Kasey Urquidez, University of Arizona

In its earliest days, University of Arizona had a bit of a Wild West aura. Students rode their horses to school, hitching them outside Old Main, the first building on campus. And a year after the first undergraduates arrived, the dean of students asked the Board of Regents to prohibit the use of firearms on campus.

In fact, Arizona was still a territory when the University of Arizona broke ground in 1885 on 40 acres of land with a $25,000 grant from the legislature.  The first students arrived in 1891 – 32 strong – along with six teachers. But only six were admitted to the freshmen class. The remaining 26 went to a specially established prep school since there were no high schools in the territory. Seventeen years later, the university students finally outnumbered those in the prep classes and more than 20 years later -- in 1912 -- Arizona became a state.

Today, the University of Arizona is one of the top-ranked public research universities in the country. The main campus encompasses 391 acres – with more than 220 buildings– and is located about a mile from central Tucson, surrounded by mountains and the high Sonoran desert. Its 31,265 undergraduates choose among more than 10,000 courses and 350 academic programs -- and enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine throughout the year. The student to faculty ratio is 22 to 1 and that faculty includes 48 Fulbright Scholars, 41 Guggenheim Fellowship Award winners, and seven MacArthur Fellows. The university's Honors College was founded in 1962 and today serves more than 3,000 students.

Outside of the classroom, students can opt to participate in Teach for America Club, Young Americans for Liberty, the Bollywood Fusion dance team, Paintball Club, Tango Club, Astronomy Club, the improve group Comedy Corner, the SEO club which is dedicated to search engine development -- or from among 600 other student clubs and organizations, as well as forty-three on-campus sororities and fraternities.

The University of Arizona Wildcats participate in the NCAA's Division I-A in the Pacific-12 Conference. The Wildcats have won 18 national team championships and 37 Pac-10 conference team championships. The original Wildcat mascot – a live bobcat -- arrived on campus in 1915, the gift of the freshman football team who had raised $9.91 to purchase him. The original Wildcat was named Rufus Arizona, after an early president of the university. But the use of live bobcats was discontinued in the 1960’s and today’s Wildcats are cheered on by a costumed pair known as Wilbur and Wilma.

In addition, students can participate in fitness classes, intramural sports, club sports, and outdoor adventures. The University of Arizona also has one of the largest and most successful programs in Adaptive Athletics providing disabled students with the opportunity to participate on five teams, including men’s and women’s basketball, rugby and hand cycling.

Prominent alumni include the creator of the television series Sesame Street and founder of the Children's Television Workshop Joan Ganz Cooney; pop singer Linda RonstadtBrian Schmidt, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics (1989); author Barbara Kingsolver; motion picture producer Jerry Bruckheimer; reality TV personality Kourtney KardashianToday Show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie; comedienne and SNL cast member Kristen Wiig, as well as eight Pulitzer Prize winners and a number of astronauts.

Oh, and fun fact: The film Revenge of the Nerds (1984) was filmed at the University of Arizona. 

Please join Kasey Urquidez, University of Arizona's Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Associate Vice President, Student Affairs & Enrollment Management -- and a UA alum -- to learn more about the kind of student who does well at UA, the Honors College and other academic opportunities, as well as her favorite thing about the state's flagship university.


What kind of student does well at University of Arizona? How would you describe the student body? 

The University of Arizona (UA) student body is an amazing group of academically talented individuals with over 32,000 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students from all over the world. Students who do best at the UA are students who are looking for educational excellence paired with strong tradition and campus involvement.

Our students hail from all 50 states and over 120 different countries. It is a very diverse campus with non-stop activity. UA focuses on offering campus involvement opportunities to supplement the classroom experience - including clubs and organizations, intramural sports, cultural centers, student leadership groups, and Greek life, to name a few.  While the campus is highly populated, most are surprised to find it is only one square mile so our students feel at home as soon as they step on campus and take part in one of our 120+ majors.  While our students are academically motivated first and foremost, being involved on campus and in the Tucson community provide the full college experience our students seek.

Like many public universities, University of Arizona clearly seeks to continue serving the students of Arizona while also bringing in students from around the country and around the world. Can you address this issue?

The University of Arizona, a public land grant university, is well-known throughout the world. We know that to be an even better university we need to educate and learn from students around the globe. Given this, we believe it is important to actively enroll both residents and non-residents, including both domestic and international students, each year. 

Of course, we are committed to ensuring that all academically eligible residents of Arizona are recruited and provided with the option to enroll. We want all qualified residents to choose the UA and stay in Arizona for their college experience. Often times, people assume if we take more non-residents, it is potentially taking a spot from a resident. Fortunately, this is not true. As the UA has grown the number of undergraduates, we have been able to accommodate outstanding students from Arizona and beyond. Each year, our freshman class generally consists of about 60% residents and 40% non-residents. Most people are surprised by the large percentage of non-residents joining us each fall, but as I mentioned at the start, UA is well known for our outstanding academic programs and rich history and tradition. We welcome prepared students from all over the world because they continue to enrich our student body.

University of Arizona is a public flagship with a number of strong schools, as well as an Honors Program for freshmen. Could you talk a bit about those schools and the Honors Program and what applicants might most want -- or need -- to know?

We are very proud of what we offer academically at the University of Arizona. As one of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities (AAU), UA stands out as a research and educational powerhouse.

Did you know that the National Science Foundation ranks the UA 19th among all public universities in research and development and 30th among public and private universities and colleges?  And internationally, the UA ranks No. 1 in planetary sciences and No. 2 in environmental science?  In physical sciences, the UA routinely ranks among the top three in the nation.  In addition, the UA was the first public university to lead a NASA mission to Mars and now is leading OSIRIS-REx, an $800 million mission to return a sample from an asteroid to Earth.

We are also known for our Eller College of Management. Eller Undergraduate Programs are consistently ranked among the top for undergraduate business, Management Information Systems, entrepreneurship, and more.

In addition, UA offers an Honors College for our most academically prepared students. Our Honors College provides an experience for high-ability scholars who are looking for a breadth of opportunity along with a small, supportive community that fosters inquiry, engagement, and discovery.

A goal of the Honors College is to offer a home within a home—you’ll be a dual-citizen of both the Honors College and the University of Arizona, allowing you the flexibility and variety that best fits your needs. To be considered for Honors from the start, students must indicate their interest on their application for admission and submit an essay.

While those are just two of our academic colleges, others are also well known for great programs and student support.

What are the college admission-related issues that you have been thinking about lately? What keeps you up at night?

Like most deans of undergraduate admissions, I don’t sleep much! To serve in this role, one must be passionate about the work. This is a big question and it changes from time to time. Lately, however, I think a lot about the cost of education and indebtedness as students graduate. While this is a growing concern for many families, I also know the value of a higher education is immeasurable. I focus on ensuring that we, at UA, provide information and access to as many students as possible. My goal is to keep their dream of going to college alive along with the knowledge of how to pay for college through all means available.

What is your favorite thing about University of Arizona?

My favorite thing about the University of Arizona is hard to select because there are so many things to pick from…it is hard to pick just one! As an alum of the UA, I know firsthand how amazing this place really is and how much more we offer today compared to when I attended.

To start, the campus is just beautiful. Green grass, palm tree-lined walkways, blooming flowers, red brick buildings – the campus has that traditional feel I still love today! It sits in the heart of Tucson, a city known for its culture and history. Our students bleed red and blue (our school colors) and are such dedicated fans, win or lose. And I just love the Women’s Plaza of Honor. It is a wonderful outdoor plaza with the names of inspirational women etched into bricks and benches, women who have made an impact in the community or on campus. Picking one thing is difficult, but there are a few special things that continuously make me proud to be a part of UA.   




Hi, I am just inquiring to see if you offer Sports Scholarships for Soccer Players who are currently at Professional Football (Soccer) Clubs in the UK? If so I have an extremely clever, young, talented Soccer Player who would love to come to the University of Arizona. If you could let me know either way then I would be very grateful.

Many thanks

Claire, We suggest you reach out to the athletic department at the University of Arizona via email. You can read more about students with athletic talent in Chapter 18 of our book! Good luck!

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