College Scholars Program

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

Updated February, 2021

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 2020-2021, Fall Start scholars (see below for information about Spring Start scholars) will be affiliated with either Cowell, Crown, Merrill or Porter College. Each of these colleges will have a cohort of 20-25 College Scholars Program students. When in-person, College Scholars in each college are housed alongside each other - usually in rooms on the same floor - but share a residence hall or dorm 'house' with non-College Scholars. All College Scholar students receive priority enrollment through Fall enrollment of their second year (four quarters total for Fall Start and two quarters total for Spring Start students). 

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.  Please find a summary of the curriculum linked below for the respective year of admission:

2018-2019 College Scholars Program Curriculum Summary

2019-2020 College Scholars Program Curriculum Summary

2020-2021 College Scholars Program Curriculum Summary

Year 1

Fall Welcome Event: All incoming College Scholars are invited to participate in a welcome event at the beginning of Fall quarter. The event is hosted by the Faculty Honors Director and will provide College Scholars the opportunity to learn more about the program, to be introduced to the Provosts of their college and other faculty involved in the program, and to ask questions. It also provides a chance for incoming College Scholars to meet and mingle with their Provosts, faculty and with continuing College Scholars. 

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 meetings will be provided 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 potential 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 presentations are followed, when in-person classes resume, 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 interact with 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, and about their particular paths to success in the academic world. 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—Research 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 outstanding 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.

2020-2021 Seminar Offerings

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 holistic review of their application. When in-person instruction resumes, 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 by their colleges. Students may apply to Spring Start from any of UCSC’s colleges.

Inquiries regarding the College Scholars Program can be directed to Professor David Draper, Director of Undergraduate Honors Programs,