Sunday, February 11, 2018

Why Berkeley Engineering??

Why choose Berkeley Engineering over a private liberal arts college or university?

1)  Berkeley maintains a strong reputation as one of the best engineering programs in the U.S.  A Berkeley B.S. really means something on the job market.
2) With its eight undergraduate departments: Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer Sciences, Engineering Science, Industrial & Operations Research, Materials Science , Mechanical, and Nuclear, the program is comprehensive and well-run.  It’s direct entry, so students don’t have to compete for coveted spots once admitted; it has its own engineering advisors so students don’t have to wait weeks for appointments
3) The engineering school boasts excellent facilities, specialized labs and libraries, up to date lecture halls: lecture halls have rotating stages and web cams for live streaming; the engineering library is a collaborative space for project work. Plus, the campus is beautiful, with many lovely, tucked away places for studying or just enjoying the scenery.
4) Berkeley students are active and involved.  At Sproul Plaza you can browse over 1,000 clubs and organizations to join from academic to service to performing arts; the LEAD Center is dedicated to developing student involvement and leadership, and students can choose living and social options from fraternities and sororities (12% of students) to co-ops (17 houses.)
5) A Berkeley undergraduate education costs roughly half that of a private school (roughly $36,000 cost of attendance).  The value is unbeatable!

Why not?
1) Class sizes are huge—500 or more for the first two years and upper division classes are still around 100 students.  TAs or grad students lead all the sectionals so contact with faculty can be rare.
2) As a result of the large classes and overall enrollment, students may have difficulty establishing close relationships with professors and may lack mentors to support them towards graduate school.
3) Housing can be a hassle.  While over 90% of freshmen live in campus residences, housing is not guaranteed, and after freshman year, finding affordable and safe housing can be tricky.
4) The city of Berkeley can seem overwhelming and “gritty” to students raised in the suburbs.  Not everyone loves Berkeley’s quirky, liberal vibe.
5) Berkeley Engineering is highly selective.  Because direct admission rates are so low (about 8% for the whole school and 4-5% percent for EECs and Bio-Engineering applying to an engineering major at Berkeley may mean a rejection over applying to a less impacted major.  It is very difficult, and not recommended to try to transfer in to engineering after matriculating.

*A final note: Students selected as Regent Scholars can access the best of both public and private educations: faculty mentoring, special research opportunities, 4 years of guaranteed housing, and priority registration.  If selected as a Regent, definitely go for it!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Going Beyond the Typical Campus Tour

The more campuses I tour, the more I realize I need to go “below the surface” of a typical college visit.  Otherwise, I come away from the experience learning little about what it’s like to actually be a student at that school.  If you are planning to visit colleges during an upcoming school break it’s especially important not to visit too many schools back to back and to find ways to distinguish one campus from another. 

Here are some tips for going beyond the typical campus tour:
---Be sure to ask the tour guide some specific questions about her/his own experience as a student.
---Eat lunch in a campus cafeteria and approach students who are eating there with questions.  Most will be happy to share their experience.
---Beforehand, arrange a tour with an admissions officer.  You can search the school website to find out the name of your local college representative.  If he/she is not available, another staff member may be happy to meet you.
---Research your potential major and email a professor in the department, or the department administrator, about possibly setting up a visit when you are on campus.
---Contact a current student, a family friend, acquaintance, or alumnus from your high school and arrange to meet on campus. 
As you plan your campus visits, be sure to allow some “down time” to relax and re-group between each one or two tours.  Jot down your impressions while they are still fresh in your memory.  Taking photos can also help jog your memory later.

I hope you enjoy your visits—as well as experience a little of genuine campus life for students.
Index of Peninsula College Advising Campus Tour Blog Posts from 2013-2017:
These are summaries of college tours I have taken in the past four years. 

                  1)  Stanford vs. Cal
            2) Brown University
            3) Amherst College and Mt. Holyoke College
            4) Dartmouth College and Middlebury College
            5) Tufts University and Harvard University
            6) Dos and Don't for College Visits
            7) UC Davis
            8) NYU and Columbia University
            9) Santa Clara University
          10) Claremont Colleges
          11) Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
          12) Emory University
          13) Sonoma State University
          14) St. Mary's College of California
          15) Bates, Bowdoin and Colby in Maine
          16) Boston College and Boston University
          17) Dominican University, San Rafael
          18) University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
          19) George Washington University and American University


Monday, October 23, 2017

D.C. Universities for Poli Sci and IR wonks—George Washington and American

I just returned from several days spent in Washington, D.C. where I toured two campuses known for their programs in politics and international affairs.  Both schools offer attractive opportunities for students wishing to explore a variety of majors in the context of our nation’s political epicentre, but their atmospheres and advantages differ.  Here are my impressions:

My tour guide on a lovely, fall October morning was a junior International Relations major from my hometown of San Carlos.  Enthusiastic and informative, she showed a group of prospectives from all over the country around the bustling Foggy Bottom Campus, a stone’s throw from the State Department and the National Mall, where the ultimate Frisbee team holds its practices.  The George Washington University Hospital is located right at the Metro stop making it easily accessible for pre-meds who seek health volunteering opportunities. Our guide gushed about opportunities to hear lectures from famous politicians at the Elliott School of International Affairs, joining a sorority (one third of GW students are active in Greek life) and the perk of private bathrooms in all student housing.  She also enrolled in a financial literacy class at the business school where she completed a project teaching financial literacy to middle school students through helping them run a lemonade stand.  Next term our guide will study abroad in Spain—about 40% of GW students study abroad during their undergraduate career.
Some highlights of George Washington’s programs and statistics:
--Students enroll in a primary school at GW selecting from one of seven choices: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts and Design, the School of Media and Public Affairs, the School of International Affairs, the School of Public Health, Engineering and Business.
--GW has a second campus called Mt. Vernon, about 2 ½ miles north of Foggy Bottom, a more traditional, quieter suburban environment where students can either live or take classes and the locus for some of GW’s signature programs like Women’s Leadership and University Honors.
--The Global Bachelor’s program offers students a chance to study abroad for up to three semesters to gain international experience and adapt to different cultures.  It starts spring semester sophomore year with a term at Fudan University in Shanghai.
--GW is a large school, about 10,000 undergraduates; its current admission rate is about 46%, and its price tag is pretty high, though it does offer significant merit aid for high performing students.  3 years of on campus housing are guaranteed.
I visited American University rather early on a Saturday morning so the contrast in atmosphere I felt with GW was perhaps exaggerated.  However, the campus is removed from the hustle-bustle of D. C., as it is located several Metro stops NW in the area called Tenleytown.  I walked through a leafy, upscale neighborhood passing a few diverse groups of students to approach the campus. There I strolled through a lovely, green quad surrounded by modern and traditional buildings and residence halls.  Like GW, American’s stellar programs include political science and international studies as well as communications.  Though not physically in the center of the capital, American nonetheless brings many big names on campus to speak and as visiting professors from politicians to pundits. 
Here are some features that distinguish American University from GW:
--American University has six schools for undergraduates: Arts and Sciences, Business, Communications, Education, International Service, and Public Affairs.It is easy to take classes in any of the schools or to switch majors from one school to another.  Students are not required to enroll in one school as at GW. Three-year bachelor's degree programs are available in international studies, public health, and politics, policy, and law.
--AU’s Washington Semester program is quite strong and students from campuses all over the U.S. participate.
--AU’s female/male ratio is about 35/65 percent.  Approximately 60% of students study abroad choosing from more than 150 programs and the vast majority of students participate in internships, many of course in the D.C. area.
--In recent years, AU has become more selective; its current admission rate is about 30%.  Thus it offers less merit aid than previously, but it has also increased its financial aid packages.

Overall, the main differences between GW and AU center around campus vibe.  Both schools offer fantastic education and experience for international relations, political science and media studies.   If you want to live and attend school in the center of action and you don’t seek the advantages of smaller classes and close faculty interaction, GW may fit the bill.  American University might appeal more to students who still seek access to political action but prefer to live and study on a more intimate and less frenetic campus.