I am a chronically ill (important detail) incoming Environmental Science/Policy undergraduate with an interest in going to graduate school. I am in quite of a bind currently, and I sincerely require assistance. After getting various results back from college admissions all over the US, my top two choices are now UC Berkeley and UC Davis. This may look like a clear choice to some, but there is a certain factor that makes this all the more difficult: my admission into UC Davis’ University Honors Program. And there are plenty of other extraneous factors as well.
UHP represents the top 3% of incoming undergraduates at UC Davis and offers various benefits, such as prioritized class registration (which I know is a HUGE bonus), completion of specialized honors projects/capstone, wide variety of open internship opportunities, personal connections with universities and alumni (and thus a support network for future jobs, etc.), and so on.
While UC Davis is a top veterinary, agriculture, and engineering university, their Environmental Policy/Science major is quite good as well (#6 in the world, #2 within the UCs). In addition, considering my interest in policy, Sacramento is right there. That’s a definite bonus, especially knowing that students have the ability to intern in the capitol itself.
In addition, the flat and relatively small campus is a huge bonus considering my arthritic conditions, which are incredibly painful and have landed me as a physically disabled student. This means that I will put less strain on my body and will have more energy to focus my attention on academics. UC Davis also is very clear about their solid disabilities assistance, which is also important.
However, here is the biggest con; I don’t feel like I want to go there. Perhaps it’s because the days where I visited the campus were rainy and devoid of students (compared to Cal Day), but I just don’t feel the pull. I simply don’t feel like I’d be happy there. While being surrounded by nature is great for my mood, the city of Davis is unbearably small and silent, and the campus doesn’t have the energetic aura of drive and passion that I felt at Berkeley. It feels almost dead, like I’m in the middle of nowhere. It just… Feel off. I feel as if I have barely a reason to go to UC Davis other than the UHP program I got into.
On the contrary, UC Berkeley immediately grabbed me as I walked in. I saw two demonstrations within the first 10 minutes of me walking in (which I determine is an accurate gauge of student drive/activism), and the campus is beautiful with a wonderful balance of trees, rolling hills, and buildings-- enough to satisfy me, at least. The student body is noticeably diverse and I just feel so much better there, like I’m amidst something meaningful. In terms of campus and student body aura, UC Berkeley 100% takes the cake. Because my father previously worked at UCB and I was born there, I have several groups of family friends that I could turn to if I find myself in need of assistance. While I am a relative introvert with absolutely no desire to party or involve myself in hivemind activities, I do feel more comfortable in a bustling city than one that is empty and dead.
UC Berkeley is #1 within public universities for Environmental Science and is world-class in the field, which is an immediate plus to me going there. In terms of academics, the College of Natural Resources is relatively small compared to the rest of the campus, so I will have far more access to peer advisors, scholarship opportunities, etc, which I hear is a problem for those who are pursuing more impacted majors. Compared to UC Davis, UC Berkeley has a stronger (and according to rumors, more flexible) edge to environmental fields. That’s a good enough reason for me to go there, at least at first.
Unlike UC Davis, UC Berkeley is very hilly and mildly geographically extreme, which is not a good sign for me being there; even being there for just Cal Day hurt my joints, which is concerning. To make matters worse, UC Berkeley has far less resources for physically disabled students (I checked the department myself, and was shocked). My physical health absolutely affects my school performance, as does my mental state. Similarly, because of spending half of my life in hospitals with chronic illnesses and a side of personal life problems, I have grown to be more dependent than independent on others and have untreated mental health issues that absolutely affect my academic performance.
The reason I mentioned all of this is that UC Berkeley has a reputation for being a breeding ground for depression. Or at least, it is far less warm towards students with mental health problems and offers little assistance. If this is true and I fail to find a therapist soon after moving, I may be in trouble. Even so, the alleged cold nature of UC Berkeley is combated with the fact that there are in fact several groups in Berkeley that offer counseling to those who have the niche main issue that I have, while Davis does not-- if there is, it’s most likely in Sacramento, and I’ll have to travel all the way over there.
TLDR: Everyone -- from my parents to UC Berkeley/UC Davis graduates to famous professors like Mark Juergensmeyer (who I have a personal connection to) -- are telling me that UC Davis is the right choice. Academically, futuristically, etc.
But I am filled with nothing but cold dread when I imagine FORCING myself to go to UC Davis. I feel like I will regret going.
Do I go to the school that is logistically the most fitting academic choice but makes me feel dread and preemptive grief, or go to the school that I feel better at but at the cost of the UHP and all of the input from people who know me and the system better, not to mention the troubles that I know exist at Berkeley?
Thanks for listening… or reading, that is.