Thinking of heading to “Nor Cal” for college?



Well if you are, you have a lot of choice! Yesterday I visited U California Berkeley in the morning, and Stanford University in the afternoon. This morning had me head up many hills to the University of San Francisco. Each place has a distinct flavour and feel.


Berkeley library
Berkeley library


I was lucky enough to have Anna Fretz (SMUS grad 2009) give me a tour and tell me about her first impressions of the place. Berkeley has 35 000 students, the largest university building in the USA (they had to put on an addition to beat out Harvard who had built a building larger than their original one), and a club for every interest area. And because there are 900+ clubs, lots of them are canvassing for supporters, causes, and events at any one time. Activism is a clear focus of the campus and no idea is too radical. Free thinking and free speech are encouraged; you cannot be passive and go to Berkeley.



Ah the oasis that is Stanford U. Set on this beautiful campus, it is as luxurious and open as Berkeley is radical and frenetic. Clearly, Stanford puts a lot of energy into keeping the environment beautiful, and the students have a lot of pride in their chosen place of study. The vast majority of the 8 000 students live on campus for all 4 years, and the amenities are as plentiful as they are outstanding. The architecture is eye-catching and the resources are plentiful. The student who led the tour was keenly interested in social justice and community service and she reported that there were lots of opportunities to pursue these interests in addition to her studies. One more thing: 33 000 applications for 1700 spots.

University of San Francisco: This Jesuit Catholic college is perched on a hill in the epicenter of the San Francisco area. 15 minutes in any direction and you hit the water; the views are outstanding. The college building themselves look dated from the outside, but most of them have been updated on the inside. It has a small, warm feel to the place, and offers programs across the board that has a focus on social justice and community service, with no class over 100 students. There are over 80 student clubs and associations (compared with Stanford’s 300+ and Berkeley’s 900+) and I wondered if that relatively small number was a reflection of the university ethos or the type of student who attends. It definitely has more of an urban feel to the campus and is centered in a residential area.

Now on to 5 more colleges in the Bay area…will they all be just as unique?

Alison McCallum
Alison McCallum is Head of University Counselling at SMUS and one of the Academic Advisors.