What’s UC Berkeley’s ‘secret sauce’? Cal Day 2023 has the answer

flag and students in front of sather gate

Prospective students are being welcomed back to campus for a fully in-person Cal Day experience for the first time since the pandemic began. Here, members of the Rally Committee hold up a Cal Flag in 2019. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

As a high school student in 2019, Jimmy Nguyen wasn’t sure which college he wanted to attend. A senior at Yerba Buena High School in San Jose, he’d been accepted to several universities. And while UC Berkeley was on his radar, he felt it was a little too close to home.

But that spring, when Nguyen went to Cal Day, Berkeley’s annual open house, he said he was able to envision himself as a part of its bustling campus community — he knew it was the place for him.

Jimmy Nguyen at Cal Day holding a #BerkeleyBound sign with his mother.

Jimmy Nguyen and his mother at Cal Day 2019. (Photo courtesy of Jimmy Nguyen)

“I really got to see the magic of Berkeley,” said Nguyen, who now works as a Berkeley campus ambassador, leading tours for other visitors to campus. “Hearing the chancellor speak about Berkeley’s excellence, watching the Cal Spirit groups perform and interacting with the campus’ diverse students and renowned faculty really sealed the deal for me.”

“The energy here is like nothing else. You can just feel that there is something special going on.”

To give future students a chance to experience that magic for the first time, this Saturday (April 22) Berkeley will hold Cal Day fully in person for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020.

And while Cal Days of the past typically welcomed over 45,000 prospective students, alumni and the public to campus, in recent years the day has been solely dedicated to the over 10,000 newly admitted students and their families.

Cal Day 2023 will bring back that unique campus experience for attendees, giving potential Berkeleyans a taste of Berkeley’s “secret sauce,” executive director of Berkeley’s Visitor and Parent Services La Dawn Duvall said.

La Dawn Duvall posing at a previous Cal Day.

For over 20 years, La Dawn Duvall has played a key role in Cal Day. This summer she will retire. (Photo courtesy of La Dawn Duvall)

“Like a lot of things that Berkeley does, we set the standard. And with Cal Day, we set the bar,” said Duvall, who has played a key role in organizing the event for over 20 years. “Everyone brings their biggest and best. It’s a jovial welcoming and palpable feeling that we get on campus. There’s a secret sauce, and if we could bottle it, we’d all be millionaires.”

Attendees can navigate campus by using their Cal Events app and craft their own specialized Berkeley experiences by choosing from the more than 200 events.

The festivities will begin at 8 a.m. with Chancellor Carol Christ’s morning welcome at California Memorial Stadium. On Upper Sproul Plaza at noon, future Golden Bears can dance and sing along at the Cal Spirit rally with the Cal Band, Cal Cheerleaders, Dance Team, Mic Men and the Berkeley mascot, Oski the Bear.

Large-scale academic department presentations and lectures will be held in classrooms. And on the Valley Life Sciences Building lawn, a “STEM Bonanza” of student groups and various science departments will host science outreach and informational booths. Current students will also present projects as part of Berkeley’s Discovery Hub, a campus initiative supporting undergraduates with experiential learning opportunities.

Chancellor Carol Christ smiles and high fives students

Chancellor Carol Christ will launch Cal Day with a morning welcome for admitted students at California Memorial Stadium. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

A campus housing and dining “block party” will give future students a feel for what it’s like to live on campus by viewing residence hall rooms and learning about all campus housing options. Attendees can also sample food from Cal Dining, explore theme programs and meet with friendly student resident assistants (RAs) and residential staff.

Virtual Cal Week programs will still be offered April 25-27 for admitted students who are not able to attend Cal Day. Inspiring admittees to accept Berkeley’s offer is what Saturday is all about, said Berkeley’s Associate Director of Admissions Marketing and Yield Programs Stefan Montouth.

Stefan Montouth

Stefan Montouth is also an alumnus who chose Berkeley after attending Cal Day. (Photo courtesy of Stefan Montouth)

“In some cases, students decide on another college before going to Cal Day, and then they change their mind when they experience the campus in person,” Montouth said. “We hope that in experiencing the campus community, students will feel comfortable and confident with deciding that Berkeley will be the best fit for them.”

Nguyen said he’ll hope to inspire the admitted students he meets this Saturday to “make the right choice.”

“I came to Berkeley because of Cal Day,” said Nguyen, who will be graduating this May with degrees in political science and media studies. “I can’t recommend it enough, that people experience campus in person. There is no other way to replicate what Berkeley has to offer newly admitted students.”

“Cal Day is where you can see yourself as part of one of the nation’s top public universities.”