A Student Review of University of California-Berkeley

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Aakash is a San Francisco-Bay Area tutor and 2013 graduate of University of California-Berkeley. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health and Psychology and tutors several subjects, specializing in Algebra tutoring, Geometry tutoring, and Physics tutoring. Check out what Aakash had to say about his time at University of California-Berkeley:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Aakash: University of California-Berkeley’s campus is rich, in all senses of the word – with various extracurricular opportunities and countless classes, spans of green grass and nature, and some of the best food! I would describe the campus as more urban than rural. While there is a lot to do in the city of Berkeley, as with most places, there are places that a student should avoid at night for safety reasons.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Aakash: In my experience, teaching assistants are almost always available to meet and help you whenever you are stuck on an assignment or are having a difficult time in class. However, with academic advisers and professors, it varies. Some professors tell you to email them to set up an appointment, while others hold regular office hours. With academic advisers, it really depends on what your major is and what college you are in. The larger colleges, such as the College of Letters & Science, do usually have a long wait to meet with academic advisers. If you are in a smaller college, the wait is sometimes shorter. If you have already declared your major, it is usually easier to meet with your academic adviser.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Aakash: The dorm life was awesome! It was a great way to meet new people and make many new friends beginning in freshman year. While the rooms are pretty small at University of California-Berkeley, it was not that much of a problem, considering that you are always out and about somewhere. The dining options varied depending on the place you went to eat and the time of day, but there are always great options throughout the city.

Since a lot of people live together in a dorm, it is very easy to socialize and interact with other students. Even outside the dorm (through extracurricular activities like clubs and organizations), University of California-Berkeley is very friendly.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Aakash: Some majors that I think are best represented and supported are Engineering, Business, and Computer Science. I decided to study Public Health and Psychology, while also taking the prerequisite courses to apply to medical school. I was interested in the preventative, upstream approach of medicine, while also concerned with how behavior and cognition influence it. I found that the university did a good job in supporting my particular area of study, and it provided me with a strong foundation to build on both inside and outside of the classroom.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Aakash: Given the closeness of the dorms and the various Welcome Week activities, I would say that it was very easy for me to meet people and make friends as a freshman. Some of my closest friends to this day are people who I had the opportunity to meet during my freshman year.

Greek life plays a significant role in the campus social life. Over 80% of students are involved in some type of fraternity or sorority.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Aakash: I utilized the Career Center once to look over my resume and to help with writing my medical school personal statement. Although I never attended the job fairs on campus, I know that many reputable companies come out to recruit students for internships and post-graduate jobs.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Aakash: It varies. Libraries get very crowded during dead week. However, throughout the year, space is available. When libraries get crowded, there are also other spaces within other buildings for students to study in.

Dorm lounges are usually spacious and easily accessible, but they are not always the quietest study locations. The campus also has many cafes with lots of space (and free wifi) for students to study in. The same is true of the city.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Aakash: The campus is situated in the heart of the city of Berkeley. Many great restaurants, bars, and parks/trails are a short walk or bike ride away. Berkeley is also conveniently located a bus ride away from Oakland and a BART ride away from San Francisco. This makes it easy to get away if you are getting tired of campus. My friends and I have definitely gone to the city on Friday nights to get away.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Aakash: The student body is fairly large, and the typical class size can vary depending on the course. If it is a class that everyone wants to take, it can get to be about 700 people! However, we always have discussion groups of about 20-25 people, which allow for individuals to share and discuss the course content, as well as go over material in a smaller setting. While it is easy to get lost in the sheer numbers of the university, the large volume presents countless opportunities for work, study, and fun.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Aakash: To fulfill an Arts and Literature requirement, I signed up for a Music of India course. Not knowing what to expect, I showed up to class on the first day and learned that we would be critically analyzing classical Indian music throughout the term. With no musical background, I was terrified. I spoke with the professor, and she assured me that no experience was necessary and that it would be a fun way for both of us to learn something more about music. I took her advice and decided to stick with the class. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and she quickly became one of my favorite professors in college. It was particularly fun working with her to write my final paper in the course, which analyzed the similarities between modern electronic music and traditional Indian classical music.

Check out Aakash's tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.