by Patricia Farrell
On Aug. 25, some 3,500 incoming freshmen will experience their first day of classes at Berkeley. Of this pool, 500 will congregate at 2515 Hillegass Ave. to begin participation in UC Berkeley Extension's Fall Program for Freshmen.
The program was conceived in 1983 by Gary Matkin, extension's associate dean, and Patrick Hayashi, associate vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, and developed by Linda Hawn, Extensions' chair of Arts, Letters and Sciences. It offers students admitted to Berkeley for the spring semester an opportunity to begin their college careers in the campus community and stay on course to graduate with their class.
Because students in the extension program are not admitted for the fall semester, there has sometimes been confusion regarding their special status. In recent years, however, the success of the program's participants has all but obliterated this problem. For many incoming freshmen, a spring acceptance has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
"In essence, the program affords students the personalized experience and structure of a small liberal arts college while having access to a large university," said Renee Frappier, student affairs officer and program coordinator.
A study by the campus's Office of Student Research found students in the extension program have a five-year graduation rate of 80 percent, which compares favorably with other undergraduate groups on campus.
While class sizes are kept relatively small-they range from 14 students to 75 in the larger classes-the courses themselves are identical to those being taught on campus. One difference is that grades are not averaged into the students' overall Berkeley GPA, but do become a permanent part of their transcripts. Dick Hitchcock, an Anthropology 10 instructor in the program for the past five years, sees the smaller class sizes as the single biggest advantage. "My lecture class can never get any bigger than the 75-student cap. When Anthro-10 is taught on campus it's taught in a hall that holds 800 people-and that hall is always full."
T.J. Waite, a junior economics major and a program alumnus, said the program should be offered to all incoming freshmen. "In my first semester here I was essentially offered a full class load of freshman seminars. My instructors were truly discussion leaders-not just lecturers-and during the whole semester I had a chance to get used to the idea of being at this enormous university."
"People who have ideas about freshman program people being second class or getting into Berkeley through a 'back door' are just naive or ignorant. I'm here and this is where I intend to graduate from-on time," said Waite, who plays in the Cal Band.
Walter Wong, assistant director of undergraduate admissions, said that 2,200 applicants were admitted for the spring '98 semester in order to enroll 860 as Berkeley undergraduates. The extension fall program accepts the first 500 hundred to apply. "We always have a waiting list," says Frappier.
Incoming students accepted for the spring semester also have the options of attending community college or waiting out the semester.