Stanford vs Berkeley in “The Real World”: Who’s Who?

Nov. 19, 2021, 10:47 p.m.

The shirt’s color on the day of the Big Game is probably how you distinguish Stanford and Berkeley students from one another. Fair enough; that simple method usually works wonders, leaving you with a small margin of error. 

Therefore, you might be inclined to think that you possess the ultimate Stanford-Berkeley detector, but think of the circumstances in which you are using it — a college football game. By default, its dress code is to wear whatever you can to let everyone know where you go (or wish you go) to school.

What happens, though, once all these people leave the stadium, finish their degrees, and go out into the real world? You won’t see them flaunting their school colors as much as they used to; instead, they will try to blend in with the sublime of full-grown adulthood. 

So how do you then decide who graduated from Stanford and who attended that other school? Luckily, there is much more than their remnants of college merch that can reveal who studied where. Below are effective strategies that will help you unmask the identities of alumni of each school, no matter where in the world you are.

  1. Biking skills

If your suspect handles their biking game with just one hand on the handlebars (and without a helmet!), they likely went to Stanford. Throughout their four years of college, most of Stanford’s students will have this technique mastered. Bonus point if they can talk on the phone or hack away at a P-Set while biking. You can be 99% sure that the person in question is an alumnus of the better school. (Unless they have suffered from severe Stanford-reject syndrome and taught themselves to bike exceptionally well to at least have some part of the farm’s experience.)

  1. Navigating San Francisco

Do they seem like someone who knows “The City” surprisingly well? Can they take you to Golden Gate Park without looking up the directions? When they mention their favorite coffee shops or restaurants, are those actually good spots rather than some generic ones that come up on TripAdvisor after searching “SF best places to eat?”

If so, you probably ended up meeting a Cal student. While many Stanford alumni eventually learn their way around SF more or less, those Berkeley kids definitely have it mastered by their end of college careers. The reason behind it is simple: Stanford students have too little time and are too trapped in a bubble — I mean have too much of a picturesque setting to think of leaving campus as much as their peers near Oakland do. 

  1. Abusing abbreviations

Maybe you have heard them speaking weirdly? While it must have sounded like English, there was something that made you perceive it as gibberish. If that is a recurring oddity, examine it closely: perhaps they are just throwing in abbreviations for the otherwise long names or expressions. Perhaps they are not and are too lazy to pronounce things with even a reasonable amount of syllables.

If so: Stanford is the answer. Every Stanford student does that daily, when they go to CoHo, pass by MemChU, grab lunch in Llaga and message the group chat with DAHA. This phenomenon could well be classified as a Stanford dialect and it probably resurfaces in the language students outside of their school. 

  1. Highlighting the rankings

If they ever confess that “I went to number one school in California,” you know that they are Cal students. This is a phrase that many of them delusionally repeat. They get so caught up in the rankings, psyching over how they will never tie with Stanford, that they confuse basic geography and logical inferences. 

With that sentence, Cal alumni end up reinforcing Stanford’s academic superiority — they unawarely give Stanford so much credit that they frame Stanford as if it  were “out of this world.”They, however, never forget that Stanford is the top institution in the US, so you will never hear them speaking of their school ranking in a context other than that of California.

  1. Coding skills

Not everyone has a job that requires  programming, so that is a tough one to spot. But if that were the case in your workplace, and your colleague one day surprisingly reveals that they have taken computer science classes at college, this is a red (or rather cardinal), flag. 

Data has it that more than ¾ of the graduating class will have taken at least one CS class at Stanford. Therefore it is not uncommon for Stanford’s alumni to be coding-literate despite pursuing a field unrelated to technology. Therefore, if they at least know their Java, chances are they might have gone to Stanford.

With all that being said, sadly, none of those methods guarantees a complete accuracy, especially in the case of Stanford students. Each and every one of its alumni graduates with their own story, carving a unique path for themselves. They will rarely fit within conventional standards. That is why, instead of attempting to generalize Stanford alumni, you should simply remain alert to the “Cal” flags in someone’s demeanor. Those stay with a person for life, no matter how many layers of Stanford merch they put on. 

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