What is UC Berkeley like?
Berkeley life is amazing. The quality of professors and Graduate Student Instructors has exceeded my expectations. From my first semester experience, I’ve learned that though Berkeley may seem huge and daunting, all it takes is initiative to find a community where you fit. I’ve been able to build strong relationships with my instructors and consider two of my first semester instructors lifelong mentors. I remember almost crying in my last Classics 10A discussion, completely in awe of the perspective my Graduate Student Instructor took on Plato’s Symposium. I was mindblown. And yet, that’s not a rare occurrence in my life at Berkeley. I am constantly amazed at the caliber of education at this university—not just in the classroom, but also outside of it. As I walk across Sproul Plaza, I’m reminded daily of how being a student at Berkeley means recognizing that I’m a part of something bigger than myself. There is a wide range of activities to get involved with at Berkeley, and the people I’ve met through the clubs and organizations I participated in have already begun changing my perspective and worldview. People here are fighters. They fight for their education, for global causes, and for the persistence to see a better world as each day goes by.
What is most misunderstood about UC Berkeley?
Perhaps the most misunderstood thing about Berkeley, which also happens to be a preconception that I had before entering college, is the idea that Berkeley professors are too busy with their Nobel-Prize-earning-research to care about their students. This is not true. Professors care. Graduate Instructors care. Just yesterday, my professor for my Near Eastern Studies class brought Ghirardelli chocolate to class and asked us what types of candy or snacks she should bring for future seminars. Though it was a simple gesture, it really meant a lot to us. Professors encourage us to go to their office hours. During my Introduction to Business lecture today, my professor told us that we could visit him if we had any questions about the class, about our future career prospects, and about finding internships. We could also visit him if we were just plain lonely. I don’t think these are just empty words, with no meaning. He and many of the other professors at Cal really mean it when they say they want to get to know their students.
Can you change majors at UC Berkeley?
Yes, you can change majors. It’s not the easiest process because there are prerequisites that you have to plan out, but it’s doable.
What surprised you the most in college?
The most surprising thing for me was how healthy the competition is here. I came into Berkeley with the idea that my classes would be insanely competitive. From my first semester experience, [they weren’t]. Yes, it was academically rigorous, but academic rigor is a good thing; it’s the defining trait of many strong universities. I didn’t see, however, any amount of unhealthy competition. In fact, many of my classes were rather collaborative, with students helping each other during discussions and working together to untangle, for example, Karl Marx’s rhetoric. I learned more in one semester of college than I have in all four years of high school.
What has been one of the greatest challenges in college, and what do you think high school students can do to best prepare themselves?
I haven’t run into any big challenges so far in college. I guess one thing I’ve been working on is waking up earlier in the morning to exercise. We can only challenge ourselves academically if our health allows for it. Exercising has helped me become a more aware and focused student.
How did you spend your time in high school?
I spent my time in high school being heavily involved with youth group, journalism, and social justice campaigns.
If you were to start high school all over again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start high school all over again, I would tell myself to focus more on academic pursuits than on all the things I was passionate about. I guess in the end, things worked out for me, but I wish I could have appreciated my classroom time and the intimate learning environment that high school provides. I wish I could have talked to my teachers more and gotten to know them.
What advice would you give prospective college students to help them prepare for college?
Come to college to learn, not to get good grades so you can get into medical school, law school, or graduate school. If you focus your mind on learning, I guarantee you that you will see the results reflected in your grades.
What kinds of students are most likely to succeed at UC Berkeley? And why?
If we measure success by GPA, it is definitely the people who can prioritize their time to get good test and classroom results. Success, however, can be measured in many different ways. The internships we find, the extracurricular activities we find ourselves involved with, these are all ways in which we can “succeed.” What I see as success is a person who is well-rounded, who is involved with organizations because [s/he] actually [cares], and who pursues active learning.
Do you recommend any websites and resources that will help students get to know UC Berkeley?
Since Berkeley is [in] the Bay Area, you might as well just visit! I highly encourage that; prospective students can get a feel [for] what campus life is all about.
Read UC Berkeley Visitor Services, visitors.berkeley.edu.
Gunn High School