’ll get your own bedroom, kitchen and bath are shared. Waiting time for SGA is typically around 6 months or less. Naturally, you won’t be in control of who your roommates are. Quite cheap though — around 360/month, all utilities included. And its (almost) right on campus
  • La Jolla Del Sol: This is a pricey option, and its as far away from campus as most off campus housing places. Good for couples/family. Waiting time for 1 bedroom apartments is 3 to 6 months and two bedroom apartments is 1 to 1-1/2 years.
  • Mesa Residential Apartments: By far the most popular and thus most wanted place. The wait list is over 2 years! Subleasing is prevalent though, so if you want to sneak into Mesa on your own, then you can usually find someone subletting single-rooms without much difficulty. However, bear in mind that officially Mesa does not allow subletting — it is illegal and not the recommended option! Families get very very high priority in Mesa.
  • Coast Apartments: very attractive alternative, if you have a car since this place is not near campus. There is however a very long wait list (around 3 years). Looks over the Pacific Ocean!

You might also want to check out the UCSD affiliated housing FAQ. Instead of subleased alternatives, consider filling out the Affiliated housing roommate information application.

What do I need to do to get on campus housing?

Just put yourself onto the UCSD Affiliated Housing wait list. Here is the online application. You will be asked to fill in four four preferences. You will be made two offers (as and when your preferences are available). If you reject both offers, you will be taken off the list and you’ll have to re-apply. The office will communicate via email/phone, so make sure that your contact details are upto date at all times.

What are the off campus housing alternatives?

There are a whole bunch of private and organized housing complexes around the UCSD campus. The general rule of thumb is that the farther you go from campus, the cheaper the houses get. In and around the UTC area, a two bedroom apartment would cost anywhere between 1300 and 1600 dollars. Farther out in Clairemont, Pacific Beach etc, similar house would be around the 1000 dollar range. Of course, most of you will not have a car in the beginning, so you probably won’t be able to look for something in Clairemont. On the bright side, however, the UTC/La Jolla area is one of the poshest residential areas in all of San Diego, and you’ll see the affect when your friends come to visit you :-)

Here are some of websites you might find of use:

What is the typical cost of living? Housing? Food? Utilities?

The cost of living is usually in direct proportion to your housing expenses. Depending on what your housing arrangements are, typical living expenses will range from 700 to 1000 dollars. Here’s a very ordinary break up:

  • Housing: 350-450
  • Utilities: 50-100
  • Food: 200-300
  • Other/Misc: 100-200

These numbers are just estimates. They are not statistical, not averages, and not even representative. Exact figures are highly subject to individuals and I’ve put them here only to give you a rough idea of how things are.


I don’t have funding. What should I do?

If you’re a PhD student, and you haven’t heard anything about financial aid from UCSD, then something is wrong. AFAIK, UCSD does not give offers to PhD students unless funding for the first year is assured. So if you have a offer letter from UCSD for PhD, but no letter for aid, get in touch with your graduate admissions office and ask them about it.

If you are a Masters student, on the other hand, in all probability you would NOT have gotten any letter of aid from UCSD, which is not surprising. The nice thing, however, is that in most cases you can arrange some kind of funding here after a quarter of two. People usually manage to grab a TA ship and/or a RA ship going into the second or the third quarter, so that should help you out. While you are a full time student at UCSD, you can not take up any off campus job.

What the hell is a GSR?

A GSR or Graduate Student Researcher is just another name for a Research Assistantship


How do I get from India to UCSD?

Get a hold of a travel agent, preferably a known one. Avoid going to some random agent about whom you have no prior history. You will probably be getting a one-way ticket, which should cost somewhere between Rs. 25,000 – 30,000.

There are very few direct flights to San Diego. There is one by British Airways, that comes directly to SD via London. The next best option is to take a flight to LA and then either take another flight from LA to San Diego or take a bus or something else. I’d suggest sticking to the BA flight, or flight from LA to SD. You don’t want to make your arrival too hectic by messing around with buses and cabs and trains.

AFAIK, you can bring along two pieces of checked baggage, each not weight more than 32 kgs. With BA, you can get a special student concession which will allow you to bring in a total of 96 kgs, so don’t miss out on that one! DO NOT carry any sharp material (scissors, knives, nail cutters etc) in your hand luggage. Other than that, just take it easy and pray that you get through without hassles :-)

More importantly, how do I get back to India?

Again, travel agents. Ask your friends and seniors. Airline rates in the US fluctuate much much more than they do in India, so the person in the seat next to you might be flying upto a couple of hundred dollars cheaper on an international flight!

That said, its not all that difficult. The two common times for going to India are the december break, or sometime over the summers — whatever is convinient to you. For December, you might want to book your tickets very very early — sometime during the summer of that year, because things start filling very very fast. Make sure you try around with a couple of agents to get the best rate. For summer, booking a month or two in advance should suffice. Of course, there’s never any harm in making bookings earlier than that.

What are the things I should grab from India, and what should I leave behind?

Just bring along enough stuff to last you a month. You can find a detailed list here. You can avoid regular packaged stuff like tea, coffee, salt, pepper, bournvita etc — you will be able to get all that here. Things that are difficult to get are unconventional masalas (heeng, khada jeera, ilaichi and so on). But yeah, basically bottom line is that don’t overburden your self — just bring enough to sustain you for a few days. Especially for the first few days, you might want to carry some ready stuff like maggi, ready to eat sabjis and so on. In the worst case, don’t hesitate to crash at seniors’ places :-D

And how do I move around within San Diego

Public transport is one of the very few things that really sucks about San Diego. There are public buses, and you can go around on most of them using your UCSD as long as you’re within the “free zone” (its covers the important things, so don’t worry). However, the frequency of these buses is close to pathetic and they are often running late. That said, during the school days UCSD runs its own shuttle service which is once every 15 minutes — so commuting to/from school on school days is usually not a problem.

Once you’ve been here for a while, you can explore other options. You can buy a car, or a bike (regular bicycle or a motor bike), or just walk to school. Going to the Indian store without a car is almost impossible, so make sure you make some arrangements with some people you make friends with after coming here to take you to Indian store, Costco etc once every few weeks or so.

Culinary Stuff

I don’t know how to cook. How will I manage?

You will learn. Everyone does. Its not hard. I mean, cooking “good” is hard, but cooking “good enough to fill yourself” is not so hard :) Try to get a few tips from your mom at home while you have time. Most of us guys never get serious about cooking till we get here, so take my word for it and start learning today. Get some basic fundaes about rice, dal, coffee, tea etc. The more exotic things (dosa, poha, upma, poori, paratha) you can experiment with later on. Try to take an interest in cooking, cause it can really be enjoyed!

I’m a vegetarian. How will I survive?

Short answer is that there won’t be a problem. Long answer is that there are a lot more vegetarians here than I had expected. I’m a vegetarian myself, and if anything I’ve just gained more weight. So you can rest assured that survival won’t be one of your primary concerns!

Its true that at many fast food places you will have difficulty giving an order (especially McDonalds, Wendy’s and the like). However, there are some excellent alternatives — there are very nice vegetarian dishes in mexican, greek and thai cuisine. If you like cooking at home, then you’re golden. If you want to eat at school, you’ll probably have to make do with Subway or Rubio’s (a mexican joint). Then of course there’s always Pizza and other Italian stuff.


Where can I find out more about Indian students at UCSD?


What about furniture?

In all probability, the house you move into is going to be unfurnished. Don’t immediately rush to buy furniture, because as you’ll learn, shopping smartly is very important here in the US. First get the basic necessities:

  • Some kind of bedding should be at the top of the list. A lot of people are not comfortable on the mattresses here, and like sleeping on the floor (with a gadda/comforter of course). You can easily get second hands beds with mattresses for around 100 bucks or less
  • Some kind of table/chair combination — perhaps a study table or a dining table, with chairs or chairs separate. Maybe a couch or something

Thats pretty much all you’re going to need, necessity wise. You can always grab more stuff later on. For the first few weeks I’d suggest just take it easy and see what are the things you really need. For your actual shopping, there are a couple of options:

  • Garage sales: There are garage sales happening all over the place starting fall. So watch out for notices in parking lots, traffic poles, UCSD notice boards, side walks, walls… just about anywhere. Garage sale items are usually very cheap, but you have to be your own judge while buying since all of the stuff might not be in a great shape.
  • Craig’s List: an excellent source for buying used items in your locality
  • For furniture, you can try Target, Walmart and IKEA. Online ordering is available at all places.
  • San Diego Reader: another excellent resources for all kinds of classifieds, including rental and second-hand furniture.

How much money should I bring along? In what form?

As usual, there’s no right answer to this one. In all probability, this decision will be more in the hands of your parents than in yours. Personally, I think somewhere around 5000 dollars is a good figure. Some might think its too much, but going into a new country, I feel safer with atleast that much cash that can get me a home for a few days and then back to India if nothing works out without having to run out of cash. Its highly unlikely that you’ll even spend half of that before you get your own first salary, but it will be around 2 months before that happens — so best to be safe. Final decision is upto you — I know for a fact that people have comfortably managed with 2000 as well.

Again, personal suggestions here. Carry a mixed balance. Make sure you have atleast a couple of hundred dollars in cash that is easily accessible. The rest you can bring as travellers checks. While getting your TCs, get the bulk in large denominations (like 100 or 500) but carry around 500 dollars worth in small denominations (50s and 20s) so that its easier to spend in the short term. You can use the bigger ones when you open your bank accounts.

What are the most important things I should get done right after reaching San Diego?

  • CALL BACK HOME! Its obvious, but people forget :D
  • Go to the International Center at UCSD and complete your registration process
  • Open bank account(s)
  • Open accounts with SDGE (gas and electricity) and SBC (telephone) as needed

Where can I get department specific information?

If you are joining the CSE department, an excellent source of information is the CSE-GSA webpage. You will find the CSE GSA forums, and the CSE GSA Wiki both of which are maintained by CSE grads and therefore should answer most of your common queries.

Posted in


  1. Pingback: Floating Sun » UCSD Graduate Student FAQ
  2. ela

    Hi I am a post doc student can i join the group ?? If so do i get emails about the events conducted by the group? please let me know. looking forward to associate with you all ?

Leave a Reply