What every freshman needs to know from UC Berkeley alumni

For years you’ve received advice from people about your first year of college. You nodded along and smiled as they tried to impart their wisdom, but you never really listened to what they had to say. But now that you’ve been accepted to UC Berkeley, you’re probably looking for some guidance on how to survive at this school. You can stop worrying — the Clog has got you covered. From advice to surviving dorm food to tips on pursuing opportunities outside Berkeley, here are some words of wisdom given directly from Cal alumni by email.

“Some of the best advice I can give is to go online to Cal Dining and find out what is being served at all the different dining halls (every place has a different menu for each meal). Not only can you decide for yourself what menu sounds most appetizing, but you can look of the nutrition facts of everything that is being served. It’s a great way to know what you are actually eating, and make you think twice about eating the pesto sauce!”
—Shelley Harper, Integrative biology, class of 2012

“Make full use of the opportunities that Cal has to offer, from the amazing people you will meet to the wonderful extracurriculars that are available.”
— Kenny Leung, Molecular and cell biology, class of 2002

“You will likely end up finding a group that you love. Make an effort to befriend/join another group of people outside of this (student organization, floormates, etc.) — it will give you a better college experience and allow you to step outside your comfort zone. The variety will keep your things more dynamic as these groups evolve over time.”
— Ben Butler, Mechanical engineering, class of 2014 

“The biggest piece of advice I wish I had heeded is to take advantage of all the opportunities outside of classes. Just working to get good grades is a waste of the opportunity that is four years at Cal. In my case I wish I had pursued more coding side projects while surrounded by so many bright engineers, but I think there are similar opportunities to collaborate with peers in any major.”
— Ian Vonseggern, Electrical engineering and computer sciences, class of 2013

“During your freshman year, don’t forget to go to office hours. This goes for upperclassman too. College can be quite a bit harder than high school. Office hours are a great place to get help and also get brownie points from your instructor (might pay off when grades are due). Overall to incoming freshman: College goes by fast! Take advantage of every day. You get out of it what you put in, so make the most of it! And most importantly, GO BEARS!”
— Arthur Tonelli, Economics, class of 2014

“Try different study methods and find what works for you. Some people work best in groups, or in loud places, or alone, or on their couch, etc. Just as you shouldn’t feel pressured to party with friends, don’t feel pressured to study with friends if you know you don’t work as well. Time is precious around midterms and finals, so you have to work as efficiently as possible. With that said, join a study group of some sort — and if there isn’t one, create one! It’ll come in handy for going over problems once you’ve attempted them yourself first.”
— Christian Lavados, Chemical engineering, class of 2014

“Explore. Find a group or club — something to get involved with (and) then latch onto it because school is tough and exhausting if you don’t have an outlet to go to.”
— John Esaki, Integrative biology, class of 2014

“Request the vegan option. Don’t waste your time with the dining commons mystery meat and skip right to the sunflower cutlets. Packed full of flavor, these savory patties are worth every meal point.”
— Dennis Roth, Integrative biology, class of 2014

“Try everything! Even if it’s for one day or one hour.  If you have a remote interest in it give it a try. You’ll never know what amazing things you’ll get yourself into.”
— Kevin Sairafian, Molecular and cell biology, class of 2014

“I would definitely recommend freshmen to check out the IM sports at Cal. I played soccer for seven years and stopped when I came to college. I didn’t try out IM sports until my senior year last semester, when I joined two IM soccer teams and I absolutely loved it! It’s a great way to do something you love and meet other students who share a common interest! I wish I had done it sooner.”
— Tiffany Tran, Environmental science and Environmental economics & policy, class of 2014

“Don’t underestimate yourself. You can learn and accomplish so much in four years, but you need to be willing to put yourself out there.”
— Julie Takagi, Molecular and cell biology class of 2014

“Four years may seem like a long time, but they fly by. As a graduated senior, my most precious thing I’ve taken from Berkeley is not my degree but the experiences and memories I gained. Try that one thing you always wanted to but never thought you could.”
— Jenny Lai, Political economy class of 2014

“Look out for vultures who want to befriend you for your meal points.”
— Lucy Ni, Political economy, class of 2014

“Show integrity in everything you do. Be genuine to the people you’ll meet. Give honest work in your classes — even if it is honestly bad because you’ll still learn from it. Thank your parents and loved ones for supporting you. At the end of the day be yourself. Be goofy, work hard, have fun, and let the goodness in your heart guide you.”
— Ari Pascarella, Interdisciplinary studies field, class of 2014

Contact Martha Morrissey at [email protected].

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