I wish I had known to seek to understand prior to seeking to be understood. In a tremendously competitive environment, the ability to listen to the wisdom and insight of others - both superiors and peers - is often swept under the rug in the effort to "outshine" others. We shine brightest, as academics and human beings, when we are conscious of each other's strengths and celebratory of our respective contributions to the global good. Berkeley is a diverse and challenging learning environment, and it deserves students with thoughtful, self-reflective, and humble attitudes.
I wish I had known that the campus is not nearly liberal or as diverse as it claims to be. I feel that perhaps in comparison to other campuses, or depending on what aspects of diversity you are observing, Berkeley is diverse. However in the sense of overall ethnic makeup, the campus is pretty monoracial and there are very few people of color. I also dont appreciate the way the university co-opts the liberal movements of previous decades as a Berkeley phenomena as if they were encouraged when in fact during these revolutions most administration was opposed to them.
The campus administration is much more conservative than the student body. This has created a rift between the student government and the administration. The large scale decisions are top down, and many students feel they do not have a voice in either their student government or with the school administration. The large scale party politics, Cal SERVE and Student Action both have good goals and people, but spend much more energy in petty power fueds than in making actual progressive change to the school. The student body overall is very disenchanted with its voice.
During the application process, I was looking for colleges that had a moderately sized student population. I knew the numbers, but I hadn't experienced the numbers. UCB has about 25,000 students and when I walked to my first class, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people walking on campus and in each class. I regret not taking a campus tour, but I don't think it would have changed my decision to attend Berkeley. Although there is a high number of students at UCB, the academic structure caters to every student helping them educationally and personally.
The science majors are much harder to stay competetive in than the liberal arts and social science majors. It takes a lot more studying, focus, dedication and resolve to get a good GPA than it did in High School, and the weighting of the grade is much more heavily focussed on midterms and tests which can be difficult to adjust to. The College of Chemistry is home to one of the most difficult undergraduate curriculums in the world, and as such having a successful social life as well as a successful academic career can be hard to balance and manage.
I wish I had understood the financial aid process before starting my college career because I've been struggling to pay for my education while attending school and dealing with other obstacles. I wish I knew that the typical fulltime courseload makes it nearly impossible for a non-driving student to work and be successful in school. I know about the reducing my courseload, but I opt from doing that because I still have to pay fulltime tuition. It's hard to enjoy my college experience when I'm struggling to pay for it. I don't qualify for grants.
There is nothing I wish I had known before coming to Cal. I look at every experience as a learning one, and all the things that would have been helpful to know prior to my enrollment have not negatively affected my experience at Cal. For instance, there is an abundance of terms that I had to become familiar with my first semester on campus. I was behind many other students because I had to memorize the meaning of such terms. This forced me to work hard and stay focused, which was a learning lesson in itself. Perspective is everything.
Academic and personal success is not measured by how many hours you spend in the library or by being bookish. It is about having passion and conviction for what you are learning and allowing that shape the person you are. Personal discovery and a strong sense of self is just as crucial to doing well in life as doing well in school. Pick yourself up when you encounter adversity or if you fail at something. The road is long and there are many future opportunities awaiting you. Love and be good to yourself.
I wish that I would have known more about the campus life in general. Berkeley is a hard school, with hard classes and strict professors. It also has a history for being one of those schools that protest and fight for what they believe is right. I wish that before I came to Berkeley I had better knowledge about the clubs, groups ect. on campus. I feel that everything they focused on was the difficulty and their historic roots in protesting. There is mroe to Berkeley than that and I wish I knew more about it.
I would have liked to know more about the resources available to me, such as the career center, libraries, and computer facilities. I would have also liked to know the locations of buildings near and around campus better. Transportation was intially difficult, so it would have helped to learn how to use the bus system. College can be extremely intimidating at first, but once you learn how things work, everything seems simpler. Had I known all of this, my transition to college would have been much easier.