GETTING INTO AND GRADUATING FROM UC BERKELEY: TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

  1. I drop out of university in the UK, and move to Hawai'i (true story).
  2. I spend 5 years wondering whether I should finish college
  3. I visit UC Berkeley and fall in love with everything: the air, the trees, the squirrels, the libraries, the Nobel laureate parking.
  4. I decide to go back to college because asking myself wether I should or not is wearing me out. AT THE VERY LEAST I'LL NEVER ASK MYSELF THE QUESTION AGAIN.
  5. HOWEVER. It'll either be UC Berkeley or nothing.
  6. Unfortunately, UC Berkeley doesn't take new students if they have any university credits. You have to apply as a transfer. To apply as an international transfer student is, as far as I could tell, impossible. I would have to go to city or community college in California, then apply as a California transfer. Are you kidding me?!
  7. I spend a YEAR at city college of San Francisco. Which is like going back to high school, except my high school was AWESOME.
  8. I have to take all these "breadth" classes. Cal will only let you transfer once you have completed your "breadth" requirements. I come from the UK system where you begin specializing at 14. I have no breadth. Only depth.
  9. I randomly get assigned advisor extraordinaire, who used to be in admissions at Cal. She is 90+% sure I will get in. Because of course, I'm going through this year of bureaucratic loophole hell with zero assurances things are going to work out. But I'm convinced this is what I want, this is the best plan I've got, so, it just has to work.
  10. I apply to UC Berkeley with a 4.0, a solid résumé, tons of volunteer and extra-curriculars, and a great story about growing up in intentional community. And the conviction that this is meant to be. I get denied. 😱😱😱😱.
  11. I spend weeks trying to get through to admissions to find out why. I finally get an admissions officer to look at my file. "You don't have enough credits to apply as a transfer student." That minimum is 60. I had 84. Excuse me?
  12. After I talk her through my 84 credits:"We forgot to count your A-levels (British exams)." Me: is that the ONLY reason I was denied?" She: "Yes. The rest of your application is stellar." Me, jubilant: "Great! So you can just add them to my file and we're all good?!!!" She: no, we've closed the rounds. You have to appeal the decision.
  13. Me: "Excuse me? I hate to point out the obvious but this was your mistake, not mine. The A-levels were in my file."
  14. Long story short, I appeal. Appeal is denied. I try to contact the director of undergraduate admissions. I contact everyone I know who might have an inside contact.
  15. I have a phone conversation with the assistant director of admissions. She claims I was also lacking two other pre-reqs.
  16. The first was an anthropology pre-req. the anthropology advisor at Cal had already approved and signed off on one of my UK courses as satisfying that pre-req.
  17. The second was an Econ pre-req. Um, I just took that course, at Cal, this past semester as a cross-enrollment student. Read your own transcripts and major requirements, people!
  18. One would assume that, having discredited her reasons, and considering a) the list of administrative errors on Cal's part, and b) my perseverance in clearing it up, she would at least offer me an apology, and should offer me a spot. Nope: "Apply next year. You're an excellent candidate for Berkeley." Are you fucking kidding me?
  19. I apply the following year. During my year off, I possibly had the best time of my life. I decide that even if I get in, I'm not interested anymore.
  20. I get in to Berkeley. I laugh and say "too bad". Friends and family convince me to give it a try, saying I can always take it one semester at a time. Fine, I'll try it.
  21. I have family friends who live in Oakland. I ask if I can land there while I look for a place. They take me in, and I end up living there for a year, during which, I once walk in to a dead goat defrosting in my bathtub.
  22. I land and receive an email from Cal asking me to "pick up my cheque". I think to myself "Cheque? What cheque? I just wrote you a cheque! Did my cheque bounce?"
  23. 2 days later it dawns on me (literally, I wake up with this epiphany) - I should check my financial aid package!
  24. I had filled up the mandatory financial aid forms, thinking to myself, this is ridiculous, they're never going to give me any money.
  25. I get awarded the highest scholarship there is. So, Berkeley pays me to go to school every semester. Wait, what?!?!
  26. Once the semester begins, I find out they have an interdisciplinary major which allows you to create you own research based degree. Perfect.
  27. My major advisor is wonderful. We talk, he looks at my file, he okays all my UK courses that didn't stand a chance at admissions, making exception upon exception. He allows me to pursue a course of study that's only tenuously viable. (We spend hours trying to figure it out). He tells me I don't fit into any box, and that's why I'm perfect for Cal.
  28. In our first meeting, my thesis advisor asks me where I'm from. We get into an hour long conversation about growing up in Auroville, the intentional community I was born and raised in. He tells me I have to write my thesis on it. I can't believe it's a viable thesis topic. He, and every other professor advising me on it, say it's a PhD.
  29. I write the thesis and receive highest honors for it, along with only 2 other people in the department.
  30. My thesis advisor had been worried about how a thesis on intentional community would be received. It turns out the interim director of the department was Indian, and was familiar with the highly respected yogic tradition Auroville was founded in.
  31. He - the director of the department - crosses me in the corridor, after having emailed me about my honors, and I introduce myself. He tells me what a remarkable student I am and that he regrets not having had me in any of his classes.
  32. He also says - "haven't you only been here a year?" Affirmative. "I feel like I need to apologize to you," he continues. "We didn't yet have you in our system. You would have been the perfect candidate for our outstanding student citation." #StoryOfMyLifeRe:Cal, but thanks.
  33. Yes, I did end up managing to transfer into Berkeley and finish all my degree requirements in a year.
  34. And to top it all off, I was shortlisted for the University Medal. Quite the volte-façe for a Berkeley reject.