College Tours: Personal Insight into Campuses in the Bay Area

One of the most interesting experiences a senior can have while preparing for college is touring campuses. The school becomes more than just facts and figures on a website. Touring schools gives each place a personality and allows prospective students to get a sense of what it would be like to attend that institution. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, tours have shifted to being exclusively online. Webinars are a great way to learn more about the school itself,  but it is difficult to get a feel for what the campus is really like in a virtual setting.
On a different note, although in-person tours are not permitted, people are still allowed to visit the campuses. Because of this, my father and I traveled to the Bay Area to look at a few colleges that might just be on your list. Hopefully, I will be able to provide personal insight into each of the four that we visited.

Shortly after I logged out of my last class on the 25th of September, we began the six-hour drive to San Francisco. Our first stop, the California Polytechnic SLO Campus, was halfway through the drive. This campus is positioned between breathtaking mountains and is only a short drive from the ocean. The architecture was very unique, unlike that of some older schools with uniform buildings. The buildings had a wide variety of designs. Because of this, I suppose it would be fairly easy to find your way around campus. Despite California’s ongoing drought, the campus did not show signs of deprivation. The grass was very green, and a grand array of trees of various heights lined each building. There was quite a lot of on-campus housing. Tables with colorful umbrellas are positioned along a bike path that trails right beside the campus dining area. A location of interest is Mustang Way, a street named after the school mascot. Overall, the California Polytechnic SLO’s  Campus was very distinctive and interesting. 

After driving the rest of the way up to San Francisco and sleeping in a hotel, we went to Stanford. This college was exceptionally massive, covering 2.8 square miles in total. The level of Stanford’s academic rigor matched the campus really well. The buildings looked very old and prestigious, as if they themselves could teach a class solely based on their own history. The college’s architecture looked as though it was from the East Coast; Stanford could easily fit in with Ivy Leagues. Throughout the campus were beautiful spots to study or relax. One of my favorites was a sculpture garden filled with pieces from Rodin. I would say that one of the most beautiful spots on campus is the Oval. The Oval is a spacious plot of land that sits in front of a grand hall. After passing through Memorial Court in this grand hall, you come upon the main quad, a beautiful and expansive area. 

A roughly hour-and-a-half drive will bring you to the University of California, Davis. Keep in mind that this drive was inland and, as a result, it was rather hot compared to San Francisco. This UC college is pretty far away from the city and has its own cattle ranch. The student housing was especially nice, and each grouping of buildings was named after a type of tree in order to tell them apart. I also noticed that there were a lot of squirrels and bicycles everywhere we went. On one end of the campus ran a stream, a beautiful place to relax or study. There was a grand variety of different species of plants, and the stream led to a raft of ducks in a lake. A bridge that crossed from one side of the stream to the other was adorned with numerous locked locks. A slightly peculiar aspect of this campus was the funny-looking statues of eggs with faces sculpted into them, which were located outside of the performing arts hall. When walking by the quad, I could see a group of students throwing a frisbee together, while others sat on the grass completing their class’ online work. The quad was a place I could definitely see myself visiting if I wanted to play or needed to get work done. The campus maintained a good ratio of buildings to trees, making it feel not too urban and not too rural. 

The next day we woke up early in the morning to visit our last destination: the University of California, Berkeley. Both the campus and the buildings were absolutely massive. The greenery was lush and the trees were tall, making the buildings not seem overbearing. The spot of interest is Sather Tower, an obelisk near the center of the campus. Each of the buildings looked very professional and breathtaking. Much like Stanford, this college looked as though it could fit in with the Ivy Leagues solely based on its environment. However, unlike Stanford, the buildings didn’t look as old and uniform. Instead, they looked unique and incredibly impressive. Little things such as vintage-style lamp posts and intricate brick walkways made this place’s layout very well thought out. Another place of interest is the Sproul Plaza. Here you can see the Sather gate, student center, Mario Savio steps, and ASUC (Associated Students of the University of California) building. Lastly, the Valley Life Sciences Building was probably the most astounding building on my list of structures to view not only because of my love for science but also due to the building’s sheer size. It is 400,000 square feet in size and looked as though it could take up an entire city block. Overall, Berkeley’s campus might have been my personal favorite.

But regardless of preferences and opinions, you cannot go wrong with any of these campuses. Each has its own interesting qualities that are definitely worth looking into. Although it has become increasingly difficult to tour college campuses in person, I hope this article gave you insight into a few campuses that might be on your list. 

Thank you for reading, and I hope your college search works out in the end.

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