Impressions Of
University of California at Berkeley

Academic Experience

Male Economics Major C/O 2021

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
Berkeley is pretty light on homework, at least for the classes I’m taking. For Intermediate Macroeconomics, the course load is very manageable so you can balance a lot of other things on top of it. What really shapes your grade is your performance on the midterm and final because usually those make up more than 80% of your grade in these kinds of classes. The homework they assign is supplementary and helps you study for those midterms and exams. Usually, it doesn’t take more than an hour or hour and a half on a week to week basis. Economics as a major is definitely harder than some of the other majors but is definitely not the hardest major here.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
At Berkeley, typically your first semester sophomore year you apply to the business school, Haas, and the decisions come out the second semester. I applied and didn’t get in, and usually people who don’t get in major in Economics because the prerequisites line up. Also, when I was going to Berkeley I always knew there was a chance I wouldn’t get into Haas and I’m very happy to do Economics as well. I’m someone who enjoys learning academic frameworks than hard facts. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but what I want to take away from Economics is a very comprehensive understanding of how everything works together and frameworks to work off in the future.

Female Chemical Engineering Major C/O 2021

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s about three to four problem sets a week, so usually one per class, and about two to three midterms per class per semester, and then final exams. If you’re taking a technical class you should expect there to be a final exam.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s a pretty competitive learning environment, but it can also be very collaborative as well depending on what types of friends you have in your classes. If you have a group of friends in your class, you’ll likely do work with that group of friends on a regular basis. It’s competitive because the curve is pretty harsh on students. A lot of students will do really well and if you’re on the lower tiers than you can get screwed over by your classes pretty quickly. If you fall behind the curve it’ll really impact your grade. [In the Class of 2018, the average GPA for Chemical Engineering graduates was a 3.31.]

How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible. They always have office hours available for their students and I’ve never had a professor that discouraged students coming to them and asking questions during office hours or right after class.

Male Legal Studies Major C/O 2019

How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible. I personally tend to rely on our Graduate Student Instructors, which are just like Teaching Assistants. They’re more approachable and they usually have more than just one day out of the week where they can meet up. A lot of them have already gone to law school and gotten their JD and are now just doing a Master’s program, so a lot of them I tend to look up to because I can ask them anything related to the course, law school, or anything related to the legal field.

How was transitioning as a transfer student? Were there any resources in place to help you adjust?
It was pretty difficult. You come in as a junior and you want to hit the ground running, join a club, and make your mark. But, it’s extremely difficult to join a club as a transfer because most of the frats are looking for freshmen and sophomores and the clubs want to make sure they pick young students to take over roles and move up. It was really difficult coming to Cal and trying to get involved because everybody’s trying to get a leg up on one another and everybody has such impressive resumes that it can be really difficult for transfers.

As far as resources, we don’t have a whole lot. We have the Transfer Student Center but that is more so for students to go in and study. There has also recently been talk of having a senate seat exclusively for transfers because the community this year had felt that lack of representation was a big enough issue to bring it up to the student government.

Social Opportunities

Male Economics Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Cal-Berkeley?
At Berkeley, the way it works is until you’re 21 you mostly go to fraternity houses for parties and the fraternities are all in the same area. If not, I’ll sometimes go to San Francisco and go to a club. When you turn 21 is typically when you start going to San Francisco for the nightlife.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
I think my only regret of college so far is that I didn’t rush a social fraternity my first semester. It’s not that not being in a social frat really impacts your ability to go party, I just think it makes it easier if you have a group of friends that you like to do that with. But, I don’t think I would be able to keep my grades up first semester freshman year if I was also pledging a fraternity. I made friends with people who became fraternity members so for me it’s not hard to go, you just have to know other people.

How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change if you could?
For me, I think the options are there. More than anything, it’s not an issue of whether or not you can have a nightlife. The main issue I hear from a lot of Berkeley students is they’re so tired from the week they don’t want to go out. There is always something happening, it’s just a matter of whether you have the energy to party and recover quickly to keep up with your work and everything.

Female Chemical Engineering Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Cal-Berkeley?
I go to quite a few parties on the weekends, whether that’s hosted by my engineering fraternity or other fraternities or Greek-oriented places. I only go to parties on Fridays or Saturdays because of class. My friends also like to hang out on campus in the grass and that’s really peaceful or we go to San Francisco for a fun weekend trip.

What’s the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It’s a really big part of the nightlife. Very rarely, unless it’s a birthday party or something, do people have parties at their places. I think that’s because the frat houses are so big so they’re able to hold a larger amount of people, so it’s a more fun party atmosphere. The kickbacks at my friends’ apartments are a smaller crowd of like 15-20 people. When I joined my engineering fraternity I didn’t expect it to have so much of a party life. I don’t think not being in a social sorority limits you at all because fraternities always have parties that are open to the public and if you know a brother in the fraternity you can also go to their parties.

Female Molecular and Environmental Biology Major C/O 2021

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I definitely like exploring the Bay Area. There are so many diverse cultures to explore. A weekend excursion could be going taking the BART [train system] San Francisco or Oakland. There are a lot of restaurants to go to and places to see. I love going to see the museums. Or, I just hang out with friends because I try not to spend too much money.

How happy were you with the social options at your school? Is there anything you would change?
I wish I had my car because things would be a lot more accessible and I wouldn’t have to pay for Uber or BART, but everything is relatively close compared to other places in California. Berkeley students have a bus card, which is free for the students. It’ll take you around campus or to somewhere such as Oakland.

Campus Culture

Male Economics Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s not as fraternity dominated as some schools on the West Coast, but Greek life is a huge part of the social scene here. If you really want to be involved in the social scene you probably would join some sort of fraternity or sorority. Also, there’s a huge community for other stuff, like the business community and there are professional fraternities for pre-law, pre-med, and a lot of other stuff, and there is a huge tech community here. If you’re more academically minded and are interested in tech, there are so many clubs out there for that. As long as you get involved, it’s really easy to find friends.

How do you like the size of Cal-Berkeley in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 31,000 undergraduates.]
I’d say it’s a rat race in a lot of ways. Because there are so many people, and a lot of people are trying to be persistent and get access to the resources Berkeley has. Also, a lot of the people here came because of tuition reasons and could have gone to higher-ranked schools, so you have a lot of hungry people who are very intelligent. There’s a wide pool of competitors that makes you adopt the mindset of always, always, grinding away. That’s been my experience, but maybe if you come in with a different mindset and try different clubs and organizations you’ll have a different experience.

Female Chemical Engineering Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think there is a lot of diversity in the social scene. There are a lot of clubs for people who have different interests. For example, I have a lot of friends who are in volunteer organizations who have met a like-minded group of people who want to serve their community through those activities. There are a lot of other activities like dance teams and cultural groups, so there are always little fun things that can satisfy anything that you think you’re missing at Berkeley and I think that’s really cool.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
People sticking to the same races as them is not something I’ve noticed too much. I think whatever group you form, especially in class, are dependent on who you sat next to or clicked with early on. I don’t think people group together based on race or sexual identity.

To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
I think it really depends on the person. For me, a lot of people in the College of Chemistry don’t really participate in social Greek life, but I have my split friend groups with my engineering fraternity friends and my friends from class who don’t have any interest in going to frat parties or anything like that.

Male Legal Studies Major C/O 2019

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
In general, there tends to be a good amount of mixing, but it’s also hard because the majority of our school is Asian and then White. For me specifically, Hispanics are a very small percentage of students so my friend groups tend to be filled out with White and Asian people. In that sense, I’m always mixing. [In the Class of 2022, about 38% of students are Asian, 28% are White, and 20% are other underrepresented minorities. About 16% of undergraduates are Hispanic.]

How would you describe the student body?
We tend to stay in our own lane because a lot of us tend to be very stressed and are concerned with our lives and what we’re doing, but every now and then we come together, especially when it’s a protest or something of that nature. When we aren’t doing that, I feel a lot of us are in our own world dealing with our own issues, and that’s why I think mental health is something that people talk about at Cal and I know a lot of people seek out those resources. There have been times when I’ve felt depressed because the city isn’t the most luxurious place to be around, it tends to be cloudy a lot of the days, you see homeless people every day, and school is hard. It can sometimes be a hard environment to thrive. [See Daily Californian article, “Why are UC Berkeley students anxious?”]

Berkeley, CA

Pros of

  • “The diversity of the area. There are lots of places to eat and the ratio of people who are different from you.” [The population of Berkeley is about 55% White and 18% Asian. About 20% are foreign-born.]
  • “One of my favorite things about living in Berkeley is you’re right next to San Francisco. It’s good for recruiting and jobs and getting you ready for semester and semester internships. It’s also just a fun city to explore. It’s a 30-minute BART ride away.”
  • “There is the marina you can explore and lots of parks and things to explore.”
  • “Berkeley puts you in uncomfortable situations where you can grow. You have to adapt to the homeless people and be more in touch with different cultures.”

Cons of

  • “Safety is a big issue. I consider the homeless problem is included in the safety issue. The homeless also just make the city gross because they [defecate in public places].” [See the Daily Crime Log here.]
  • “It can feel unsafe at times. You have to be smart about where you’re walking and the number of people you’re walking with.” [The violent crime rate is 42% higher than the national average and the property crime rate is 108% higher than the national average.]
  • “The Bay Area is kind of expensive in terms of housing and food.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Female Chemical Engineering Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Cal-Berkeley before entering as a freshman?
My freshman year I would have liked to know how hard the academics are. Everybody says Berkeley is really hard, but you don’t understand until you experience it yourself. There’s not one thing that makes Berkeley harder than others and it changes for each course. You just have to be ready to stay up until like 3 or 4 AM to complete problem sets. Doing that is something that pretty common at Berkeley and that was a surprise to me.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
There’s no real way to show a prospective student what the rigor of a problem set is on a weekly basis or what study season looks like unless they are also studying and grinding for a midterm too.

Male Legal Studies Major C/O 2019

What is something a prospective pre-law student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
They should be ready to read at least four hours a day and stay on top of their readings. Reading is definitely the most difficult thing to keep up with. It’s not so much writing and understanding the material, it’s more about building your endurance for all the heavy readings that your professors throw at you. A lot of times it feels like your professors don’t care about what’s going on in your other classes. It was a much bigger reading load than I ever experienced at community college.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Go check out the libraries just because that’s something I didn’t do because we have multiple libraries spread out throughout the campus. It gives you a better idea to see the work environment that we have here at Cal and get a better idea of what you’re in store for because a lot of us spend a lot of hours at the library. It’s good to get to see what your new home is going to look like.

Female Molecular and Environmental Biology Major C/O 2021

What is something a prospective pre-med student may want to know?
There is a bell-curve, and medical schools know Berkeley is a hard school. You also have to reach out to people when going for positions and opportunities because there is a lot of competition.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Try going to the libraries. There are 10 or 15 libraries on campus to check out and see if you think you’d be able to study in them.

Reasons to attend and not to attend University of California at Berkeley

To Attend

  • “You’re on a really cool campus and the location is right next to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. There are lots of opportunities being so close to those places, so if you work hard there are so many doors there that can open career-wise.”
  • “Post-graduation, it’s really helpful to be at Berkeley because of the tech bubble that the Bay Area is.” [68% of the Class of 2016 work in the Bay Area.]
  • “If you want to be challenged academically, definitely attend. Also, the quality of education is very high in terms of a content and knowledge-gained perspective. I was amazed by the quality of education.”
  • “The faculty. A lot of them have done great things in their field. It’s great to pick their brains and ask them anything about what you’re curious about.”

To Not Attend

  • “If you’re not that resilient of a person it can be difficult to study and do well at Berkeley. Regardless, you’re going to be knocked down sometimes by your classes. In an atmosphere like Berkeley where everybody is trying really hard and has their dreams and aspirations that they’re working towards, it can be difficult to continue here if you can’t bounce back from things like that.”
  • “Berkeley can be unsafe sometimes. You just have to be smart about when and where you’re walking and how many people you’re walking with, then you should be okay.”
  • “Berkeley has a pretty unhealthy culture because everybody is grinding so hard that it’s easy to feel bad about yourself if you’re not overloading yourself. Mental health can be an issue in that sense. If you have a strong mental fortitude though, you’ll be okay.”
Notice: University of California at Berkeley is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by University of California at Berkeley.

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