Spring Spotlight offers a slice of Slug life

High school senior Ethan Edwards, right, and dad Steve gather information at this year's Spring Spotlight.
Second-year UCSC student Mary Dunleavy helps students checking out the campus.
Admitted students and their families get a look at UCSC in one of numerous tours offered during Spring Spotlight. (Photos by Phil Carter)

Ethan Edwards already knows he's going to UC Santa Cruz. But he wanted to get a taste of university life here before packing up and leaving his parents' home in Carlsbad in the fall.

So the La Costa Canyon High School senior, 18, and his dad, UCSC alumnus Steve Edwards (class of '78), hit the road. The two headed to UCSC's Spring Spotlight, a two-week event for admitted students for fall 2008 that provides an overview of the academic, residential, and student-life experience at UCSC.

This year's event, which includes walking tours, information sessions, resource fairs, and visits to the residential colleges and classrooms, started April 5 and goes through April 19.

Newly admitted freshmen, many of whom have been accepted to multiple colleges and universities, must make their decision on where they're enrolling by May 1.

For Ethan, the question's already settled--he likes outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming, and UCSC appeals to him in part because of its abundant recreational opportunities.

Others, such as Chelseah Murphy, 17, a senior at El Segundo High School, attended Spring Spotlight to learn more as they weigh their decision.

"She wanted to see what her overall feel was for the campus," said Chelseah's mom, Karen Murphy, while waiting for the next tour with her daughter in the blue-and-gold-balloon-adorned Merrill Cultural Center.

That's exactly what admissions officials want admitted students to do.

"They're trying to see if this is the right place for them, if it meets their needs and wants," said Michael McCawley, acting director of admissions. "And family members want to feel secure in sending their child to UCSC. All are looking for reassurance that UCSC is right for them."

To that end, admissions staff is making sure they're portraying UCSC in an accurate and honest fashion, said McCawley.

"What we don't want is students who aren't going to be happy here," McCawley said. "So we go for a genuine picture of what student and academic life is like at UCSC."

This year, they also revamped and renamed the event, previously called Experience UC Santa Cruz, to make it more meaningful for students and families, he said.

"We worked with the entire campus to make it more inclusive, have more rooms being shown--dorm rooms, apartments, those kinds of things--and worked with faculty to make sure classrooms were available," said McCawley.

By April 10, nearly 6,000 people had made reservations to come to campus, said McCawley. He estimated that up to 9,000 people could ultimately attend the event by its end date.

About a third of UCSC's admitted population comes from the Southern California region, according to McCawley. About another third comes from the Bay Area; the rest are from spots throughout the state.

UCSC hopes to enroll a class of approximately 3,700 new freshmen and 850 transfer students for fall 2008, about the same enrollment as last year.

Spring Spotlight has gone well so far, said Judy Burseth, campus tour manager.

"Students are excited to be here, and our guides are terrific," she said. "It's really been fun."

Reservations are required for Spring Spotlight events. For information, visit the Spring Spotlight page.

Contact the author at gwenm@ucsc.edu.