Well, it’s that time of the year again: college decisions are out. My younger sister just went through all of the lows and highs associated with this process and I have been fortunate enough to be home during all of this, sharing in both her excitement and disappointment. As a current second year student, it was a great opportunity to reflect on my own journey to Cal.
I don’t remember a whole lot about opening the decision, other than the numbness that came with it: neither a rejection nor an acceptance. I’d wanted to go to Cal for as long as I could remember and to be waitlisted almost felt like a slap in the face at the time. But I now know that it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
After being waitlisted at Cal and accepted by a few other schools, I did the sensible thing and committed to another school. Where my story deviates from many waitlisted stories you’ll hear is that I had committed to a completely different life than the one I would build at Cal: I would have been on the opposite coast majoring in industrial engineering instead of being an environmental major a day’s drive from home. At the time, it felt like what I wanted. It made sense, it was easy, it was mine.
I do remember very clearly the moment I knew I’d gotten into Cal. When I’d gotten waitlisted, I’d been informed of a specific date to expect an update. Seeing an email from UC Berkeley a month before that date could only mean one thing: I’d gotten in. I didn’t even let myself breathe as I opened my admissions portal and confirmed what I already knew. What was I going to do now?
I had seven days to decide. For three of those days, I was staying with the decision I’d made a month before. Changing my entire life plan didn’t make sense, even if Cal was what I’d wanted for so long. But there was something nagging at me the entire time: making me talk to teachers, friends, family to find a reason to change my mind.
Then everything changed. I was sitting in my Environmental Studies class, looking over the College of Natural Resources website and vaguely paying attention to the documentary I was being shown. My eye caught a phrase on the website: the CNR motto, “see the bigger picture, make a better world.” I sat in stunned silence, glancing at the coral documentary that was being shown in my class. It was then that I realized that I had to go to Cal. It wasn’t a choice for me as much as it was an imperative. Within three hours, I had committed to Cal and my life’s course was forever changed.
Now at Cal, being a student taken off the waitlist did bring me a little bit of embarrassment at first. I kept reminding myself that everyone ended up at the same place, so why did it even matter? I was on the traditional pathway, anyway, so it really made very little difference. It wasn’t until I began talking to fellow waitlisted people that I realized not only does it not matter, but that I was able to connect with these people on a deeper level because of this shared experience. One of my friends and I ended up bonding over it, which sparked one of my closest friendships at Cal!
More importantly, though, I am incredibly grateful that I was waitlisted. Being put in a position where I reevaluated one of my biggest, most life altering choices was exactly what I needed. It forced me to think critically about what I wanted out of life and to follow what I was passionate about. I would have chosen Cal without a second thought if I had gotten in on the traditional time frame and getting to actively choose Cal is part of what has made being here so wonderful. I am very lucky to have had that opportunity.
After being at Cal the last two years, I know I made the right decision. CNR has been one of the most supportive, uplifting atmospheres and Cal as a whole has been where I have found so much joy and love. I am taking classes that are interesting to me (shout out to Professor Jonas Meckling’s Climate and Energy Policy Class!), doing things that I know are making the world a better place, and being truly, blissfully myself. I even picked up a double major, Geography! Brief side note: Anyone who does come here, I highly encourage you to take a class in the Geography department. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised 🙂 I never would have found that if I hadn’t gone into Cal heart and eyes wide open.
All this to say, everything works out the way it is supposed to. So for those bears at heart who are still not sure if they will end up here, who are waiting to come here, be patient. It will work out. I encourage you all to think really deeply about what you want out of life in the upcoming weeks, to allow yourself to follow your passion, whatever it takes. I love Cal and even during this tumultuous time a part of my heart will always be there, doing everything it can to see the bigger picture and make a better world.
~Kaelyn Schlegel, UC Berkeley Class of 2022, Society & Environment BS + Geography BA 34.4480° N, 119.2429° W
If you’re interested in learning more about some of what I talked about, here are a few links 🙂