Illustration by Anya Chytrowsky
Again and again, students’ stereotypes about the University of California (UC) system has created a sense of competition and prestigiousness. It is common for society to make generalities about aspects such as colleges, but what truly makes a university more desired or prestigious than another?
We have normalized this idea that certain UCs are perceived as more prestigious; while it’s not the same for everyone, being accepted to UCLA or UC Berkeley has a different level of excitement than UC Merced or UC Irvine. Schools like UC Merced and UC Irvine have fallen into the category of “backup” universities and are usually not where students aim to apply.
This ideology stems from the American culture surrounding the importance of being accepted into university.
From a young age, students are taught to prioritize their education with the goal of getting into college. This has created a sense of competition within high school students to be accepted to the most prestigious college.
The fear of being rejected by a well-known school is so great that many high school students decide not to tell others where they’ve applied.
“I feel like the more people who talk about the school, the more popular it becomes, the more people attend, and then you have a super sought-out and prestigious school,” said Berkeley International High School (BIHS) junior Sadie Cooper.
We’ve also been conditioned to prioritize name-brand universities. In recent years, the societal value of going to college has shifted. It’s no longer only about going to a college where you fit in, but the reputation of the school. It’s no secret that some schools have more weight than others. But what is this weight based off of? What makes a school better than another?
Location and the stigmas surrounding a particular UC are major aspects of why a student might pick a particular school.
There’s no doubt that part of what makes UC Berkeley so great is its prime location. Places like Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, hold a positive reputation and have attracted many students due to their locations.
Clearly, going to a UC in one of these locations is more desired than places where the environment is less attractive.
While exploring this situation, a remedy that should be instituted by “undesired” universities is to advertise and bring more awareness to the public about the great aspects of schools that aren’t as popular.
We need to recognize that, although some universities might not have the same reputation as others, it doesn’t always mean that they provide a lower quality of education. These UC stigmas should not play a part of your decision in picking a college. Applying for a university should be based on how comfortable you feel at the school, not about the reputation the school holds.