January 26, 2007 1:08 PM

Why I love CNR

They took me in. I was rejected from UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, UCLA and UC Davis. Not too often that you meet someone at Berkeley that was flat-out rejected from the lower-ranked UC schools. The only school that even considered my application was Riverside; other than Berkeley, that is.
Why did they reject me?

I have 145.5 units. I transferred in with 127.5 units. About 80 of these were from upper-division coursework. Most programs in the University of California system have a unit cap. When you reach 125 units, they kick you out, even if you haven't finished your degree. If you're a double-major, you're given a little wiggle room: up to 140 units. If you apply with any number of units close to the unit cap, they won't consider your application.

When I found that College of Natural Resources, I was exstatic. Finally, an opportunity to complete my degree! Assuming that I could get in.

I know what you're thinking, "Why do you have so many units?" It's a story that most returning students face. Take a few years off from school and you may just find that it's impossible to go back - or more trouble than it seems to be worth. Well, mine had a bit of a twist. I was studying Botany at a 4-year school when they cancelled their program, retired the professors, and left me up a creek in my junior year. I ran back to SoCal, moved in with the parents, and started attending night classes at a junior college while I worked full-time. I did a few interesting jobs, but most were dull. I was a receptionist for an electronics company, a dishwasher for an environmental testing lab, and data entry for Baxter Bioscience. I didn't feel settled into working life. I always wanted to go back to a "real" school, but I couldn't find another Botany program that interested me. So I started looking at university websites, looking at the actual research that the professors were doing. I focused on finding someone at every California school that did research involving plants. I found many that could work, none seemed quite right.

I was frustrated. I couldn't find anything that would work. No one was interested in an upper-division transfer student with 125 units. I was ready to throw in the towel. On a whim I typed something into my web browser. "Nature.berkeley.edu." The world opened its doors.

I contacted Kyle Dukart. He was receptive! Not just receptive - ENTHUSIASTIC! He said that I was just the kind of student that CNR works to attract. He invited me to poke around the programs available. He encouraged me to look into the research that was going on, and promised me that if I get into CNR, I'll have more opportunities to do research than any other program in the university. He told me about SPUR. He answered every question that I threw at him. And quickly. The longest I waited for a response was three hours.

Even with Kyle's encouragement, when I applied, I knew my chances were slim. Genetics & Plant Biology is a selective program, with only about 50 students. I planned on not getting in.

When I received my welcome packet from Berkeley, I didn't really believe it. How could my life have changed so quickly? I went from directionless to entirely too much direction in a matter of days. Berkeley. I still marvel that I get to finish my degree. Just a plus that it's at such an incredible research institution. You can't do this with Letters & Sciences.

Christina | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (0)

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