Deciding on Berkeley

Airplane takeoff with sunrise in background
An airplane leaving from Washington-Dulles International Airport

“Out-of-state.” It’s a label placed on me by the Berkeley Financial Aid Office and a label I impose on myself in social circles. In fact, no term could better characterize my Berkeley experience. I have flown back-and-forth from Baltimore to Berkeley numerous times over the past 3.5 years. Berkeley is over 2,400 miles away from my home on the East Coast, and everything from the weather to the culture is vastly different. Sometimes people ask if I took the opportunity to study abroad while at Berkeley, and I always say that, while I technically didn’t, it feels as if I have been abroad for eight semesters.

When I applied to college, I did not take the traditional route. Many of my friends in high school applied to somewhere between 7 and 9 colleges, predominantly in the Boston-South Carolina corridor. I, on the other hand, applied to 19 colleges and universities from New Hampshire to Georgia to Texas to Indiana, and, of course, out to California. I had no particular “Number 1” choice school in mind. Sure, there were some colleges I was drawn to more than others, but no specific university stood out. Instead, the most dominant factor in choosing where to apply was not how much I liked the school, but how different it was from everything I had ever known.

I grew up in a Catholic family and attended Catholic school from K-12. In Baltimore, if you are Catholic, the high school you attend is very important for networking and your future career. In Catholic Baltimore, it is not so much which Maryland college you graduated from, but which Baltimore area high school you spent your formative years at. Indeed, even outside of Baltimore, I believe I attended one of the few high schools in the world with alumni chapter events across the United States. Considering the community my high school brought me into, and that I was excited and grateful to have for the rest of my life, I figured college would be an excellent opportunity to spread my wings to learn more about both others and myself.

When my admissions decisions came back in April, I was confused. I had been waitlisted at Berkeley, and the colleges I was admitted to all had significant drawbacks for me.  Luckily, in early May, I was accepted off of the waitlist at Berkeley, and I submitted my deposit to attend within ten minutes of receiving my acceptance (it took a while to find the credit card).

On paper, one may wonder why someone like me would choose Berkeley. I had never visited. No one from my high school had gone in over a decade. I would fly hours away from a community I loved. I was even the President of the Young Republicans club! I took a chance on Berkeley because it took a chance on me. Now I can write, almost four years later, that although I could have never remotely predicted what my college experience would turn out to be, I would not have wanted to experience it anywhere but Berkeley. Go Bears!