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The University of California - Berkeley

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Date: Apr 25 2002
Major: Computer Science (This Major's Salary over time)
Academically speaking Cal Berkeley is a top notch place to be. I'm five years out of college and I am technically well more qualified than my friends who graduated from The Farm (Stanford University). Cal is one of the best places where theory and practice are constantly put into test. When employers from Silicon Valley want capable engineers who can get their hands dirty and get the job done, they don't go to big theory schools like The Farm, MIT, or Caltech. They go to Cal, UC Berkeley.

While the science reputation is top notch, almost everything else isn't. Housing is ridiculously expensive even for mice infested buildings, the students are overly competitive because they want As (engineering classes mandate 15% A max), and some weedout classes are too large (some are 500-800). If you want to graduate with an engineering degree, don't expect to have a normal life (I spend most of my time in the computer lab). If you want good grades and occasionally party, make sure you declare BS (business) major. Or if you just want good grades without having to learn and to work hard, go to The Farm. A positive side is that the engineering girls are ugly so that us hardcore engineers can live a simple ascetic life with nothing but academics.

Berkeley is a big school, and if you don't watch out you can easily feel lost. The competition is totally fierce, the pressure is extremely high, but that's ok. If you can't take the heat, drugs (esp weeds) are easily available on the South side. It's cheaper than psychiatric therapy too, you know, the ones that rich Stanford kids have because they are depressed that they a BMW315i instead of a Porsche.

Berkeley is not Stanford, AKA The Farm. In Berkeley, engineering classes limit 15% of the students to As, where A is 4.0 and A- is 3.7. A+s are almost unheard of, and even if they are given out they are still 4.0. On the other hand The Farm consistently gives out 30-40% As, and their A+ is worth a whopping 4.13. These are important considerations when going to grad school, because grades convert on a 1-to-1 ratio and The Farmers definitely have an edge when it comes to their inflated GPA. Having taken a few hardcore CS classes at both The Farm and Berkeley, I can honestly say that the projects at The Farm are less rigorous—they will break down projects and tell you how to do things step by step. But at Berkeley, they will give you a really hard problem and tell you to solve it, and in X [painful] days you'll have to solve it (or get a C in the class). At The Farm I never heard people having to live in the computer lab for a very long time, but at Berkeley, everyone knows that the computer lab is the extended home for many of the project classes. Cal engineering is not exactly Disneyland… many students feel stressed, many feel isolated, quite a few don't even have time to take shower, and quite a few drop out or change majors. On the other hand dropping out is unheard of at The Farm, probably because no one ever fails. Indeed The Farm seems to want every single one of its students to pass. But Berkeley seems to want to weed out the weak ones—just throw them into the sea and let the weak ones drown. Yes, a Spartan education it is.

But if you've made it to the graduation, you know your force is strong, and you can accomplish anything in life. OK, maybe not ANYTHING, but you can certainly accomplish more than the Farmers, even if you have a much lower GPA than they do. If you've made it, you know you're technically and theoretically stronger than they are. And yes, I am qualified to say this because I've been to both sides.

In summary, here's a note to you would-be-freshmen. If you want to excel academically, Cal is a great place to be. The courses are certainly much more rigorous than The Farm courses. If you're extremely smart and you thrive on fierce competition, you'll love the place. But if you're not, then watch out, it could be a very uncomfortable place to be at. Remember, Cal Engineering is not a place where you'll have a well balanced life, like having party, making friends, etc. You pick one or the other, or alternatively, go to The Farm. Your decision to go to UC Berkeley or not all comes down to a question of priority. Do you want to go to Cal, a top notch technical school and trade in your 4 years of complete misery and hell for a lifetime of respectable and marketable degree… or do you want to party and make friends?

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The University of California - Berkeley
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