University of California, Berkeley-Berkeley, California
Diverse, Liberal, Passionate, Competitive
What it Feels Like to Go Here
A quick glance at UC Berkeley’s accolades leaves no question as to why UC Berkeley is one of the most sought after UCs. From its killer reputation as one of the most elite universities in the world to its hipster-yet-accessible location in the Bay area, UC Berkeley caters to even the pickiest of folk. The academic organizations provide competition and intellect for the brainiacs, the unbeatable Cal football pride gives an outlet for the sports fanatics and their endless energy and some of the most diverse culinary cuisine for the foodies exist right off campus. Don’t let UCB’s competitive, cut-throat reputation mislead you; while students do revel in their quick-wit, intelligence and unabashed pride of their acceptance and consequent achievements, their passion, social-awareness and willingness to help any newcomer find their way make UCB students some of the most well-rounded human beings out there. While intellect may reign at UCB, Berkeley’s historic past as an activist hub has not been forgotten. The roots of the hippie and free-speech movements can still be felt through student fashion (if you consider yourself “eccentric” you won’t be judged), political activism and the frequent friendly stoner who missed the memo that very few people can pull off dreads. True, Berkeley may not be as overtly countercultural as it once was, but its legacy carries on through UCB’s diverse, fervent and undeniably bright student body.
A look at UC Berkeley’s alumni list offers a blast from the past of all your favorite childhood stars, including Disney Channel stars Adam Lamberg AKA Gordo on Lizzie McGuire (Lizzie’s only possible soul-mate) and Brenda Song AKA London Tipton on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (guess Moseby’s constant guidance paid off, huh?). Lamberg graduated with a degree in geography and Song majored in psychology. And remember all those hours you spent reading Beezus and Ramona? Author Beverly Cleary graduated from here with a degree in English. Not to mention that Star Trek reboot stars Chris Pine and John Cho also both graduated with degrees in English. Looks like UC Berkeley trains you best for fighting for the final frontier.
Where We Hang
UC Berkeley’s East Bay locale is ideal for college students who like variety to do everything from big city shopping to early morning hikes. On-campus, lots of students choose to kick back on Memorial Glade, an open space perfect for catching up on reading in the sun or for playing a game of Frisbee in between classes. Kresge Library is also popular for students who want to read up on the theory of externalities while catching up with friends and having a bite to eat. However, for students who want to scarf down a quality meal after a long day of classes or late-night partying, the South side of campus provides a haven in the form of the Durant Food Court, Yogurt Park and C.R.E.A.M.. Off-campus students can choose to explore Telegraph Avenue, relax at Strawberry Creek or hike up to the “Big C” to take in the breathtaking view of the city from the Berkeley Hills. Of course, San Francisco lives just on the other side of the bay, meaning you only need to take a short BART trip to experience the big city concert and party scene.
1. How much are students partying?
“I’d say the average party-goer goes to at least one party per week on Friday or Saturday,” said sophomore Kyle Rentschler. “I’d also say that a given student’s frequency of partying depends on their major. Typically humanities majors go out more often while STEM majors tend to treat partying as more of an occasion.”
2. What will you get in trouble for at your school?
“I know for certain that cheating is punished pretty severely here. All students also take a mandatory online course on preventing sexual assault and misconduct, so I would say that that is another focus of administration. However, I must say that there have been several recent controversies about how the administration has dealt with male-on-female misconduct, be it by faculty or students,” said freshman Julian Pelzner. “Discrimination and hate-speech/hate-crime is another thing that is not tolerated at the university, and although difficult at times to combat, administration is a bit more effective at dealing with those cases than with sexual assault.”
3. How much sex are students having?
“People generally prefer to keep things ‘casual’ which is just about the most frustrating and confusing thing I’ve ever dealt with. And it’s not just the guys who are like this—a lot of girls I know are like this as well,” said senior Karis Dodd. “People are also more open to things like being polyamorous here, which is something I had never encountered before. So dating can be very confusing here to say the least. Not only do you want to find someone you vibe with, you also have to find someone who actually wants the same thing you do.”
4. What would you tell incoming freshman about your school?
“Don’t be some pseudo-intellectual. You don’t have to act like you’re really cultured and smart. Just be yourself,” said junior Remy Renee D’Agnillo. “Remember, admissions chose you and you deserve to be here.”
5. Is the stereotype of Berkeley being a “hippie school” true?
“Although the heyday of the ‘hippie’ countercultural movement is long gone, Berkeley remains to this day one of the most liberal college campuses in the world. The smell of marijuana is not uncommon, neither is the sight of students with unwashed hair or clothes (although sometimes that is simply due to the threat of exams), and it seems that there is always some new protest happening about some new cause (really you lose track at one point),” said senior Anyun Chatterjee. “The same politicized soul of the hippie lives on in the intellectual landscape of Berkeley, but now it is within the bodies of highly motivated, slightly more well-groomed students, who care just as much about their education as they do about doing meaningful and impactful work for social change.”
“The biggest challenge about UC Berkeley is what people sometimes refer to as a ‘cut-throat’ atmosphere. I don’t think this description captures it completely accurately and I would describe it more as the fact that everyone around you is incredibly talented and doing amazing things. This aspect can be extremely exciting and push you to work harder, but at times it can also be very stressful and challenging,” said senior Sergey Mann.
“While I expected college to be full of diverse interests and people, Berkeley has really blown me away with how each person has their own story and set of challenges they went through in order to get to Cal and all of which have shaped their interests and passions. Getting to learn about different people’s life stories has been uniquely rewarding and is one of my favorite parts about attending UC Berkeley,” said senior Emily Rentschler.
“Everyone is extremely ambitious, hard-working, bright, intelligent and fun. I learn as much from my peers as I do from my classes,” said senior David Giongco.
“The school is so big, you are bound to find a group of friends with similar interests to you, no matter what those interests may be. It’s also a great place to meet people who are different from you. After growing up in a very homogenous neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, I really enjoyed meeting people from different places with different life experiences from me,” said senior Karis Dodd.
“The sheer lack of any real adult guidance really surprised me when I first got to Berkeley. Or rather, looking back on my first year I am amazed at how much I was able to achieve without any real supervision from an advisor. Berkeley is a giant school, and unfortunately this means a large portion of the student body gets very little face time with an experienced adult who can guide them for a large part of their college career. But Berkeley knows what it can provide, and so it counts on the students to be independent and seek out resources on their own,” said senior Anyun Chatterjee.
The Blue and Gold Experience
“The time I spent paying attention was very engaging. Then again, most of my most memorable moments the past three and a half semesters have been off-campus. It’s the people at Cal that make it what it is.”
-Kean Amidi-Abraham, engineering major, Class of 2018
“I was surprised at how many liberals and other undesirable creatures live around here. I will also say it was hard to adapt to big lecture rooms with a lot of people coming from a high school with 15 people per class. It’s all great though; the weather, the hobos, the surprisingly good dining hall food that rapidly goes to shit after two months, but I still appreciate the effort and it’s still better than anything I had in high school.”
-Ramiro Rojas, chemical engineering major, Class of 2019
“It’s been good but it’s hard finding clubs that are not exclusive with their heads up their own asses. Also word of advice for newbies: stay away from the unaffiliated frats and use Bear Walk so you can stay safe at night.”
-Rex Escobar, political science major, Class of 2017
“I’ve been a brainwashed Cal fan since birth. I was baptized in a sea of blue and gold and immediately initiated into this vociferous, vibrant and diverse group of people who worship The Promised Land with cult-like fervor. Cal was always the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow–the ultimate fantasy–so when I SIR’d [statement of intent to register], it was the first step in the craziest, most surreal emotional experience of my life.”
-Natalie Silver, media studies major, Class of 2018
“There seems to me to be such a variety of people here, with combinations of interests and hobbies. That surprised me at first. I feel like Cal has given me space to grow into myself because anything goes (except for political incorrectness). “
-Charlotte Jamar, business/biology double major, Class of 2018
Top 3 Majors
1. Social Science
2. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Top 3 Most Popular Student Organizations
1. Greek Life
UCB Greek life cares about more than just living out that Animal House party scene. Like the rest of Berkeley, Greek life revolves around acceptance, relationships and service. About 20 percent of the student body belongs to one of Cal’s 69 fraternities and sororities. Because students can choose from so many chapters, everyone can find a chapter to call home whether they dream of that classic Animal House college lifestyle or of keeping things more tame and service-based. “I joined a community where the members have an ability to excel at everything from academics to athletics to student leadership while also committing themselves to being Greek,” said senior Divya Thomas. “I would encourage anyone interested to learn more about what makes the CalGreeks community unique and go through recruitment in the fall to become a part of our community.”
2. UC Rally Committee
The heart and soul of Cal spirit lies in the hands of the UC Rally Committee. One of the oldest organizations at the university, members of the Rally Committee consider themselves ambassadors of the university and pride themselves on protecting and promoting the individualized traditions and spirit that make UC Berkeley, well, UC Berkeley. “You are surrounded by the most spirited people on campus and you get to learn so much about our school’s history,” said junior Tony Hall. They put on rallies (including the spectacular Bonfire Rally), coordinate card stunts, set off the Victory Cannon and get the student body and alumni pumped for football games. “By being able to actively plan and maintain symbols of Cal spirit, such as the cannon or the bonfire, I’ve had my eyes opened to the role that school spirit plays in fostering a proud and united student body,” said senior Matt Kozuch.
3. Circle K
Berkeley’s Circle K chapter delivers its members and its community service, fun and family. Whether feeding the hungry, promoting youth literacy or putting on events for the elderly makes your generous heart sing, UCBCKI chapter actively engages in a project that will strike your interest. However, UCBCKI provides more than just the chance to put in community service hours—you’ll have the chance to create lasting friendships and a home away from home. “When I first joined, a member told me, ‘You come for the service, but stay for the people.’ I have really found my home here as people are always encouraging and friendly and they truly want to see you succeed,” said junior Andrea Seet. “Through a variety of volunteer experiences from going to elementary schools to teach science projects to volunteering at the Oakland Zoo, we always have the opportunity to give back to the community while doing service with our friends.”
On par with UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgetown in terms of selectivity, an acceptance to UC Berkeley means partying over an accomplishment of which you truly should be proud. The class of 2020 was deemed the most selective in the university’s history, admitting less than 15 percent of all applicants. Luckily, the university takes a holistic view at a student’s application, so while those test scores need to stay high to put you in the running, your extracurriculars and essays will truly showcase your Cal potential. “Most people at UC Berkeley that I’ve spoken to think that their essay was the most important part of their application and helped them get in,” said senior Emily Rentschler. “For me I used my essay to explain how my extracurricular activities came together and how it shaped me as a person.” Since Berkeley uses the standard UC application, you get to spend more time polishing your personal essays rather than figuring out another complex application system.
Location: Berkeley, CA
Tuition & Fees: $13,518
Total Cost on Campus: $33,418
Undergrad Students Enrolled: 27,126
Graduate Students Enrolled: 10, 455
Total Enrolled: 37,581
Acceptance Percentage: 17.3%
Percent Admitted Who Enroll: 46.3%
Percentage of Male Students: 48%
Percentage of Female Students: 52%
Percentage Receiving Financial Aid: 65%
Percentage Receiving Federal Grants: 33 %
Percentage Receiving Federal Loans: 25%
Contributions by Dano Nissen