College Scholars Program

Professor Sandy Chung teaching Endangered Languages honors course. Photo by Jim MacKenzie.

Updated Mar 13, 2019

The UC Santa Cruz College Scholars Program (CSP) offers a congenial and stimulating academic home for a select group of well-prepared first-year students at UC Santa Cruz. Through this honors program, students can expect to challenge themselves academically, find other students who are similarly motivated, and explore undergraduate research. This enriched program of study includes special courses, seminars, colloquia, and other events during each quarter of the student's first academic year and fall of the student's second academic year.

CSP provides an opportunity for outstanding students to engage deeply with the best of UCSC. Early in their career, students are able to explore the full potential of the university setting, beyond the coursework that might be required in their respective disciplines.  

CSP has close ties to the college system. In 2019-2020, Fall Start scholars (see below for information about Spring Start scholars) will live at Cowell, Crown, Merrill or Porter College. Each of these colleges will have a cohort of 20-25 College Scholars Program students. College Scholars in each college will be housed together. All College Scholar students will receive priority enrollment during their time in the program. 

College Scholars Program Curriculum

The CSP academic program is designed to both challenge participants and give them the opportunity to develop a strong foundation in our research university. A description of the typical CSP curriculum is below and a pdf of the 2018-19 curriculum is available here.

Year 1

Fall Quarter 1st year—Supplement to College "Core Course": Students will take part in a series of gatherings led by the Faculty Director and the Provosts at the four Fall Start colleges. These meetings are meant to supplement their college “core course” and to build relationships with other CSP students. More information about these meeting will be provide to Fall Start College Scholars at the beginning of fall quarter.

Winter Quarter 1st year—Service Learning Course: All students will take a two-credit service-learning course offered through Cowell College (COWL 168). This course includes three main components: classroom meetings, journal reflections and papers, and placement in a local organization. Guest speakers are a part of the class and in the past have included local alumni and elected public officials, all working to promote positive social change locally, nationally, or internationally. Over the course of the term, students contribute 40 hours of work to an organization in the community. Organizations that have welcomed students in the past include: the Homeless Service Center, Rising International, Santa Cruz Boys and Girls Club, and the Museum of Art and History. 

Spring Quarter 1st year—Faculty Research Colloquium: Students will take a two-credit course (COWL 89) where weekly faculty lectures are followed by dinner at one of the Provosts' houses. Each student is invited to attend one dinner during the term.

Faculty guests will be drawn from a variety of fields within the university, and students will be encouraged to listen to and appreciate scholars and scholarship beyond their own comfortable niche in engineering, biology, linguistics, music, or whatever their area of interest may be. The invited scholars will be speaking not only about the substance of their work, but also about the types of questions that are particular to their fields of study. By the end of the course, students should have a good sense of the modes of inquiry that animate intellectual life in a research university. 

Year 2

Fall Quarter 2nd year—Seminar: Students choose from one of several five-unit research seminars. Each of the seminars focuses on developing significant hands-on skills: whether it is a chance to “do real science” through guided research in the field and in a lab, or address important primary sources directly and debate them together in a text-centered seminar room, students will get training in the real intellectual work that scholars do. All of the seminars bear general education (GE) credit and are taught by an exceptional UC Santa Cruz faculty member or researcher.  Some seminars will be offered in winter or spring quarter, however priority enrollment eligibility will not continue through these quarters for those students.  For a list of the 2019-2020 seminar offerings click here.

College Scholars Programs: Fall Start and Spring Start  

Fall Start—Invitation only: Entry into the Fall Start cohort of the College Scholars Program is by invitation only. A select group of UCSC applicants (who are offered admission to the university) will be invited by admissions to join the program based on a wholistic review of their application. Those students who accept the invitation when they accept their admissions offer will be housed together at either Cowell, Crown, Merrill, or Porter College.

Spring Start—By application: Students can apply to the College Scholars Program after the Fall quarter of their first year. In this case, students accepted into CSP will join the program in Spring quarter and will participate in the spring research colloquium. Spring Start students will be selected based on applications reviewed through their college. Students may apply to Spring Start from any of UCSC’s colleges.

Inquiries regarding the College Scholars Program can be directed to Professor Matt O'Hara, Director of Undergraduate Honors Programs,