daily californian logo


Welcome to the (March) Madness! Read more here

Your guide to office hours at UC Berkeley

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

DECEMBER 03, 2014

If you have been a student at UC Berkeley for more than one year, chances are you have already visited some of your professors during office hours. But this may not necessarily be the case for students who are in their first or second year on campus

Lectures at UC Berkeley can be very intimidating sometimes, especially when your professor seems — and probably is — one of the most knowledgeable individuals in the subject he or she teaches. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to approach and get to know your professors, we at the Clog have provided some suggestions regarding several common scenarios UC Berkeley students may often experience.

Scenario one: “It’s too late in the semester now — it will be awkward if I go to office hours for the first time.”

False. There is no established time frame that shows at which point in the semester it is appropriate to go to office hours. The door is open — it’s just a matter of taking the opportunity to talk to your professors. Office hours are available throughout the entire semester for a reason, and your professor will be happy to talk to you on the first day of school or the last week of classes.

Scenario two: “I’m behind on the readings, and I’m afraid my professor will notice.”

Honesty is the solution to this situation. Your professor understands that you are a busy student and that, at some point, falling behind on the readings is inevitable. Nonetheless, it is always best to let your professor know about your situation and, from there, start a conversation. We assure you, your professor will not yell and shout mean things at you. On the contrary, he or she will most likely offer advice about which readings to focus on and the best way to catch up.

Scenario three: “I’m scared my questions are not intelligent or relevant enough.”

Your questions are not stupid, and the fact that you took the time to visit your professor and ask him or her for help shows great initiative and interest on your part. One of the most important things professors do is answer questions. Professors at UC Berkeley are always eager to help out students, no matter how complex or elaborate your inquiry may be. Plus, there is no better way to learn than to ask as many questions as possible: Questions will always help you understand the material best.

Scenario four: “I’m nervous my professor will notice I really don’t understand the material that was taught last class.”

That is the whole point of office hours. Whether you are completely lost and have no idea what has happened in lecture for the past month, or you simply need clarification on a concept your professor brought up during lecture a few hours ago, it is your professor’s job to help you. And, for the most part, he or she will gladly do so.

Scenario five: “I have absolutely nothing to talk about with my professors. I just want to talk to them simply because they seem like interesting people, but I don’t want to waste their time.”

UC Berkeley has some of the most accomplished individuals teaching classes in every single field. Of course you will want to get to know your professors more. Office hours are an excellent way to get to know them. In fact, there is no better chance to meet your professors than in office hours. It’s not like you will randomly add them on Facebook in the middle of the semester and get to know them through social media, right? Don’t do that …

Scenario six: “I would like to discuss something I read on this month’s (insert academic publication) issue with my professor, but I can’t find a way to relate it to class material.”

This is oftentimes the greatest excuse to go to office hours. Do not feel like you need to connect what you read outside class to the concepts taught in class. In an ideal world, we would be able to do this every time we read something new, but this is not always the case. It’s just as valid to ask your professor about his or her opinion on a certain article you read than it is to ask about specific concepts that were taught in class. The idea is to learn as much as you possibly can, no matter how you do it.

Scenario seven: “I would love to have some insight into my career path, but I’m not sure what I need to do to build the professional career I want.”

Professors were students, too — don’t forget that. In fact, they have been students a lot longer than most of us have been. They have a lot of experience, and they can provide you with some guidance. It’s perfectly normal to look to your professors as your academic mentors and guides.

Scenario eight: “There is no point in going to office hours.”

Even if you feel like it’s a waste of time, getting to know your professors will benefit you greatly. You will become more engaged with class material and understand the concepts a lot better, and you never know when you might need a letter of recommendation for that internship position you have always wanted over the summer. It’s always better to be memorable than to be easily forgotten.

Contact Sofia Gonzales-Platas at [email protected] .

DECEMBER 03, 2014