During the week of May 11th I took the educated quest west to give a talk, visit my brother and check out four Northern California schools. My visit to the University of California-Berkeley was the shortest. I had already been to the campus ten years before. It had not changed much although a new student union is under construction.
I wrote a shorter set of observations about the University of California-Berkeley than I usually do, although I have also made a Pinterest page. For one thing, you don’t get to see the whole campus on the tour, nor do you get to peek inside a residence hall as you might at other universities. It was finals time that week, which might have explained why my tour group did not get to see a residence hall.
Since starting EducatedQuest I have not seen a university distribute less admissions marketing information to visitors than this one. My suggestion to those who are seriously interested in the University of California-Berkeley: check out the CalFacts brochure on the school’s Web site. This is the book that I should have gotten from the tour, but didn’t. The university does not make it easy to find, so I gave you the link. The data about the achievements and achievers of the University of California-Berkeley could convince anyone that the school is as close to the Ivy League as a public university can get. Excellence through the past and present is this school’s major selling point. Excellence runs throughout the faculty, the students, student activities and career development.
I found the Berkeley campus very nice, respectful of its history from the outside. The Campanile is especially impressive. But walk inside various administrative and academic buildings on the core campus and you can get the feeling that “this is an old place.” That feeling starts at the admissions visitors center.
I realize that some might believe that a school with such a laudatory past does not need a flashy front door to show prospective students, especially one that educates in-state students at a very reasonable price. The Californians who are interested in Berkeley might not mind. But those who come from other states are being asked to pay tuition and fees close to those of private universities. If an admissions office wants more of those people, especially those who come from families who can pay full pay, then it has to make a stronger impression.
The University of California-Berkeley will offer an excellent student all that s/he can ask for academically, as long as s/he can accept that fact that it’s a big place, with almost twice as many undergraduates (around 25,000) as Cornell, the largest Ivy League school. The introductory classes in the popular majors will be huge. Further, you have to make friends early in university housing in order to move off campus the next year.
But among cities of similar size (around 112,000 residents), Berkeley’s access to mass transit and to a major destination city for young people has no equal. However, with mobility and an urban feel comes higher housing prices and higher levels of crime.
The University of California-Berkeley will always be an aspirational school as well as a great value for residents of the Golden State who are fortunate to gain admission. But the charges for non-residents are too high, especially when there are selective private universities that are smaller and more willing to offer financial aid for those who really need it.
Ed’s Report Card: University of California-Berkeley
- 4-Year/6-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: California Residents A/Non-Residents C
- Comforts: C+
- Community: A
- Curriculum: A
- Connections: A