University of California-Berkeley Top Questions

What should every freshman at University of California-Berkeley know before they start?


At my high school, students of similar academic ability tended to be in similar classes each year. This meant that during the college application process — beginning with the PSATs sophomore year until senior year when college acceptance letters were mailed — the students in my classes constantly talked about their talents, their scores, and their ambitions. “How did you do on your SATs? What colleges are you applying to?” were questions students nosily asked each other. The hoopla made me feel inadequate. I compared myself to my current and future peers when I should have been recognizing where my own intelligence lay. This even influenced my college application process; I remember distinctly deciding not to apply to certain colleges because I did not think I was smart enough compared to others applying to those schools. I would tell my high school self how little the petty comparisons matter when you get to college, and that there are many forms of intelligence. I would tell myself not to worry that I would not be smart enough, because what matters is figuring out where your talents are and pursuing them. College gives you the freedom to do that — without the unnecessary competition.


Dear High School Self:FIrst of all, I know you always wanted to go to California, but heads up, NorCal isn't the sunny California you thought. SF is mostly windy and rainy. You'll never have to pay for A/C, but you won't get the warm beaches and palm trees that you expected.More importantly, don't let the public school status fool you. They cost as much as private schools for out-state's. Yes they told you you can earn your Californian residence, but they will make it as hard as possible for you. You will spend the first two years working 2~3 jobs every semester to establish that "financial independence"; yes you will earn the nearly-impossible residence in the end, but it will have impact on your grade, and you will spend the next two years of college working very hard to pull up that GPA. So please, consider loans, perhaps even consider somewhere else. Because in the future you will always wonder, is the financial benefit really worth those precious years of youth that you'll never get back? Last but not least, that prom date of yours - ask him out!


Dear Carling, This is the improved you from the future. Sorry, it’s not a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts. I am here to bring you a glimpse of college life as I lived it. First of all, it will seem like all of your classmates are smarter than you. All the classes you choose (curse you) will require tremendous amounts of effort and dedication; physics class is especially evil. Your fear of writing and public speaking will torture you more than ever. However, some of your classmates and study buddies become your best friends. You will find that succeeding with others is far more satisfying than doing so alone. The amount of effort you put into learning is proportional to your appreciation of the topic. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. You will also begin to seek opportunities to overcome your fears. Writing and speaking never cease to scare you, but you still enjoy them. In college, seek to emerge with a better knowledge of yourself, a desire to improve the lives of others, and a greater degree of curiosity than before. Lastly, if nothing else, get seven hours of sleep every night and use sunscreen every day. Best, Carling


Explore before starting freshman year. Start thinking about what interests you, and what career options are affiliated with those interests. Start examining things that are important to you more than just a school name and location, such as do you like what the school has to offer, and do you feel like you could really grow there.


If I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior then I would have told myself to cherish going to high school instead of looking forward to getting out of it. I really regret not appreciating my small school enviornment and the simplicity of high school and the people and friends that I was so close to and also being able to come back home after school. Another thing I would have told my senior self was to not worry about my class ranking or gpa or SAT scores as much as I did because in the end nobody in college cares about what gpa or SAT score you had or what rank you were in High school.


College is not just an opportunity for you to escape the clutches of your parents. It is not a place where you can go wild and act irresponsibly. It is nothing like Hollywood's portrayal of college, where students are able to effortlessly balance binge drinking with their academic studies. College is a valuable opportunity that many young people are not able to experience. It is a luxury to be able to attend college. Your parents are making huge sacrifices for you to attend UC Berkeley, so you need to make the most of it. Do not base your college experience on going to huge frat parties, getting drunk, and chasing the sorority girls. Focus on your school work. You are attending a college with some of the most leading experts in their respective academic fields. Take advantage of it! This is a place where so many opportunities are available to you. Don't waste them by following everyone else in a pathetic attempt to live out the stereotypical college fantasy life. You have so much potential, but you must put forth the effort to live up to that potential.


I think the most important thing to remember is to really think about what you want to do on campus. In hindsight, I regret being extremely lazy my first two years. It is very important to get into student organizations (even if it is a fraternity or sorority), and stay in them, so that you can get an internship over the summers, and eventually arrive at a nice job. Berkeley has the resources to get you where you want to be, but the question resides in your dedication to your cause.


Always be open to changes and learn how to interact with different types of people. Start studying earlier and go to office hours as often as you get time. Go to social events because you will meet many people there who could become some of your closest friends. Try to visit home often and set aside time for research and volunteering. Have fun doing what you wouldn't normally do but nothing too dangerous.


To be completely honest, I'm very happy with where I have come in the past year. I would not tell my high school senior self to change much about how I went through the college application process. I finished all of my essays during the summer before senior year, and as soon as the year started, I asked teachers to read over my essays! I took part in various activities as a high school senior while juggling application and scholarship deadlines. I even applied for and received one of Cal's top scholarships, the Cal Alumni Leadership Award. I would tell my high school senior self to never give up, and to believe that the efforts I put in during those few months at the beginning of senior year will eventually pay off in the end. Also, I would tell my senior year self to enjoy senior year while it lasts, and make lots of friends, whether it may be with students from other schools nearby, teachers, younger students through tutoring, or underclassmen in high school; since when you visit your hometown again, it feels really great to catch up with so many familiar faces!


“Lesson 1: Know yourself. In high school, I was too worried about fitting in and not embracing myself as a whole. This affected my ability to learn and grow as an independent woman. This relates to Lesson 2: Know your passions. Once you understand what you value, you’ll be able to focus your energy on what is most important and you’ll have the confidence to voice your opinion. You will have many passions, and you will need to understand their hierarchy so that you do not risk overworking yourself. Hence, Lesson 3: Know your priorities. In college, you will have many opportunities, both academic and social. It is your duty to make sure that you are able to balance both. Learning this early in life will be useful because different stages in your life will always require a good balance. Lastly, Lesson 4: Have fun. While you will always be an overachiever, don’t let your future ambitions keep you from enjoying and fully experiencing the present moment. This is important in order to appreciate the hard work you are doing.” These are some of the things I would tell my high school senior self.