How to score free gear on Cal Day

Mario character with stars and Campanile
Ashley Zhang/Staff

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My absolute weakness is free Cal gear. Call it an occupational hazard, given that I have to be decked out in blue and gold for my campus job, but my roots reach back to far earlier than when I was hired.

On my first Cal Day in spring 2015, I stood in the new family line for the College of Engineering for a good 20 minutes to show my SIR (statement of intent to register — now the “acceptance of offer of admission”) and get an “I’m a Berkeley Engineer” shirt. Things I am not: a Berkeley engineer. Things I think I am: Funny. And then, when my new shirt managed to slip off my arm while juggling a free tote bag and 500 flyers across campus, yes, I did make my dad go back to the line and wait another 20 minutes to pretend that we hadn’t just been there. Yes, he did get mad at me and say that by lying, we were setting a bad example for my brother. Yes, I proceeded to cut that shirt into a bro tank (it was 2015) and wear it to the gym my freshman year. Yes, I then stopped wearing it after some boy in the Unit 3 Norton Hall elevator sneered, “You’re a Berkeley engineer?” and I decided to be honest and set feminism back a few years by saying, “No, it’s a joke, I’m a rhetoric major.”

But that’s all to say, Cal Day is about the free stuff. (Cal, however, is about learning to critique capitalism). Here’s how to get yours, based on four Cal Days of experience:

Are you a newly accepted student? You have this easy. Quit reading now — you’re going to be given approximately 5,000 shirts upon arrival to the UC Berkeley campus. Also, major props for supporting student journalism by reading the paper for a college you don’t attend yet.

Or are you a non-new student who thinks free Cal gear should be included with your tuition? You’re absolutely right. Here’s what to do:

Difficulty level: Easy

  1. Follow around a newly admitted student. Recognize them from the aforementioned 5,000 shirts draped over their arms. Wait for them to drop something and not notice (then kindly return it if you’re a good person!)
  2. Walk up to literally anyone with new-looking Cal gear and ask them where they got it. Go in the direction they point you.

Difficulty level: Medium to hard

  1. Become a campus ambassador for the Cal Day shirt and hat.
  2. Date a campus ambassador and steal their Cal Day shirt and hat.
  3. Win one of the Instagram contests that UC Berkeley puts on for a Cal Day shirt and hat. (RIP #shareCalDay, hello #CalDay.)

Difficulty level: Talking to strangers long enough to make them think you’re not only talking to them for free things

  1. Flirt with the idea of studying abroad by getting one of those Berkeley study abroad luggage tags. Oh, the places you’ll go!
  2. Pretend to be interested in every department handing out free tote bags. Sure, you declared your major two years ago, but they don’t need to know that!

Difficulty level: Time is not an issue

  1. Wait in the obscenely long line for the Bank of the West wheel. This is my niche. There are Cal plastic Solo Cups (boo, plastic), flimsy Cal whiteboards (boo, plastic), small stuffed bears (all right), and these amazing jumbo stuffed bears with Berkeley ribbons. This doesn’t need saying, but go for the jumbo bear. Flirt with the people in front of and behind you in line. Get them to promise to win you the bear. Leave, disappointed, with two Cal plastic solo cups and one whiteboard. (This is another anecdote).
  2. Submit your acceptance of offer of admission to get an “I’m a Berkeley Engineer shirt.” If you are a Berkeley engineer, go you! If you are not, watch as the spark in your parent’s eyes dies a little as they imagine what you could have been.

That’s all I got! Happy Cal Day. Whether you paid for your Cal gear or followed my advice, always remember the three sayings of this campus: go Bears, go Berkeley, go free Cal gear. Now come hold my place in the Bank of the West line.

Contact Caroline Smith at [email protected] .