University of California-Berkeley Top Questions

What is the stereotype of students at your school? Is this stereotype accurate?

adam

studious

Coral

There are different stereotypes for students I've heard during the span of my time with Berkeley. I've heard them all: hippies, stoners, super smart, liberal, et cetera. I would have to say that this stereotype is not accurate, for Berkeley students come from all over the world to be at this university. There is no trait that we all share with the exception that we have all worked hard to be here and are generally intelligent. Some people stop working hard once they get into this school, but most continue to work at peak levels.

Trevor

The stereotype Berkeley student is up-tight, a studyholic, a leftist communist hippy, and someone who is extremely political. 70% of Berkeley students are of ethnic minorities. Most Berkeley students spend their free time playing computer games or other nerdy activities.

Emily

Berkeley goes beyond just "stereotypes" - the name has become practically synonymous with liberal hippie activists. And, to be fair, this isn't always untrue. Berkeley as a city is one of the last true bastions of hippies in the country. On any given day, you can find someone selling vegan food on campus or asking you to sign a petition. But the way I see it, Berkeley students are just generally passionate about things. The Berkeley College Republicans are just as present as the Cal Democrats, the ethnic groups, the frats, the sports teams, and everyone else. With a school as big as Berkeley, you can meet every type of person imaginable.

Alyssa

A common stereotype of Berkeley students is that they are engineering and tech Asian nerds that study all the time and don't have any fun. This stereotype is quite inaccurate. Cal has a diverse range of students from all sorts of backgrounds that study a wide range of humanities and sciences. Although Cal's engineering program is highly ranked, there is a lot more to the campus and the students studying engineering also have a wide range of interests.

Benjamin

liberal hippies who smoke a lot. (NOT TRUE!!) but there is a BUTTload of parties.

Melanie

People say that there are a lot of Asians here. And a lot of hippie liberals that protest all the time. I would say, yes there are quite a few Asians here -- I don't see why people make such a big deal about this. There are still other races represented so if you're worried about finding a niche, don't worry -- Berkeley has a club for almost everything. Hippie liberals? We do have a lot of liberal minded people here and a lot of people who are activists. Of course we do! Free Speech Movement! But at the same time we have a strong Republican Club so again, don't worry there's all sorts of people here. Just because you aren't a certain political standpoint doesn't mean you will be ostracized or anything. But you will be talked to by people with strong opinions. Just smile and nod. :)

Marston

Sharareh

I have heard that Berkeley kids are really intense in terms of studying and making good grades. This is definitely true for a lot of students. Hippies is still a stereotype, especially in conservative cities outside of California.

Zoie

Because of the movements and protests that happened on the UC Berkeley campus in the 1960's, the students at Berkeley are usually stereotyped as being hyper-liberal, weed smoking, hippies. While the intense hippie liberal stereotype does hold true to some extent, Berkeley is also known for it's extensive Greek community and surplus of science and engineering nerds.

Merany

There are two primary stereotypes of a UC Berkeley student. 1. The Hippie Stoner: Because of our history in the 60's, when you say "I go to Berkeley", many people think you are an active protester, smoke pot all day, and only eat tree bark. 2. The Over-Achiever: This type of student has virtually no social life and keeps their nose in a book, so they can become a Doctor/Lawyer/I-Banker. Both stereotypes are partially true. Most of the students on campus lean to the left politically and every semester someone is protesting something. However, the largest group on campus is the Berkeley College Republicans, so there is some diversity of opinion, and while there is the occasional protest, most are small and most students tend to avoid them. Because Berkeley is academically rigorous, it also attracts the "Over-Achiever" but most people maintain a social life while earning "A"'s. We don't spend our Saturday nights in the library and spend just as much time talking about funny cat videos as we do talking about Schrodinger's Cat.

Lauren

My school as a whole has the stereotype of being either crazy hippie activist or super nerdy. This is definitely accurate for a large group of students who attend UCB. But as a member of the Greek community, I have found many other types of people that are more like me. Conservative and preppy, i was initially concerned about going to Berkeley, but in my sorority I have discovered 120 other girls that share my same interests. Greek life at Berkeley is like its own little bubble. In the Frats and Sororities you will definitely find jocks, fratty guys, preppy girls, stoners etc. The greeks party hard. But, overall, Berkeley is so amazing because of its diversity; not just racially, but in terms of stereotypical personalities as well. I'm friends with stoners, athletes, sorority girls, nerds, party people, mellow people,etc. Its refreshing to be exposed to so many different personality types, and it ensures that no matter what, you will find a place for yourself at Cal.

Michelle

There are many different stereotypes of Berkeley students, ranging from the tree-hugging stoner to the all-around activist to the obnoxiously rich and well dressed Sorority girls to the know-it-all Anthropology student to the cut-throat Hass business student to the scholarship student-athlete who obviously doesn't belong in an educational setting. Since there are so many stereotypes, it is hard to judge their accuracy. One thing is true about Berkeley however: it is a very diverse school. Because it is so big, you can find just about anything or anyone. However, its size makes it easy to feel lost in the crowd. One pervasive feeling that I got from Berkeley was that of competition and stress. There is a palpable feeling of both on the campus, especially during finals and mid-terms, which last pretty much all semester long. I was personally disappointed by this uptight attitude as I was hoping for a chill and fun college experience. Although it isn't impossible to have an experience like this at Berkeley, if this is your main request of a university, I suggest you try elsewhere.

Melissa

In truth, Berkeley has a very diverse student body. As a public school, it is (for now) less expensive than any other school of its caliber in the state. As a result there is a considerable body of students that is dependent upon financial aid, which is readily available for the most part (for now). This contributes greatly to the diversity on campus, giving a wide-range of life experience. There are a lot of students, particularly within the humanities majors, that are much older than the "traditional" 18-22-year-old undergraduate student, as well. "Unconventional" types will find themselves at ease among such diversity. The exaggerated over-zealous, liberal extremist stereotype of yester-year still has representation on campus, but it is an extreme minority. Walking around, you'll immediately notice large groups of " nerds" with enormous backpacks, the stunning majority of whom are science majors. You'll also see "jocks" and kids from the expansive Greek system walking around in tight, clique-y groups. There is also a large international population of exchange students that are incredibly friendly and eager to make you part of their "Cal experience". You'll see a few second-generation "punk" kids (who can't be old enough to have been around for the actual punk scene) as well as some shoe-less wandering "hippies" who you won't know for sure are even students. The majority, however, is represented by a spectrum of hipsters to rival an Urban Outfitters catalogue, and almost half of them boast the token thick-rimmed Ray-Ban spectacles. There are stoners, gamers, and flamboyant homosexuals with Prada bags wearing tank tops that read, "Born This Gay." There are steezy "skittle thugs" in brightly-colored tall-T's, there are a great many nondescript individuals, and there are examples of every possible combination of any of the above. Mostly, there are just a LOT of people. At Cal, you can get away with being whoever you want. The diversity allows you to choose to be as much or as little of a stereotype as you please, and still make plenty of like-minded friends (it's a HUGE school). Between the vast selection of extra-curricular activities and clubs and organizations, you will find something that interests you, and if you're not into the whole "involvement" thing, you can choose one of hundreds of groups of "low-key" students to ingratiate yourself with, instead.

Melissa

In truth, Berkeley has a very diverse student body. As a public school, it is (for now) less expensive than any other school of its caliber in the state. As a result there is a considerable body of students that is dependent upon financial aid, which is readily available for the most part (for now). This contributes greatly to the diversity on campus, giving a wide-range of life experience. There are a lot of students, particularly within the humanities majors, that are much older than the "traditional" 18-22-year-old undergraduate student, as well. "Unconventional" types will find themselves at ease among such diversity. That said, as a top-ranked public school, it does draw certain archetypes. Almost everyone at Cal is very academically driven. Finding "slackers" in your classes is very rare, but you will not necessarily be intimidated by the students who raise their hands and comment in lecture. Do not confuse the term "academically driven" with "intelligent" or "wise". Students generally fit either into the category of "naturally gifted" or "hardworking", and both succeed. The exaggerated over-zealous, liberal extremist stereotype of yester-year still has representation on campus, but it is an extreme minority. Walking around, you'll immediately notice large groups of " nerds" with enormous backpacks, the stunning majority of whom are Asian science majors, and the stunning minority of whom are speaking English. You'll also see "jocks" and kids from the expansive Greek system walking around in tight, clique-y groups. There is also a large international population of exchange students that are incredibly friendly and eager to make you part of their "Cal experience". You'll see a few second-generation "punk" kids (who can't be old enough to have been around for the actual punk scene) as well as some shoe-less wandering "hippies" who you won't know for sure are even students. The majority, however, is represented by a spectrum of hipsters to rival an Urban Outfitters catalogue, and almost half of them boast the token thick-rimmed Ray-Ban spectacles. There are stoners, gamers, and flamboyant homosexuals with Prada bags wearing tank tops that read, "Born This Gay." There are steezy "skittle thugs" in brightly-colored tall-T's, there are a great many nondescript individuals, and there are examples of every possible combination of any of the above. Mostly, there are just a LOT of people. At Cal, you can get away with being whoever you want. The diversity allows you to choose to be as much or as little of a stereotype as you please, and still make plenty of like-minded friends (it's a HUGE school). Between the vast selection of extra-curricular activities and clubs and organizations, you will find something that interests you, and if you're not into the whole "involvement" thing, you can choose one of hundreds of groups of "low-key" students to ingratiate yourself with, instead.

Davin

I'm an MCB major, it's one of the majors that most pre-med students choose. In my Freshman year I heard a lot about how competitive students are in this major, and most bio majors. I continued hearing it in sophomore and junior year. I haven't yet encountered one of the stressed-out cutthroats that apparently infest my major. Everyone is nice and more than earned the honorary of "nerd," but I've never had a negative competitive interaction with anyone.

Rachel

Yes, the school is 47% Asian students, but despite this the school maintains a diverse environment! Yes, there are lots of nerds here, but that encourages a highly studious atmosphere. We know how to have fun too though:)

Jiahui

Berkeley is definitely a school too diverse to have only one dominating stereotype. Over the four years, some that stand out to me include: 1) everyone is a hippie; 2) everyone smokes weed; 3) Oh my goodness there are so many Asians. I will try to fairly evaluate each. 1) Not everyone. I am not personally. This stereotype has to do with Berkeley's progressive and liberal history, which was also tied to the hippie subculture in the 1960s. Although the hippie subculture has diminished, the associated liberalism continued to thrive at UC Berkeley and that is why people think everyone is a hippie. But on the other hand, there are still hippies on this campus, although I am not sure if they're students. 2) Not everyone. It's really a personal choice. This is also related to the events happened in the 1960s. One interesting thing to note is that, there is a relatively large "weed" culture at Berkeley that any other places I have visited in the U.S. 3) Berkeley is one of the few top schools that do not take race into consideration and has a 43% Asian population (Fall 2010 enrollment data). Another example is Caltech, which has about 1/3 student population of Asian descent. On one hand, this shows diversity but on the other it doesn't. It continues to be a heavily debated issue.

Jason

UC Berkeley has a reputation for having competitive students who have no social life or social skills… and for being home to people of questionable personal hygiene who like to protest things and celebrate recreational drugs. Thankfully, most of these horrid images are only partially true. The much maligned academic culture you hear about in social circles is very true—and particularly so in the engineering, science, and business departments. I started off as a Molecular & Cell Biology major, and you do need to spend multiple hours studying the lecture material every day or you will fall behind. Once you fall behind, there really is no feasible way to get caught up because of the density and volume of course material, and many students fall into the temptation of their new-found personal freedom and procrastinate. “I can just webcast the 7 lectures I missed,” some say. Or, “I can get caught up on the upcoming 3-day weekend.” Sadly, the class average on the first organic chemistry midterm I took was 45%; the average of the final as 33%. Courses are grueling and competitive, and there are some professors who grew up in the 1800s and still believe in “bell curves.” During my sophomore year, my aspiring engineering and business school roommates frequently pulled all-nighters. You do actually see students studying regular at the library until 2am, wearing business suits to lecture to “impress the professor,” or stressing out about a grade of 92% on an exam. There are students who resort to taking Ritalin in order to focus. But this school has a prestigious academic reputation for a reason. The main problem is that no one teaches you how to study, and it often takes several poor grades in courses before you either figure it out for yourself or are finally motivated enough swallow your pride and go to the university’s academic support services for help. If you actually take advantage of all these services (for example, see the Student Learning Center http://slc.berkeley.edu/general/index.htm), Berkeley can be a very supporting environment. More importantly, however, is to find an academic subject that you find engaging and fulfilling—for which you’re actually excited about the course material. As ideal as it sounds to major in Neurobiology, secure a posh research position with full benefits, and then apply to medical school, it’s not for everybody. It wasn’t for me, which is why I changed my major to English and German and have been comparatively thriving ever since, both personally and academically. Medical School is not for me, but I would never have known that if I hadn’t taken a variety of courses. The other side of Berkeley is the “protest something” culture, which, like the academic rigor, is only somewhat true. On any given day, there will be half a dozen individuals on Sproul Plaza who will try to convince you that you live under a puppet government run by the prince of darkness, that you are a deviant sinner and are going to go promptly to hell, or that the world will end in 187 days and you will also go promptly to hell. It happens. Some protests, like “Code Pink” and the infamous “Treesitters,” are commonly lampooned by media outlets; however, there are also some very serious demonstrations, such as the recent protests against the raising tuition costs and cutting of departments/faculty, as well as the well-publicized Occupy Movement. On one occasion, I saw people dressed up in zombie make-up, lurching around campus and moaning, “Grains.” It happens. Turns out they were trying to raise awareness for the unethical practices of the meat industry. I took one of their fliers. However, what’s most neglected about UC Berkeley is the large amount of sane, normal people who also go here. The Liberal Arts and Foreign Language departments are full of motivated, caring professors, and not everyone you meet on campus is socially inept and/or believes him/herself to be the next messiah. In my college career, I have been able to maintain a competitive GPA, have a social life, and develop meaningful friendships; it just took some time to find the right courses for me and to learn how to study effectively and to take advantage of all the academic resources. UC Berkeley is all about finding the balance between the competitive and the crazy, and there is a treasure of thoughtful, inspiring, and motivated instructors and students.

.

The UC Berkeley stereotype unfortunately doesn't fall into one of the more-or-less innocent high school cross-sections like "jock", "stoner", etc.; I say unfortunately because the stereotype that -does- apply is a racial one: UC Berkeley is known for the high percentage of Asian students in attendance, in spite of administrative efforts to promote a more diverse campus population. Though the campus might seem to be, in many minds, the "liberal" masthead of the UC system and origin of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960's, Berkeley's liberal identity is in fact shifting into a patchwork of varied--often conflicting--ideologies; the Berkeley College Republicans even made national headlines recently with their affirmative action bake sale, and regardless of how one feels about that, it bred the sort of vivid discussion you'd expect at a university full of young, bright, and intensely varied people. Ultimately, it is unfair to say that UC Berkeley is at all culturally, racially, or ideologically hegemonic; there's a campus or club association for everyone, and a trip from any given class to another will result in overhearing animated, passionate dialogues in many different languages and discourse registers. In the end, stereotypes are just that: unfair.

Sherry

Nerd

Alanah

The stereotypes of the students at Berkeley are the ever-protesting left wing hippies, and while the political activism on campus is very much alive here, it is not something that everyone participates in. There are republican groups on campus just as there are democrat. No matter what a person's belief or political persuasion, you are bound to find a group that caters to you.

.

The UC Berkeley stereotype unfortunately doesn't fall into one of the more-or-less innocent high school cross-sections like "jock", "stoner", etc.; I say unfortunately because the stereotype that -does- apply is a racial one: UC Berkeley is known for the high percentage of Asian students in attendance, in spite of administrative efforts to promote a more diverse campus population. Though the campus might seem to be, in many minds, the "liberal" masthead of the UC system and origin of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960's, Berkeley's liberal identity is in fact shifting into a patchwork of varied--often conflicting--ideologies; the Berkeley College Republicans even made national headlines recently with their affirmative action bake sale, and regardless of how one feels about that, it bred the sort of vivid discussion you'd expect at a university full of young, bright, and intensely varied people. Ultimately, it is unfair to say that UC Berkeley is at all culturally, racially, or ideologically hegemonic; there's a campus or club association for everyone, and a trip from any given class to another will result in overhearing animated, passionate dialogues in many different languages and discourse registers. But in the end, stereotypes are just that: unfair.

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