Go to your professor’s office hours.
This is maybe the most important piece of advice every single freshman at UC Berkeley is given. But guess what? Absolutely nobody listens!
During my freshman year, I was in a class of 400 students, and I went to office hours, thinking there was going to be a line around the building. Besides me, only three students showed up every single time. The four of us all ended up getting A’s in the class simply because we put in extra time to get to know our professor, go over concepts we were confused about and ask for study tips regarding papers and exams.
After talking to some of my friends, I realized they all want to go to their professor’s office hours but are intimidated and unsure of what they should say during them. So, we at the Clog decided to put together a list of things you can ask during office hours, as well as advice about why going is so important.
Advice for office hours
Keep in mind that you aren’t going to office hours to receive a recap of the lecture. Instead, you’re going to office hours with concerns and questions you have about something your professor covered in class.
What to do during office hours
- Pick a difficult concept from lecture and, instead of asking for a definition, as it was probably covered in class, ask your professor to provide an example. This is always a great way to understand something that you are struggling to grasp.
- If you have an upcoming assignment, finish it early and ask your professor during office hours if they can skim your paper to see if you are way off course. Just ask politely, and it should only take them two to three minutes to look at your thesis and read your conclusion. This could end up saving your grade! I’ve done this in the past, and as long as I ask a week before the assignment is due, every single professor is always more than happy to review what I have so far. Plus, doing this ensures I never procrastinate.
- Be sure to go to office hours with all your notes, relevant texts and homework assignments. That way, even if you don’t know what they reference during your meeting off the top of your head, you’ll have it at hand.
What not to do during office hours
- Try not to ask questions you can find on the syllabus. If something is unclear about the midterm or final exam format, email your GSI instead.
- I stated this above, but to emphasize, refrain from asking for definitions of terms that can be found online, in lecture notes or in the textbook. Office hours are for getting to know your professors, asking clarifying questions about the course material and seeking help when you need it.
Opportunities that can arise from going to office hours
Forming a relationship with your professor is so important. Going to a professor’s office hours, even if only twice the whole semester, can impact your entire educational experience.
- As you get to know your professors, they’ll help you succeed academically and professionally by suggesting internships, providing advice on other classes they recommend and sharing life advice on different paths you could take post-graduation. Simply asking your professor how they ended up at UC Berkeley can teach you so much about them and possible paths you might be interested in taking.
- Keeping in touch with professors even after you’ve finished the class is also vital. What I usually do is email them the semester afterward with a new concept I’ve learned in another class that connects to their class, or tell them that their class helped me succeed with the next steps of my college career. This is an indirect way to thank your professor — trust me, it goes a long way.
- If you plan on applying to graduate school, you’ll need some letters of recommendation. Forming relationships with different professors throughout your time at UC Berkeley can give you options for individuals to ask for a recommendation when the time comes.
While we’re at it, you should go to your GSI’s office hours too. These graduate students are devoting their time and energy to help you understand what’s going on in class. Plus, they’re the ones who usually grade your assignments and will most likely be more lenient with your grade if they’ve seen you during their office hours throughout the semester. Additionally, they’re students themselves, so they can easily relate to your experience and provide you with valuable advice.
I know that going to office hours can be intimidating, but it’s so worth it. Especially during this virtual semester, office hours are simply a click away instead of a walk all the way across campus. There are zero cons and a billion pros, including better grades and more opportunities! Many of you are only at UC Berkeley for a handful of years. Take advantage of every opportunity that is in front of you and make the most of your Golden Bear experience.
So, please, go to your professor’s office hours.