School Profile: These UC Berkeley Traditions Will Make You Want to Apply

The University of California, Berkeley, also known as UC Berkeley and Cal, is ranked #20 on the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings. Cal is a public research university founded in 1868, and located on a 1,232 acre campus overlooking San Francisco Bay. It is home to over 25,000 undergraduate students and 10,000 graduate students in 14 colleges, including professional schools and graduate programs.

Cal has long been known for student activism. In 1964 students began the Free Speech Movement in response to the university’s attempts to rid the campus of student political groups when they were active in the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements of the 1960s. UC Berkeley students have a long history of political involvement.

The oldest of the ten universities in the UC system, UC Berkeley boasts 72 Nobel Laureates and 11 Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni, faculty, and researchers. The university, where excellence is the standard, offers 350 degree programs, including 106 undergraduate degrees. With a mix of liberal arts, research, and professional programs for students to choose from, the most popular majors by student enrollment are electrical engineering and computer science. The university is well-known for its political science department too. This top-notch research university offers students countless opportunities to be involved in meaningful research across the disciplines with some of the best minds in the country. Take note that Cal is one of two universities in the UC system that is on a semester schedule.

Campus life at UC Berkeley is what the student makes of it, but the opportunities for social engagement are nearly endless. Three-quarters of students live off-campus, and a full 90% are involved in Greek life. Besides campus dorms, the university sponsors 20 off-campus housing options. Students can choose from themed houses – LGBT, vegetarian, all-female and others, or choose by community size, small, medium, or large houses; students can also choose from sponsored apartments. There are 65 Greek campus affiliates – many with housing.

Where you choose to live may be one way to find your niche in this super-sized campus experience. Independent, self-motivated extroverts will find their niche here and thrive; introverts may find campus life at Cal overwhelming and indifferent. Cal is not the place to go if you need hand-holding, but if you’re confident in yourself and what you want, and you thrive on challenges, then Cal should be on your short-list.

The UC Berkeley Golden Bears are an NCAA Division I program in the Pac-12 Conference, and have 29 men’s and women’s sports teams. Athletic competitions are held at California Memorial Stadium, known for its fantastic views, Haas Pavillion, Evans Diamond, and Edwards Stadium. The storied Golden Bears have accrued 16 national titles and over 90 team titles in their athletic history. Their longstanding rivalry with Stanford University is a spillover of the academic rivalry between one of the best public universities and one of the best private universities in the country. In each sport, the rivalry is marked by “The Big (fill in the blank).” For example, in football it’s The Big Game, The Big Spike is in volleyball, and so on. The two schools play for The Stanford Axe in football every year. If you love sports or are Division I student-athlete material, you’ll find plenty of enthusiasm here.

Cal has a rich history of traditions, many of them centered around athletics. The Big C visible from Memorial Stadium was put on Charter Hill and has been inspiring Cal athletes and their fans since 1907; it is maintained by The Rally Committee. The California Victory Cannon on Tightwad Hill above Memorial Stadium is fired at the beginning of every home football game, after every home score, and at the end of each home victory. Oski, Cal’s athletic mascot, has appeared at every home game since 1941.

Big Game Week is the most popular tradition at Cal with all kinds of activities that precede The Big Game with rival Stanford. Card stunts in the Cal rooting section of Memorial Stadium have been spelling out witty and enthusiastic messages during games since 1908. The Stanford Axe that was captured at a baseball game in 1899 was held hostage by UC Berkeley for 31 years, only coming out annually to rally students for The Big Game; now the winning school takes it home each year. There are other traditions that continue at Cal, but many more than have gone by the wayside over the years. You may be a part of new Golden Bears traditions, if UC Berkeley is right for you.

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By Colleen Hill