College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara

Over 50 years ago UC Santa Barbara created its own wave of sorts. It took a former cramped Marine barracks located next to its library and turned it into the College of Creative Studies (CCS). Placed under the guidance of Marvin Mudrick, a professor of the English Department, and a prodigy having begun his college career at 15, CCS flourished and became an institution for undergraduate independent studies, beyond what many honors programs might offer. 

The mission of CCS is to recruit the most talented and creative students and supply them with an intellectual environment that will allow them to grow, explore and take risks so that they might ‘transition quickly from consumers of knowledge to colleagues at the forefront of human creativity in the arts and sciences.’ To follow this journey, students may select among eight majors: art, biology, chemistry & biochemistry, computing, mathematics, music composition, physics, and writing and literature, or double major, and even add a minor from the UCSB College of Arts and Sciences. The point is, the school is there to provide whatever it can to aid in the education of its 400 students.

Unlike many of the honors programs within the UC system, in which students are selected by the school, interested students must first apply to and get accepted by the undergraduate school and then submit an application specifically to CCS. The CCS application allows an applicant to apply to one major only. My advice would be to get into the major and then apply for a second major or minor once in the program and you know who in the various departments to speak with. Additionally, there is a lot of personalized advising available within CCS. The student to faculty ration is 8:1: there is always someone to talk with about whatever interests might arise. 

Should you decide to apply to CCS in, say, physics you’d be required to submit a letter of intent (LOI). An outline of why you want to join to program, what type of research you might wish to perform, and who among the faculty you might wish to work with are some of the topics most LOIs cover.  You’ll also need two letters of recommendation from persons knowledgeable of your background and ability in physics, your transcripts, and, if you have it, ‘Work in Evidence of Talent’. Examples of independent research and projects are extremely helpful in the CCS evaluation. 

In their ravenous pursuits of knowledge certain privileges are afforded CSS students. There are fewer prerequisites to get into classes, classes can be dropped up to the last day of instruction, priority registration, and higher unit caps (most students might take 25 units per quarter; CSS students are allotted 95.5 units) are just a few of them. 

The proof, of course, is in the pudding. On November 3rd (Saturday) the 2018 Research and Creative Activities Conference (RACA-Con) will take place in its current ‘home base’, building number 494, located between the campus dorms, a dining commons, and the university center. At RACA-CON you will have a chance to learn of the ‘remarkable’ work being conducted across all eight CCS majors. The visions just might entice you to join, opening vistas into your education never before imagined.