Campus comes alive on Cal Day to welcome new admits

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Marley Fortin, 17, had only been at Saturday’s Cal Day for a few hours when she realized she had a problem. The potential member of the UC Berkeley Class of 2023 had been swept up by the energy of the campus open house, designed this year more than ever to welcome new admits.

“I’ve already signed up for five clubs already; that’s not going to be sustainable,” Fortin, a native of Sacramento, said with a laugh.

As Fortin spoke, the Cal Band played in the distance while members of the Rally Committee held a big blue and gold flag in front of Sather Gate. Eager students were showing off the proptype solar car they designed and built.

Down both sides of Sproul Plaza, students pitched their favorite causes and clubs, including: a group of drone enthusiasts, Bears for Palestine, Christian fellowships, the student actuarial league and a group fighting for freedom for North Koreans, among hundreds of others.

“The energy on this campus is amazing,” she said. “The breadth is so cool, it has just about everything you could ever ask for.”

Zumanah Mahmud, 17, of Austin, Texas, was having a similar experience. Mahmud, who was deciding between UCLA, Georgetown and the University of Texas at Austin, visited an economics lecture earlier in the day. She was flabbergasted when she realized the woman speaking on the stage about her research was an undergraduate, just a few years older than Mahmud.

“I thought she was like a TA or something,” Mahmud said. “It is really incredible how early you can start the research process here, and how involved she was with her project.”

This is the first time Cal Day has been so devoted to newly admitted transfer and first-year students, who were given VIP badges that let them cut in line for a trip to the top of the Campanile.

And the focus on new admits seemed to be paying off, said La Dawn Duvall, executive director of Visitor and Parent Services and coordinator of Cal Day. More than 10,000 new admits and their parents committed to an 8 a.m. welcome event from Chancellor Carol Christ.

“That’s a record for a new admit event; three times normal,” she said. “We’re getting a higher participation than ever.”

Over 87,000 high school seniors applied to Berkeley for fall semester 2019. UC campuses will release admissions data this summer.

Lance Jackson, 17, meanwhile, didn’t need convincing to come to Berkeley. The Hayward high school senior accepted his offer almost as soon as it came in.

“I’m here looking to build my social circle, to get to know the other students who I’m going to be in classes with,” he said. Jackson and his mother, Delilah Hamilton, had been on campus since 8 a.m. and were eager to learn more about Jackson’s intended major of computer science.

They were also excited to soak up the infectious energy of Berkeley’s campus.

“I’m just trying to learn my way around the campus,” Hamilton said as her son kept a forced grin. “I’m gonna be here. I already signed up to be a Cal Parent. He can’t stop me from coming to campus. I don’t even need to see him, I just want to be here!”