Congratulations, high school seniors! You’ve survived 4 years of hard work, a grueling college application season, and the agonizing waiting period before decisions are released in March. Whether you applied to Berkeley or elsewhere, pause and give yourself a pat on the back – taking the first step toward higher education is a huge accomplishment and you deserve to be proud of yourself.
Most people I knew had a decision to make at the end of their college admissions process. Some were lucky enough to have a clear choice. However many schools you’re choosing between, here are a few tips that helped me as I was coming to my decision, and how you can apply these to yours!
First off, I eliminated schools that were out of my price range. I had a long discussion with my parents about budgeting for college, so I understood how much they were able to contribute and what costs I would have to come up with on my own. Talking about money is hard, but it’s important to be as upfront as you can about it, so you can go into your higher education career with a clear idea of how you’re paying for it. I’m fortunate to be from California, so in-state tuition at a public school is hard to beat, and all 3 of my top choices from this point on were public California colleges.
Next, I took a deep dive into the locations of my top three choices. For me, being near the coast was very important – I love the ocean, even the foggy, unswimmable SF Bay! I also am a huge fan of live music, so I knew I wanted to be close to as many concert venues as possible to see my favorite artists while they toured. Concert venues usually are near big cities, and the Bay Area arguably is one of the best places for this (U.C. Berkeley has one on campus, the Greek Theater, where I saw Phoebe Bridgers back in September)! Berkeley also had good weather and access to plenty of hiking trails, and spending time outside is one of my favorite things to do, so I knew it would be a great fit for me.
Next, I compared programs for my major between my last 2 picks. If you don’t know what you want to major in yet, no problem! Check out the process of declaring majors with each of your choices, including how easy it is to explore other options if your initial choice turns out not to be the best fit for you. I knew I wanted to do Biology from the get-go, which made this process pretty easy. This is a great time to reach out to current students and ask about their experiences with their majors; how hard the classes are, what career-building opportunities are available, and what specialties are offered. Berkeley’s Molecular & Cell Biology program had an Immunology & Pathogenesis concentration, and I knew I wanted to work with infectious diseases, so this was a huge selling point for me.
Finally, consider the student life at each school. This is arguably the most important step; ask yourself if you see yourself enjoying the campus culture! For this part, I attended the admitted students days at each of my top choices to see what the campus was like and interact with current students. Cal Day is what ultimately sold me on Berkeley – the school spirit, vibrant surrounding city, and thriving student organization culture was exactly what I was looking for in a University. I toured the dorms, tried the dining hall food, and walked around the classrooms that I would be taking courses in. Something inside me knew that this was the place I would be able to grow the most in who I am, and become the best version of myself, and I went home and paid the deposit that night.
Choosing your future school is a big decision, but ultimately you will create your college experience, regardless of where you end up. I hope my story and the lessons I’ve learned will help to alleviate a little bit of the stress that comes with this season. Go bears!