Berkeley IEEE
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Berkeley IEEE

Things I Wish I Knew in my Freshman Year

By: Mark Yang

(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

College is a new stage in life — it’s an unknown domain that requires much forethought and preparation to even enter, let alone finish. In hindsight, I wish that I had done more to prepare for those first steps in my freshman year. Upon getting accepted into Berkeley, my expectations were fixated on the new adventures I would face in college: The sunshine of the West Coast, the parties at fraternities, and the people that I had yet to meet. Instead of considering where to find a Facebook group for the class of 2022 or how to look for potential roommates, I had my sights set on having a good time. While it’s still important to prioritize good friendships and exciting experiences, there are many additional things that I wish I knew in my Freshman year that could have helped me make the best out of my college experience. If you are someone looking to start your UC Berkeley journey on a good note, read on!

Facebook: the Starting Point for Online Communities

My first piece of advice for those enrolling at UC Berkeley is to check out the following online resources. A good place to begin is on Facebook: Facebook groups are a great way to get to know people who share similar interests or circumstances as you before the school year even starts, especially since it’s difficult to do so in person during the pandemic. For example, the Class of 2024 has its own Facebook group where freshmen post introductions of themselves during the summer before their first semester. This allowed these new students to find others with the same classes as well as potential roommates, workout buddies, etc. Every incoming class has a Berkeley Facebook group like this, so you’ll be able to introduce yourself and reach out to new friends as well!

Once lectures and club recruitment starts, it’s likely you won’t have time to purely devote to making friends and study groups, so it’s very beneficial to get that taken care of the summer before. There are also many Facebook groups for specific interests. For any freshmen interested in engineering, I suggest joining groups such as the UC Berkeley IEEE page, the HKN facebook page, and the CSUA facebook page. These organizations all host exciting events, from engineering trivia nights and socials to professional development workshops and resume reviews. Whether you’re looking for a place to sell your textbook or somewhere to rent an apartment, there is a Facebook group for your needs!

Rate My Professors: the Hub for Class Enrollment

Another useful online resource is the website Rate My Professors, which contains information about individual professors at Berkeley. You can look up any professor at Berkeley and view the ratings and reviews written by students who have taken one of their classes before, as well as data on how difficult their tests are, the type of homework they assign, how well they teach lectures, and more. For example, if you are looking for a lenient professor to help alleviate your course load, you could check out Rate My Professors to determine which professor other students thought had the easiest tests and assignments.

I frequently use this website when deciding which classes to enroll in for the following semester, since the environment that a professor creates for their class is often more important than the content of the class itself. Furthermore, the students’ reviews give thorough insight into the lecture and exam structure of each professor, which can help you decide which professor’s class would be more suitable for your own learning style. While Berkeley’s academic catalog also provides information about each course, it only scratches the surface of the course’s nature. If the Berkeley academic catalog indicates a class’s exterior, I recommend checking out Rate My Professors to learn more about its interior.

Tutoring Services at Berkeley

My next piece of advice entails how to do well in classes. Many technical courses at Berkeley are incredibly difficult and require significant repetition and time commitment to fully understand. Sometimes it’s not enough to hear a concept explained by just your professor or TA, and you need to hear the thought process of other individuals. Luckily, there are many different organizations and programs available to students to give them an extra push on their assignments, such as the Student Learning Center, Academic Services in Resident Hall, College Writing Programs, CSM, and etc. While some of these services are offered by student-run campus organizations, the tutors are comprised of students who have already taken the course and done well. Therefore, their tutoring style is likely catered to the specific teaching style of your class and professor and may be more beneficial than other off-campus tutoring services.

Don’t Underestimate Office Hours!

Although working with tutors outside of class is an excellent supplemental resource, don’t forget that you can also directly interact with course staff via office hours. In most college courses at Berkeley, professors aren’t the ones to grade the exams; instead, the exams are conducted and graded by graduate students and TAs. Office hours provide opportunities for the students to not only get their conceptual questions answered, but also to get to know the student instructors who are running the course In addition to having taken the class before, they’re also in charge of managing and structuring the course content throughout the semester, so they truly know the material inside-out. Another benefit of visiting student instructors and professors in office hours is being able to ask them about their research so you can get to hear about the intricacies of their industry firsthand. The opportunity to both solidify your understanding of the course material and learn about graduate work makes office hours an essential part of your college experience from day one!

To summarize, keep in mind that getting accepted into Berkeley is just the beginning of your university journey. How you spend your time during these four years of college has a significant impact on your success later on. In addition to socializing and enjoying your time off, it’s important to plan ahead and make the most of your world-class education at Berkeley. The students I know who went off to work at successful companies after graduating made the most out of their time, resources, and opportunities at UC Berkeley. I hope this article has provided some useful advice for newly incoming freshmen; stay tuned for future blog articles on helpful tips and resources!

With peace and love,

Berkeley IEEE

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