Cal’s mascot, Oski the Bear, at Cal Day
Hello! I hope you’ve all caught up on Glee just as I have and are ready for Part 5. Let’s flash-forward to March when admissions decisions for freshman applicants are given out. (Visit http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions/ for general information on dates, deadlines, and more detail on applying to the UC system). I was feeling confident as decision day approached. I had spent thorough time on writing my essays and filling out my application. I had made sure all necessary documents like transcripts and test scores were in order, and now all I had to do was wait. This was a good and bad thing.
The good part was that I was a second semester senior, meaning that I didn’t have anything to worry about except maintaining grades in my current classes. The bad part: waiting. This is a difficult time for all seniors when they await their decisions, and no matter how much fun you have as a senior, your future still hangs over your head. While I was frantically checking my application status all the time, I received some good news. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley and UCLA.
Understandably, I was jubilant and jumping up and down. All that time spent going over my application had really paid off. Now the major problem was to make a decision as to which school to enter in the fall. As mentioned in Part 1, I had seen some schools before through tours and when my sister was applying to college. But this was different because I had narrowed my choices to two schools, and I had to make an informed decision.
UC Berkeley is UC Berkeley. It gets the prestige of being called Cal and it has great academics in every program; plus, I was glad it was close to home. At the same time, I was considering pre-med and UCLA had its own medical school. It offered a great biology program and many opportunities to volunteer in the UCLA hospital. At Berkeley, I would have to go off-campus to volunteer but not at UCLA. Both schools offered ample research opportunities as well as hundreds of clubs.
Thus, I decided to attend college visit days at both schools. UCLA invited me for a college visit day while Cal holds an open house day (called Cal Day) to the general public: http://calday.berkeley.edu/ Anyone can attend Cal Day, but they have lots of sessions and activities specifically for admitted students.
The UCLA visit was very informative. It was by invite only, so there were only 100 or so students with their families. Then the students were broken up into groups of five or six to have small-group discussions with current UCLA students. Our group discussion leader was a Mechanical Engineering major at UCLA who was also in the Greek system, so I learned a lot about academics as well as social life at the campus. Then there were presentations for students and parents on financial aid, housing, dining, and planning your major. The day ended with a tour of the school followed by a tour of the dorms. The dorms were very eye-opening. As someone who was used to his own room with a large bed, the dorms at UCLA were mainly triples (3 people in a room) and a little claustrophobic. UCLA also provided lunch at the Dining Commons, which was great. The food was decent and they had lots of variety from sandwiches to Asian stir-fry.
Next up was Cal Day. Cal Day was very different because it was open to the public, so thousands of people were there. Also, events and sessions were happening all over campus. At UCLA, the presentation was given only to invited students and only in one lecture hall. At Cal, the whole campus was open to explore. Each lecture hall, auditorium, and building had its own event going on. I started the day at Haas Pavilion (the basketball games are played here), where a retired history professor was giving the morning speech about Berkeley. Then I headed on over to the general chemistry/physics lecture hall where a pre-med info session was being held. This room had mainly accepted students who were trying to plan their pre-med careers at Cal. The info session featured three medical school students who had graduated from Cal. Then there were tours of the campus and the dorms. I personally found the dorms much better at Berkeley; the rooms were larger and mostly doubles (2 people per room). I also attended the financial aid session and then finished off the day with some fun activities at the life sciences building.
Overall, I liked the energy of Cal more plus the dorm situation was a big factor in influencing my decision. The academics and facilities of both schools were great, but I felt that Cal was the right fit for me. Just as I did, make sure you visit each school you get admitted to and learn all you can about it. In the end, you will know which school is right for you and you can make an informed decision.
Alas, we have reached the end of “The Journey.” Now you all know how I got to Cal starting from the beginning. I hope that my journey will be of some use to you. Remember, even though my journey of getting to Cal has ended, my real journey of attending college had only just begun.