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How are older non-trad students perceived at UC Berkeley?

older non-trad student and BerkeleyHere is a question I answered on Quora. Because a lot of non-trads (non-traditional students) have this concern I decided to reprint my reply.

Q:  How are older students perceived by their younger fellow students and professors at UC Berkeley?
I am turning 31 this year and have applied to the CS programs in CA with a 4.0 GPA from a community college. I am hoping to get into UC Berkeley. My plan is to do research and do a PhD after graduation. What is the general attitude of fellow students and the professors towards older students there?

First off, congratulations on two fronts:  (1) getting a 4.0 in a STEM, not an easy feat; and (2) staying the course and getting to the level you’re at. It takes extra commitment as time goes on and you move up in age.

Regarding how you will fit in, I do not see it as an issue in the long run. It has been a while since I was at Berkeley, but back in the covered wagon days there were always “adult students” on campus. By adult, I mean people in their 40s continuing their studies for a degree. Everybody was friendly toward them and they added a lot to discussions because they have a worldview that is much more developed than that of a 19 year old. There were a few who were actually part of our social group.

My daughter is now at Berkeley and she says there are quite a few students your age and it doesn’t matter at all. The only initial issue you might run into is with housing. If you choose campus-run housing there’s a very high chance you’ll get put in with freshmen or sophomores. It’s an odd situation. A couple of students my daughter knows who are 24 said they got roommates who were freshmen and sophomores. Why they didn’t put the 24 year olds together, I have no idea, but she said from what she gathered it was quite common that these older students were put in with substantially younger students, much to everyone’s dismay.

Based on that anecdotal feedback, I believe you would probably be best served by looking for roommates and renting near campus, so you can get roommates who are a bit closer to your age — although I believe the co-ops may have a wider age range.

But going back to the general vibe, I think you will be fine after an initial adjustment. Be sure to search out a UC Berkeley Transfer page on Facebook. (The one I linked to is a current one.) It is the #1 best way to meet other transfers, many of whom will be close to your age, as well. You may even find a roommate through that FB page or the FB off-campus housing page . As you most likely already know, join some clubs, get involved. But I think you will find, right out the gate, as an older student and simply as a transfer, the FB page will be your best lifeline as you acclimate.

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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