The Myth of “ONE” Best Fit University

Maybe you applied to 10 schools and got into all of them! Congratulations!

Perhaps you were waitlisted to Berkeley, accepted your offer elsewhere, and now you got in to Berkeley! Now what?

Maybe you didn’t get into the schools you hoped for and are now overwhelmed as you compare and contrast your options.

As a college senior reflecting on the college decisions process, I think the college decision was too overhyped for me. I remember my thoughts that kept me up at night, trying to search for a sign that would reveal the school that was the one. Committing to a location and university for four years is daunting— but your unique soul and spirit are stronger than the transformation that any one university can do to you. I’ve spent time immersed in two undergraduate environments and come to realize that both would have been fantastic options, not one better than the other.

Katia holding instagram cut out on Cal Day in Sproul Plaza
The day I decided to go to Cal!

For context, I spent my childhood assuming I would attend UC Santa Barbara someday. My mom went there and ever since I was little I felt an emotional pull to this beachy region of California– I had to be talked into even applying to any other schools. I surprised everyone, especially myself, when I ended up choosing UC Berkeley over UCSB for a handful of good reasons.

Fast forward four years and I took advantage of online classes to move next to the UCSB campus, where I have been for the past year. Everyday I wake up and take Berkeley classes and give virtual tours online, but when I leave my apartment to go out and interact with people from a distance, I am essentially living the life of a UCSB student. I am super happy to be here and I feel like I really belong in this town where the sun is on my skin and the ocean steps away. But if I’m being honest? I belong at Berkeley, just as much, if not more.

Both university environments fostered positive growth in my undergraduate years. My home for the last few years was Berkeley, CA, and I knew it because I could feel my heart tug at the sight of the Campanile after returning from a trip. I recently felt that same tug when I left Santa Barbara for the weekend and returned to our beautiful beaches and mountains, knowing this was home now. At Berkeley, I grew immensely by being academically stretched, gaining wonderful mentors, and encountering and overcoming failure. At “UCSB” I have learned to balance my work with time spent outdoors,  and have spent a lot of independent time soul searching for my future path.

On paper, both Berkeley and UCSB are large research institutions, have a dynamic student body, and have club opportunities with lots of overlap. In my physical experience, I spent a little over 2 years living in Berkeley and 1 in Santa Barbara, I couldn’t tell you which one was the right choice. Both schools would have been a really, really great fit.

And so this is not to say you should take your college decision lightly. Many students will end up transferring schools after a year, drop out, or suffer through a poor fit school. But if you are looking for the stars to align to show you the one school meant for you, just go ahead and take a chance on one! You will come out a slightly different person based on your decision, but you will become an enlightened, worldly adult whichever way you go.

Someday we will have to commit to a career, a future partner, or to a geographical location, and like your college decisions these will be huge decisions but with multiple right options. This isn’t a multiple choice question with one answer, but rather a question that lets you select several right answers. So best of luck to you, don’t sweat it, and maybe we will see you on campus in the fall!

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Author: Katia Gibson

Hello! I'm Katia, a senior chemistry major and Cal Teach minor, and you'll either find me in the 24 hour library studying or out chasing sunsets on my long runs. I'm a Bay Area native and I also do work in the environmental community, research in an organic chemistry lab, and dance with Ballet Folklorico Reflejos de Mexico. Hoping that I can share a little bit of Berkeley's magic with you all, go bears!