What is UC Berkeley Known For? Is UC Berkeley a Good School?

Founded in 1868, UC Berkeley was the original university of the University of California System, and the second-oldest university in California. 

Today, UC Berkeley is frequently featured atop lists of America’s greatest learning institutions, alongside titans like Harvard, Yale, and MIT.

The acceptance rate at UC Berkeley hovers around 15%, which is considerably competitive. 

In-state students attending Berkeley can expect to pay nearly $40,000 per year without financial aid, an amount which is reduced to nearly $14,000 after admitted students receive their financial aid packages. Out-of-state students can anticipate paying nearly $70,000 per year.

Since its founding, UC Berkeley has witnessed its faculty and students take part in groundbreaking research and discovery

In 1887, earth science professors were the first to record seismographic activity along the San Andreas fault. Biochemist William Stanley invented the flu vaccine in the 1940s. 

Several decades later, physics professor and Nobel Prize winner Luis Alvarez proposed the now generally accepted idea that an asteroid struck Earth 65 million years ago, resulting in a dramatic environmental and climate shift and the extinction of the dinosaurs. 

Most recently, professor Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues discovered a cost-effective method for cutting DNA and inserting it into human cells.

There seems to be a prevailing understanding and excitement about the limitless potential for research discovery across the many disciplines at UC Berkeley. 

Ahead, we’ll discuss the school’s most popular majors in more depth before sharing information about the school’s assets, extracurricular programs, sports, social scene, and traditions.

What Majors & Academics Are UC Berkeley Known For?

UC Berkeley
Louis H. G., Memorial Glade, July 2018, CC BY-SA 4.0

If you were to randomly select four students attending UC Berkeley, one of them would be pursuing a degree in the social sciences. The Social Science department represents the largest program at UC Berkeley, hiring 20% of faculty members.

Students invested in the social sciences are committed to learning how past and present humans have managed their lives, intending to use that information to resolve some of the world’s enduring conflicts.

Computer and information sciences ranks as the next most-popular major, with 12% of undergraduates endeavoring to obtain a degree in that department. 

There are two ways that students can seek a Computer Science degree at UC Berkeley. Most gain admittance to the Engineering and Computer Sciences major as first-year students (a highly competitive process).

Biological and Biomedical Science majors account for 10% of UC Berkeley’s undergraduate population. 

UC Berkeley is considered one of the top locations for pursuing a biological sciences degree in California, and the school awards over 1,000 degrees in that subject per year.

There are several research units where students work with faculty to develop breakthroughs in technology, sustainability, and genetics, among other areas. 

One particularly impressive unit is the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases (CEND), whose mission is inherent in the name. 

CEND is currently collaborating with another research unit – the Cancer Research Laboratory (CRL) – to implement the Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative, an effort that seeks to discover new modes of treating cancer.

The research units within the biological sciences department are indicative of a hands-on experience that many students will experience in their time spent in the classroom.

Is UC Berkeley a Good School?

UC Berkeley
Firstcultural, UC-Berkeley-022-memorial-glade, CC0 1.0

UC Berkeley is one of the best schools in the nation – #22, in fact, according to the 2022 Best Colleges edition by the U.S. News. 

They also ranked #1 in Computer Science, #2 in Top Public Schools, #2 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs, and #3 in Business Programs.

Students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses tend to gravitate to UC Berkeley, renowned for its excellence in those disciplines.

One of the best aspects of US Berkeley is its commitment to the acceptance of people from diverse backgrounds. 

The school can be described as mostly liberal, nonreligious, and independent, but students of varying beliefs partake in congenial, intellectual conversations throughout the day. It is not normal, in other words, for a student to feel discriminated against based on their identity.

UC Berkeley also earns kudos for their commitment to providing financial aid. Over one in five incoming first-year students, and nearly half of UC Berkeley transfer students receive Pell Grants and accelerate within the learning environment. 

Typically, a UC Berkeley graduate will earn sufficient income to repay their college investment in less than a year and a half!

UC Berkeley’s demonstrated dedication to academics, acceptance, and accessibility recently earned them the #1 spot on Forbes magazine’s college rankings – the first time a public university has attained that status. 

Researchers were able to show that public schools like UC Berkeley play a significant role in supporting intergenerational income mobility, an oft-purported goal of a liberal arts education.

UC Berkeley Traditions

UC Berkeley is home to a variety of traditions and superstitions. From engaging in finals week rituals to football game stunts, students at UC Berkeley have historically proven their ability to infuse more spirit in any kind of campus event!

Let’s begin with the most “innocent” of practices – don’t step on the seal! There are three university seals engraved at Memorial Glade, and if an oblivious student accidentally treads across the seal, it is told that they will not be able to earn a 4.0 GPA that semester! 

The only way to rectify this situation is to run over to the 4.0 Ball and kiss or caress it. Naturally.

Speaking of a 4.0 GPA, academics at UC Berkeley are highly competitive, so it’s not strange to think that students there would engage in bizarre activities to increase their odds. 

During midterms and finals week, it is not uncommon to see desperate students rolling down 4.0 Hill. 

Other ways to incur good fortune include walking under Athena (the Goddess of Wisdom) at the entrance to the Doe Library and yelling for Hugo, a former university president’s dog who ran away before finals. 

If you hear undergraduates shouting “Hugo!” at the top of their lungs during finals week, don’t be startled – it is totally normal within the UC Berkeley residence halls.

Of course, what would a college tradition be without involving some sort of physical challenge? UC Berkeley students go on a climb for two separate traditions – the hike to the Big C or a trek up to the Campanile, which offers gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay.

It’s at the UC Berkeley football games where the most outrageous traditions are carried out. Stanford is UC Berkeley’s biggest rival, and you’re in big trouble if you wear red to the Big Game.

Before the Big Game, the UC Berkeley Rally Committee puts on a large bonfire party that draws thousands of students. 

Make sure to check to get a selfie with Oski, the bear mascot, off of your UC Berkeley BINGO card, and revel in the firing of the California Victory Cannon when the Golden Bears win!

One of the coolest traditions at UC Berkeley football games is their card stunts. Back in 1908, students at the Big Game started wearing letters on the inside of their caps, reversing them during pivotal moments to display a message. 

Today, students show just as much creativity and enthusiasm as their predecessors, showing up with witty, hilarious sayings at each game.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at UC Berkeley

Haviland Hall, University of California, Berkeley
Sanfranman59, Haviland Hall (Berkeley, CA), CC BY-SA 3.0

There are many ways for students to get involved in extracurricular activities at UC Berkeley. A great place to start is by attending Calapalooza, a bi-annual student involvement fair that seeks to connect members of UC Berkeley’s 1,000+ student clubs, 60 fraternities and sororities, and student government entities.  

Like to bond over food? Join the Potluck Club, where members prepare dishes from a diverse array of global cuisines. Students who join Solar Spring Break get the opportunity to travel and gain experience installing solar panels in different countries.

Other groups like Lean On Me are dedicated to providing anonymous peer support to Berkeley students who may be dealing with mental health challenges. 

Blending academics with fun, Aerospace SAE designs and builds remote-controlled aircraft to compete in the SAE International Aero-design Competition – there really is a group for everyone at UC Berkeley!

Greek life is a large part of the social and philanthropic scene at UC Berkeley. Approximately one out of every three students is a member of a fraternity or sorority. 

Members of the Greek community are especially committed to upholding campus traditions and organizing some of the school’s biggest events, including Welcome Week, Homecoming, and Trick or Greek during Halloween.

There are also plenty of things to do in downtown Berkeley, and the BART is an easy and often-used mode of transportation. 

The same student might be found meeting up with friends in a local coffeehouse, hiking an outdoor trail, and attending a frat party later that night. Of course, academics do come first, but this group of students knows how to work hard and play hard.

What Sports Are UC Berkeley Known For?

UC Berkeley is a member of the Pacific 12 Conference – almost 1,000 students compete in varsity sports at the college, receiving a little over $12,000 each in sports-related financial aid. 

Men’s football is definitely the most popular sport at UC Berkeley and brings in the most revenue out of all the sports in the athletic department.  

It may be a surprise to learn that crew is another major sport at UC Berkeley; in fact, crew was the school’s first organized sport back in 1868. 

Members of UC Berkeley’s men’s crew team have won over 15 national championships and competed as members of the U.S.A. Olympic team on three separate occasions!

The women’s volleyball team also bears a successful record, having frequently competed in the NCAA Division I Tournament. 

Volleyball great Carli Lloyd, along with athletes like Maddie Haynes and Jenelle Jordan, are all Golden Bears who eventually moved on from the college to play professional volleyball.

UC Berkeley also offers three varieties of intramural sports leagues: co-rec, open, and women-only. 

Co-rec leagues stipulate a minimum number of female and male players on the field or court at all times. Open leagues have no gender-related restrictions, and women-only leagues are self-explanatory. 

Variability among players within one league is to be expected, so the UC Berkeley intramural sports are also offered at three different levels: A, B, and C. Level A is Premier/Advanced, and made up of highly skilled athletes with considerable playing experience. 

Level B is Competitive, with more of a mix of playing experience (most students in intramurals play at this level).

C-level is Recreational, and players aren’t as concerned with winning as they are about having fun, meeting new people, and maybe even learning some new skills. 

From dodgeball and ultimate frisbee to 5 x 5 basketball and speed soccer, there are many different ways to stay active on UC Berkeley’s campus.

Why UC Berkeley?

Academics, acceptance, accessibility. UC Berkeley is one of the best public institutions in the nation and world, offering highly-pursued programs in computer science, biological sciences, and the social sciences. 

UC Berkeley is also considered to be one of the most diverse and inclusive universities in the nation. 

In the last few years, the school has continued to surpass its previous percentage for minority student representation. In the 2021-2022 academic year, UC Berkeley admitted just over 16,000 students, many of which are from diverse backgrounds.

UC Berkeley offers a valuable education for California students, in particular, at an attainable cost. Within nearly two-thirds of undergraduate students qualifying for financial aid, UC Berkeley grants funds to over 60%.

Students looking for a diverse social milieu, intellectually challenging academic environment, and abundance of nearby attractions and activities will gravitate to a campus like UC Berkeley.

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