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| The Good: The biggest reason to go to UC Berkeley is the degree. Berkeley is known around the world and a degree from here has prestige and can sometimes open doors. The quality of education here isn?t bad, either. It?s a vibrant and stimulating intellectual community, with fine educational resources, and a fairly high percentage of the undergrad classes I took here were really pretty good. Some (not all) of the professors really try to make their classes worth taking. If you?re a smart, motivated student it is possible to acquire a decent education here and get decent grades (if you?re lazy or not a good student, don?t come here?you won?t make it). It?s an amazingly beautiful campus, too.|
The Bad: Berkeley is overcrowded. Classes are often huge (don?t believe the ?official? student/faculty ratio, which is a joke). Some students are not able to get into their desired major or program. Even if you do get into the major you want, you will find that overcrowded classes will often mean you are ?waitlisted? for classes you really need?sometimes for weeks after the semester begins?and then may ultimately not get in at all. I was one of countless students who had this problem, and it was stressful to the max. The bureaucracy is awful here, too: when you have a problem like this don?t expect any sympathy from the bureaucracy or advising staff, because all you?ll get is catch-22?s and administrative runarounds. Berkeley is huge and very impersonal, so forget about any personal attention for anything else, also. Letters of recommendation for grad school are difficult to get from faculty, because professors spend so much time on their research and their grad students that there isn?t much left over to get to know any of the hundreds of (low-priority) undergrads in their classes. Real help in preparing for grad school or with job placement is almost nonexistent. This is another critical area in which Berkeley fails almost completely, and this is quite serious considering it?s the reason you are going to school in the first place. Berkeley rests on its reputation as a research university and evidently thinks you (the insignificant undergraduate) are lucky they let you come here at all. Don?t ask for anything or expect any concern for yourself as a human being or for your future, when you are an undergrad here. You are just a number (your Student Identification Number, to be exact).
The Ugly: Older, non-traditionally aged students comprise only a small percentage of the college student population, but IF YOU ARE AN OLDER STUDENT returning to school, like I was, DO NOT GO HERE. The administration and advising bureaucracy, unfriendly enough for the regular student, becomes cruel and intolerable. The rules stipulate that they cannot discriminate against students on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, etc. and this leaves?for this huge, unkind bureaucracy with its shadow side?the older student to harass and belittle. Upon being readmitted, one L&S adviser told me that I ?had not done anything with [my] life to justify being admitted and didn?t deserve to go to school here.? The Psych student services director (since retired) welcomed me with jokes about my age and gave me patently wrong information that, had I followed it, would have kept me out of the major entirely. I was excluded from the honors program on a technicality (after being advised by a Psych student services advisor that I?d meet the requirements, and after I?d been working on it for many months)?goodbye research experience for my grad applications! Every step of the way, someone in administration was waiting with ageist comments and to try to kick my feet out from under me, right up to graduation: someone in the Registrar?s office tried to block my graduation by not giving me credit for university requirements I?d already met way back in high school. I should stress that this awful treatment came from administration and not faculty (who were generally quite good). But listen: if you are a non-traditionally aged student this is one MEAN place to go to school. Don?t go here. Period.
|Nov 16 2009|| 3rd Year Male --
Class 2009 |
| I am from a pretty small town. I was valedictorian, and I was kind of expecting to get into Berkeley. When I found out, I was excited, and couldn't wait to move into the dorms. By the way, the dorms are ridiculously expensive. I was expecting Berkeley to be this place where everyone was brilliant and hip, and I would learn and meet great friends. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. As a science major, I'm stuck in huge lecture halls, where nobody knows my name. The students are all too absorbed in their work to be social. 90% of Cal students are socially awkward, and the 10% that aren't are mostly athletes and people involved in Greek Life. I am proud to be a Cal student, and I am receiving a great education, which was my number one priority. However, I am not having the best time doing so. Every day is frustrating, and every day I have to feel like I am a dime a dozen science major at an enormous University. |
|Mar 27 2009|| 1st Year Female --
Class 2008 |
| The problem I had with Berkeley is that they put too much attention on their graduate (chemistry) program (which is not surprising because they are consistently ranked #1), and not enough on their undergraduate program. I had a hard time finding a professor who would accept me into his/her group to do undergraduate research. I ended up not having any undergraduate research experience at Cal (thankfully I interned at a company so I had research experience to show when I applied to grad school). Basically just from completing all the course work required for the BS degree, I left Berkeley feeling somewhat inadequate in my training and not entirely ready to join the industry as a BS chemist.|
I went to UCLA for my PhD, and from my interaction with the undergrads there, mostly as a TA, I got a pretty good impression of their chemistry undergraduate program. Their program is much more comprehensive and I feel that the chemistry undergraduates there get a much more well-rounded education. The professors are also more enthusiastic about taking in undergrads into their group.
Basically, if I get to do it again, knowing what I know now, I would have gone to UCLA for undergrad, and then apply to Berkeley for grad school.
| Starting Job: Graduate student, Preparedness: D+, Reputation: B |
|Mar 09 2009|| Alumnus Male --
Class 2000 |