First Year Guide

Class Registration and Finances

Register for classes


During your physics orientation, department staff will help you get set up with payroll, so you can receive the money you earn.

Grad students typically earn only a trivial amount of money in September, so your September pay is usually added on to your October paycheck, which you don't receive until November 1st. Make sure you have enough money to survive until November 1st. If you're in danger of going broke, the department may be able to advance you some of your pay. You'll be provided with the details of this program.

Apartment Hunting / UCSD Graduate Housing

See the section on housing for more information on how to find living space in San Diego.

If you're applying to live in on-campus grad housing, make sure you apply well in advance. Grad housing fills up quickly and may have a long waiting list.

What to do when you first arrive in San Diego

Depending on where you're coming from, the tasks you need to take care of on arrival may vary.

For people who are already California residents

If you went to college in California, or you grew up in California, you're basically all set.

For people coming from another US state

By the start of your second year of grad school, you must officially prove to UCSD that you are an in-state resident. The reason for this is simple: the physics department pays your tuition, and tuition for California residents is much cheaper than out-of-state tuition. If you don't officially change your UCSD status to in-state, the department will NOT pay the higher tuition, and you'll be stuck with a hefty bill.

UCSD determines state residency for tuition purposes using these criteria.
The procedure for changing your status to in-state is described here.

The sections below will highlight the most important things to do when you first arrive, so that it's easier to prove in-state residency.

Drivers' License and Residency

Within a few days of physically arriving in California, you should go to the nearest California DMV and do the following three things (or as many as apply) :

  1. Convert your out-of-state driver's license or ID to a California license/ID
  2. If you have a car with you, register it with the state of California
  3. If you are registered to vote, re-register as a California voter. When your new voter registration card comes in the mail, do NOT throw it out. Save it in a safe folder somewhere.

When you go to claim in-state residency, you will need to submit copies of each of these California documents (if they apply to you). The dates should show that they were converted at least a year before you petition for in-state status. If you took too long to change these things, or you failed to change some things over, the university will deny your petition for in-state status. This has actually happened to grad students. Don't let it happen to you.

Bank accounts and local memberships

If you don't have a bank account (checking or savings), you should open one here in San Diego. It's pretty hard to function as an adult without a bank account. Chase Bank has a branch in the Price Center, and USE Credit Union has a branch in the Gilman Parking Structure. Both of these banks, along with Wells Fargo and Bank of America, also have several ATMs on campus.

If you already have a bank account that you opened in another state, you should change the address on the account to your new California address ASAP. The school will want to see that you've had a California bank account for an entire year prior to your change of classification.

Similarly, if you take out any new memberships (e.g. a gym membership), try to keep some kind of proof showing when you established the membership. Other memberships, such as library cards or Ralphs/Vons grocery cards, may not have a date attached to them, and that's okay. Just submitting a photocopy of these cards will be sufficient.

For international students

Check out the International Faculty & Scholars Office for Visa and other information. Additionally, the physics department hosts an English language prep bootcamp (typically in the 3rd & 4th week of August right before classes start).

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