University of California-Berkeley Top Questions

What are the academics like at your school?


i made it a point to take a lot of smaller-sized seminar classes. i became pretty close with one of my film professors and one of my english professors, who endorsed a campus publication i had worked on. "intellectual conversations" were pretty common, but necessarily rooted from previously discussed class material. the reading lists were pretty dense, so most "fun" conversation usually had to do with music, or readings and films we had done/seen on the side. my least favorite class was introductory latin. and the r1b requirement. the pre-1800 requirement for the english major was also painful. the rest of my classes were pretty great. it's a gross generalization, but anyone studying math/science/engineering/business was mostly in it for the money or future job. but they're probably as equally annoying/competitive as those deadset on graduate school. these are the annoying people that feel the need to make comments in large lectures just to stand out to the professor, even if they don't really have anything to say. the for the most part, the academics at berkeley are pretty broad and traditional. it's not career-training, it's learning for learning's sake.


I had some truly great classes at Berkeley. Especially when I research the course and professor in advance, through asking other students, etc. Professors know your name if you make an effort and go to their office hours. Otherwise they may not. The question is, Do you know your professor's name?


Most of the classes I've taken are so big that the Professors don't know my name. My favorite class currently is a sociology class on social psychology. The professor (Robb Willer) is great, and makes the class material super interesting and extremely accessible. My least favorite class is Research Design and Statistical Analysis, an upper-division requirement for my major. The material is really dry, and the professor is just completely inadequate. It's more or less an exercise in futility. Berkeley students ALWAYS have intellectual conversations outside of class. Students are competitive, but it really depends on what major you're in. The most unique class I've taken was a decal (and student facilitated class) on the band Radiohead. It's great that in addition to all the demanding classes I have, I can also break it up and earn units with something fun and interesting. The Psychology Major/Department is great. No complaints there. The professors are wonderful, the advisors are extremely nice and accessible, and the classes are always interesting. I don't spend time with professors after class. Office hours are often inconvenient for me, so I usually don't get to know professors one-on-one. I do know people who spend time with professors outside of class though. UC Berkeley's academic requirements seem very fair, but once again I think it depends on your major and interests. I would definitely say that, for the most part, UC Berkeley is geared toward learning for its own sake, and not toward getting a job. This is not to say that there aren't opportunites, like career centers and career fairs. It just seems that in general, what you learn in class is more theory and concept, rather than something that can be directly applied in a job.


I have had very close relationships with a handful of professors. The professors at Berkeley are always available, but you have to use them. They won't hold your hand. I found that out my freshman year. You can skip class and no one notices! It first this seemed cool, but then I realized that getting good grades was really easy if you read all your readings, went to class and discussion section. But the most important thing, in order get the benefit of the doubt by your graduate student instructors - who run discussion section and ultimately grade you - is to visit them in their office hours and show interest in the class. I have had so many great graduate student teachers. They are close to my age but know the material like the back of their hand - just more approachable then professors. When I was in the dorms, I realized how hard some people studied. I was never one of those people. I saw college as a holistic experience rather than simply an academic one. My only complaint about Berkeley's academic requirements are their breadth requirements. I came to Berkeley to study humanities. Yet, I had to complete a biological and physical science requirement. I know I came to get a liberal arts education, but NOBODY is benefitting by me taking science and math. I found it frustrating that I had to waste two classes worth of units on topics that I hate.


Like two profs ever knew my name. Most dont. E45 is great with Gronsky. Students study from all the fucking time to almost never and their grades oare often uncorrelated. I wish I could take my professors out to lunch like it seems is easier at other colleges . . . this might just be me slacking though. UC Berkeley is geared to job and learning for its own sake equally.


Most classes are big, so don't expect all of your professors to know your name. Nonetheless, once you graduate from UC Berkeley, you are geared for success!


Now that I changed my major to ISF, my professors definitely know my name. Before when I was taking MCB classes, I didn't want them to know my name because they were all douchebags. My favorite class in college has been ISF 100A on the evolution of capitalism and critical social theory. I participate in class, commonly. I have intellectual conversations about intellectualism about being outside of class. Certain students are competitive. They actually make up a good majority of the students here. The most unique class I have taken have been classes in critical social theory. I am in a small major that is like independent studies. I make up my own course plan and I have to write a research thesis before I graduate. The department is small, so the profs get to know me pretty well which I like. The academic requirements are not flexible enough. You shouldn't be kicked out after reaching a certain credit limit, within reason. Depends on the skills taught in your major whether its geared towards getting a job. If you want to gain practical skills for a job, Berkeley has that. But you can also take classes that teach you how to think critically about the world and about problems and how to come up with creative solutions. Although this doesn't directly prepare you for a job, I think it's a lot more fun.


Berkeley is competitive and classes, especially in math and the sciences, are notoriously difficult, even after the curve. Unless you introduce yourself, professors won't know your name; however, many professors are truly interested in their students, and office hours are excellent opportunities for one-to-one discussions with professors. Sections, discussions, and labs are taught by Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), who may have teaching methods that better suit students' needs. GSIs often consult their students about a convenient office hour time that would also work for their students. Depending on the college, Berkeley has different academic requirements. The University of California has basic writing, history, and government requirements, which may be fulfilled through AP or IB credits. Berkeley has a campus-wide American Cultures (AC) requirement, which must be fulfilled with a class on campus. A wide variety of AC courses are offered each semester so that students can choose. Each college also has its own individual requiremnts. For the largest college, Letters and Science, a seven-course breadth requirement is designed to expand students' academic horizons. Berkeley has a scheduling system called TeleBears, which is split into two phases to ensure fairness. Each student receives an appointment during the two phases; a unit cap is in effect for the first phase. TeleBears is always a stressful time of the semester. After diligently researching interesting classes and professors and fitting lectures and discussions into a weekly schedule, I have to find out which ones are highly impacted and guess which class would fill up faster. Waitlisting into a course is also nerve-wracking, especially if the course is a prerequisite for another course or for a major. The level of academia here at Berkeley is amazing. We have some of the world's most renowned and most interesting professors and faculty. One of the most interesting classes I've taken is Drugs and the Brain, in which Dr. Presti, the teacher, brought in a preserved human brain to show the class.


Classes are large at Berkeley, and most professors will not know your name -- it's nothing personal -- but they are very good professors able to handle such lectures, and so discussion does not suffer for the number of students there. I don't think I need to proclaim the greatness of Berkeley's academics here, but it's worth noting that the math and sciences are notoriously difficult and rigorous, and the humanities less so. In my own defense, it appears that the Philosophy department has the lowest average GPA of all the humanities-- though, upon further reflection, it's possible that this indicates that we're dumber rather than that the classes are harder and methodology more critical. Seriously though, I would certainly say I've had an easier time in the classes in my other major, Religious Studies, but I rely heavily on my own passion for the material so I am reluctant to set standards for others. Needless to say, Berkeley is tough, but it's worth it. Or so says one who never had to take an o-chem midterm. To understand Berkeley's academics, understand simply that there are many people, that they are smart, and that they all must struggle -- even the best -- with on some level being nobodies. With the right attitude, it is a healthy struggle, and one that I personally was looking for-- no one will tell you that you are special unless you truly go above and beyond because it is assumed you are already special enough for getting here, and anyway, what was your name again? One of the positive developments of this scenario is that, in my experience, students very rarely seriously compete with one another; even in the classes where the grade is curved, everyone just wants to do their best, and people always cooperate. And even if the professors are so barraged by exceptional people that they have a hard time picking you out, they are always willing to talk with you because the vast majority of them truly love teaching-- even if they don't have a Nobel Prize yet. The lack of core classes also provides an interesting element, such that all majors end up taking interesting classes full of people who have not been forced to attend; you may miss out on reading some of the classics, and you may find yourself picking certain classes simply because you know they'll be less stressful than other classes that will fulfill that requirement, but you'll be thrown into unusual situations as a result-- which as I have said is for me the theme of UC Berkeley. Applying my philosophy-trained mindset to my Environmental Biology class sophomore year resulted in some very interesting interactions that I will never forget. People at Berkeley are more career oriented than they have been before, I think, due to the changing student climate, but as I have emphasized, anyone can find their niche, and the professors teach their classes out of passion, passion that you as a student are encouraged to share for its own sake.

Mary Claire

People study like crazy. During midterms and finals, the campus is dead. People are locked up in the libraries and study lounges. Some people even camp out in the libraries and spread out blankets to claim their spot. I have also found that the majority of students are working towards going to med, law, or grad school. I have even been looked down upon when sharing that I wasn't planning on going to school once I finished my undergrad education. Classes are huge. Here is the basic format: Lectures with hundreds of students led by professors (often boring and filled with power points) and Sections (or small groups) led by grad student instructors (GSI's). In my experience, I have learned far more from my GSI's than my professors. I think this is kind of disappointing, and I wasn't expecting that when I came here.


some did. usually the small humanity classes and violence prevention-type seminars. berkeley is definitely a place that u can get as much as u give--particularly in terms of academics.


Getting an appointment with an advisor is an all-day undertaking - and getting to know a professor well enough so they call you by first name is a Sisyphean feat - you must be determined. Because getting to the office hours sign-up sheet is an odyssey in itself. Because it's a public university (I don't know - maybe this is unique to the UC system) there are basic requirements you have to fulfill in 7 categories, plus three basic writing and math requirements, plus (and I guess this is kind of "Berzerkeley") one "American Cultures" requirement. Which sounds like a lot - and it is, and it definitely takes away from classes you'd rather take - but I placed out of most of them through AP and SAT scores, and community college classes I took during high school. In general, students at Berkeley are really bright and interested, which is cool. You can talk shop with kids in your class, definitely, and arranging study groups is not uncommon. In the humanities, nobody's that competitive because there's no curve. Unless you find yourself in a personal competition with an annoying person who unfailingly sits in the first seat, punctually, at every lecture. There are at least two of those in every class. But you can't really expect people who choose to focus on Chinese painting, Interwar period theory, or Peace and Conflict Studies (actual UCB major!) to care about vanquishing the scholastic foe. The hard sciences at UCB are a whole other weird parallel universe, I hear.


I love academics, I miss academics. If you're on your way to Berkeley and on the fence about whether you want to pursue an academic career or parlay what you learn in Art History classes into the corporate world, you're going to be stuck on that fence for the duration of your time at Cal. Berkeley professors are passionate enough to attract you to their research, but they are (fortunately and unfortunately) flexible enough to let you make your own decisions about your professional future. It's a school where a lot of your direction is self-motivated, and that can be a very dangerous thing for most. With the surfeit of academic possibilities just one click away on Telebears, I tried to dabble across disciplines without getting lost. For me, film studies and philosophy were complimentary disciplines that enriched each other mutually. Film classes were more interesting with a philosophy background and vica versa.


There is a huge range of experiences you can have depending on the class you are in. I have been in classes with 10 other students and had other classes with 800 students. For me, a class can still be amazing even if it is in a huge lecture hall and taking classes with hundreds of other students allowed me to be taught by some of the most intelligent, knowledgable and dynamic professors at Berkeley and even in this country. I majored in Social Welfare which allowed me to take small classes (usually 30-40 students) and get to know my professors well.


Are you a Bio Major? Why? 1. Is it cause you want to be a doctor? 1.A.Why? 1.A.1 Is it cause your mommy and daddy want you to be? -->Spare us. Don't do it. 1.A.2 Is it because you want to be ultra successful? -->Try to be less of an asshole. 1.A.3 Is it because you want to genuinely help people? -->That's nice. But don't be an asshole along the way. 2. Is it because you're just interested in science? -->Watch out, kiddo. Better hope your interests and ideals are nice and strong, because your first two years of UC Berkeley will put them to the test. Chem1A has about 1500 freshmen in it- 3 sections of 500 kids, aka half of your dorm floor. Chem3A (organic chem) gets down to about 1000, Chem 3B to around 500 at a time. See my point? Hopefully, you're losing the 1.A.1's. But assholeness abounds- not overt assholeness, usually, but just the general "oh, you've only gotten THERE in the reading?" Everyone's psyched out, so they're psyching each other out; classes are graded on a curve, and the material is difficult so the competition is fierce. Expect that a 60{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} on the test is a B you're super grateful for; This aint highschool. I strongly recommend maintaining a distance from most of your biology classmates except for your super close folk that you know are behind you. But is it worth it? Yes. You learn to deal with competition. You learn to deal with assholes. You learn to deal with failure, or maybe just C's. Competition, assholes, and failure are very real parts of life. PLUS, when you get into upper div, it gets MUCH more awesome. My recommendation: take the more biochemistry-heavy "track 1" of the Molecular and Cell Biology major. Classes are just a cozy 100 students each. More science, less drama. And for non-Bio majors, or Bio majors with other interests, I have had a SPECTACULAR time taking classes in the English, Philosophy, Anthropology, and Ethnic Studies departments, not to mention the student-run classes, including both Female Sexuality and Male Sexuality. You have access to really kickass profs here in all departments. I say if high-falootin academics is a priority for you, come here, but if youre a bio major, gear up to fight assholes along the way.


The pace is fast, and somewhat relentless. You will have free time, but it fills itself up quickly, and effortlessly. If you choose to pursue what you want, you will have all the time you need for it, and with a big school like this, you will have friends to support you. If you wait for berkeley to cater to your time needs, you might get frustrated. There is exactly enough time to get what you want from this school, and it's very easy to stay here longer, provided your parents are willing to shell it out. The finest quality, however, is its size. Academically this means that you are in control of your experience, which is only truly helpful if you know what you want. You may choose to flounder, or to aggressively pursue a degree, and you will have an excellent time, if you are choosing to do it. Also, you have lots of freedom to develop relationships with professors. They can know your name, but you must make that effort. Because the size of the school is so large, there is always room at the library, and in office hours, and the impersonal environment gives even the smallest personal effort a high priority to a professor. Students are hardly as competitive as they seem and the educational system seems geared towards a well rounded experience. Classes are truly defined by their professors. Finding a good professor, like Carlos Noreña in the History Department, and following them through their course curriculum, is a really good way to milk the UC Berkeley academic resource.


If I went to more office hours, my professors would probably know my name. Professors are open to meeting their students, it just depends on how much effort each individual puts in to their relationship. As far as classes go, my favorite classes have been on opposite ends of the academic spectrum. The first, History 106A: The Roman Republic with Carlos Norena, helped me decide what my concentration would be on for the History major. Norena is a brilliant professor whose clear, organized, and fascinating lecture were a pleasure to attend. The entire class held on every word he said from the Punic Wars to the death of Julius Caesar. Unfortunately for me, Norena is on sabbatical until new year. My other favorite class was L&S 30T: "Drugs and the Brain" with Professor David Presti. First of all, Presti is adorable. The class was so interesting, although it is not the "easy A" that it is purported to be. Presti teaches his 600 student lecture about how "drugs" like caffeine, alcohol, marijuana, and opium derivative affect the brain. The class combines Molecular and Cell Biology with History, with a little pop culture thrown in. I learned so much from this class. Every student at Berkeley should take this class, and luckily, mostly everyone does.