New Student? Start Here.

| |

Answers to Your Burning Berkeley Questions

When I came to Berkeley nine months ago, I was drowning in questions. How many clubs could I realistically join? How was I supposed to plan my class schedule? At what locations could I use my meal swipes? And what on earth were Flex Dollars? (Hint: they’re like cash that gives a discount for dining locations.) Hearing student perspectives and utilizing resources like Berkeley Life made my own transition into college much easier, and I think this will hold true for other new students too. If you’re new to Berkeley, these are my top reads for you.

1. What is it like to live on campus?

The majority of Golden Bears choose to live on campus during their first year at Cal. If you fall into this category, read about the process of adjusting to residence hall life. Read Res Hall Living: 1 POV.

Cover photo for Res Hall Living: 1 POV.

2. How do you search for off-campus housing?

If you’re planning to live off campus, hearing other students’ perspectives on how to find housing is essential. Here, Melissa shares her experience searching for off-campus housing. Read Finding Housing: What to Expect.

Cover photo for Finding Housing: What to Expect.

3. What do you need to manage finances and financial aid?

As a new student, navigating financial aid can be nerve-wracking. (One thing to keep in mind: Berkeley recently partnered with GradGuard to provide reimbursement if you’re forced to withdraw during the covered term.) Cruz Grimaldo, the first Chicanx director of Financial Aid and Scholarships, can set you in the right direction. Read 6 Financial Aid Tips to Make Your Life Easier.

Cover photo for 6 Financial Aid Tips to Make Your Life Easier.

4. How do you search for scholarships?

Receiving a scholarship can alter the trajectory of your undergraduate education, especially for out-of-state or international students. (For me, scholarships are the reason I only had to work two jobs rather than three during my first year at Cal!) Here is my first-hand account of searching for scholarships, both in high school and in college, featuring tips I wish I’d known when I first started. Read Scholarship Search: Nina’s Story.

Cover photo for Scholarship Search: Nina’s Story.

5. How do you know what classes you need (and how do you actually get into them)?

Your classes are the foundation of your time here at Cal. Knowing how to utilize resources like the Academic Guide and your Schedule Planner can make all the difference! Bonus: read Hosea’s advice on finding classes he enjoys with resources like Rate My Professors and Berkeleytime. Read Choosing Classes at Cal.

Cover photo for Choosing Classes at Cal.

6. How do you plan classes as a transfer student?

Seeking direction on how to choose classes when you’ve already fulfilled many requirements? Preslee’s got you covered with advice for transfer students, by a transfer student. Read Transfer Enrollment Tips.

Cover photo for Transfer Enrollment Tips.

7. How do you find clubs to join?

Everyone’s journey with joining clubs and organizations is different, but I find that reading individual student experiences really grounds the process. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate Kelsey’s process for joining clubs and orgs at Cal. Read Campus Clubs: Finding & Applying.

Cover photo for Campus Clubs: Finding & Applying.

8. Where do you go to eat?

When I first came to Cal, one of the things I was most excited about was the food. Learn about what our dining commons and the city of Berkely offer at large! Read Dining at Berkeley: Explore!

Cover photo for Dining at Berkeley: Explore!

9. How do you take care of your health and wellness?

At an academically rigorous school, taking time to care for your physical and mental health is unspeakably important. Discover what UC Berkeley’s Recreational Sports Facility has to offer that will help you start off strong. Read Wellness Resources at Cal.

Cover photo for Wellness Resources at Cal

10. How do you keep track of everything you need to know at Berkeley?

Connection in a post-pandemic era is vital. Dive into a list of resources that will help you stay in touch with the things that matter most. Read How to Stay in Touch.

Cover photo for How to Stay in Touch.

A Jumping-Off Point

To all of the new first-year and transfer students, congratulations on your admission to UC Berkeley! I believe that Berkeley truly has something for everyone—whether they dream of researching bacterial genetic editing or directing feature-length films—and I am confident that you’ll find your home here. Getting situated at a new school can be challenging, but I hope this article was a good jumping-off point. Best of luck to you, and enjoy your first year at Cal. It’ll go by fast.

Nina Takahashi is a first year at UC Berkeley majoring in film and Japanese. Cover photo by Student Affairs Communications.

Want More?