University of San Diego

Three words: Gorgeous, cool, forward-thinking.

The first sight of the University of San Diego makes you suck in your breath and go, “Wow.” Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, this may be the most beautiful school in America, in our opinion. You could practically be on the Costa del Sol in Spain, surrounded by gleaming, white-washed stucco and red clay tile. It’s a little hard to believe that this is actually a campus. Seriously, who eats lunch with this view?

And, this has to be the plushest dining hall we’ve ever seen:

Everything at USD is high-end, including the students. Most kids looked like they just stepped out of a fashion plate – perfect tans, perfect hair, etc. This is a school that’s all about the social aspect, and students hang out all over the campus. Why not, right? The weather’s perfect. There are countless benches and steps that accommodate chill sessions. And, the people who attend USD actively want to see and be seen. We don’t mean that in a bad way, but the cool factor cannot go unnoticed. I can’t help but feel like I might not have made the California Cool Cut, but these kids don’t have the Texas awkwardness (which makes Texans waaaay more comfortable with other Texans and usually straps them close to home). Even if they did, most of them are Californians anyway, and that’s one potential drawback of this idyllic haven: The school pulls primarily from California, Utah, Arizona…basically the surrounding states, and the diversity suffers as a result. Yes, there are students of all nationalities, but we like to see schools that recruit from all over the U.S., as well, because American diversity is as important as international diversity in our book.

Still, USD is doing some cool stuff, offering programs rarely seen at private liberal arts schools, such as the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace Studies, which conducts regular conferences with representatives from around the world to discuss conflict resolution strategies to guide us forward into the Global Age of Commerce and Communication (I made that up, but it sounds about right). On a close-to-home note, USD also has a Trans-Border Institute, which deals with the very real issues of immigration; bury your head in the sand if you will, but San Diego borders Tijuana- these educators are forward-thinking to spread open-minded awareness. Both of these institutes are housed in an incredible building:

From floor to ceiling, it’s really magnificent – mosaic floors, elaborate ceilings. It makes you want to learn and participate, and truly, events are going on there every day. To make it even more surreal, the building even has a tranquility/sculpture garden behind it for personal reflection time:

A few more things about student life. Sororities and fraternities are big here, more so than on most small campuses. This is the freshman dorm, and you can see the Greek spirit in all of the banners and signs promoting events:

The dorms have a breathtaking view. This wraparound balcony allows all students to walk directly out of their rooms into a vision of paradise. Every floor has its own type of access, some with covered terraces, but  no matter where you are, you can see the Pacific and the valley below.

The campus is quite large, and even for the athletic student, getting around can be exhausting. It’s super-hilly! There are trams available to take kids/visitors around campus, and for those who don’t have cars, USD is part of the ZipCar system, which lets kids pay hourly to rent a Toyota Prius and drive into town or wherever else. However, these kids are seriously into their exercise and their environment at USD, so if you go there, don’t be surprised to see people planning a rock climbing expedition or an eco-friendly retreat. There’s an entire Experiential Learning and Adventure Center that comes up with regular activities for kids on weekends and breaks, giving students another route to connect with one another as USD students.

Also, the Catholic spirit runs deep here at USD. There’s no getting around it. All students must take three classes in Theology, two of which must be upper-level, and although no one dictates that those must be Christian theology classes, the pervasive feel of the Spanish mission makes it feel mandatory. California has a longstanding tradition of Catholicism, because of its Spanish heritage and its early isolation on the North American continent; that deep faith emanates throughout the campus, even though students hail from all religious backgrounds.

This blue, beachy, airy basilica is unusual and gorgeous. So San Diego.

You can see the blue dome of the church throughout the campus. It practically glows in the California sun, and its omnipresence adds to the feeling of connectedness in the community.

Let’s sum this place up:


  1. Squeaky clean and gorgeous.
  2. Getting more and more competitive for entry and gaining academic respect.
  3. Many different educational institutes, such as the Institute for Peace Studies, and the Autism Institute, to complement your education.
  4. Amazing weather to encourage outdoor activity and experiential learning.
  5. Graduate programs include business school and law school.


  1. Pricey.
  2. Extremely social and very much about the cool factor.
  3. No air conditioning in dorms.