Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ List answers

Study Skills

How do I form a study group?

  • Recruit other students from your class, you can ask them after class or after office hours! In many instances, GSIs will also be willing to make class announcements that there’s a study group forming so you can find more people to work with. Exchange contact information and find a reoccurring time and place. Private study rooms can be booked in the library and are excellent group study spaces.

What study techniques can help me to stay focused?

  • Identify the goal of every study session before beginning. 

  • Use timers to take consistent breaks so you don’t get tired out, look up the Pomodoro method as a way to track your time! 

  • Create a study schedule with all of the subjects you want to study and the duration of time you want to spend on each subject. You could write this down or use a calendar app like Google Calendar or Notion.

  • Try taking a time-lapse video with your phone of your study sessions  to help stay on task, plus you’ll have a cute video at the end. You can do this by downloading a time-lapse app such as Lapse it or Video Speed Changer.

What are some online resources for studying?

  • Anki flashcards. Free software to create and study flashcards using a machine learning algorithm.

  • Spotify study playlists, like lofi hip-hop or coffee shop vibes to help keep you focused on tasks and minimize other noise distractions. Many people find that listening to music with words can be distracting, try out playlists with instrumentals only to tune your focus!

  • SelfControl software can be downloaded for free and will make certain websites unavailable to you for whatever duration of time you set, creating a barrier to certain web pages and helping to eliminate distractions. 

  • Forest app. Set a study timer and a tree will grow during that period of time. Watch your forest grow as you continue to study!

  • Try to make templates, diagrams, and drawings!

Careers & Major
Beyond coursework (the hidden curriculum)

Why extracurricular activities are important for my future career?

  •  Extracurriculars are anything that is beyond your required coursework for your degree. It is important to show future employers that you’ve been able to apply what you’ve learned. A great way to demonstrate your knowledge of your field is through extracurricular projects like research, internships, or volunteer work.

How do I get involved in research and internships?

I’m unsure of what job positions are available in my field or discipline, where should I get started?

  • Finding a job in the field that you love can often feel overwhelming since there are so many career opportunities available to you. Fortunately, the Career Center hosts a plethora of networking events via Handshake at which you can meet a variety of professionals in your field and ask them questions to help narrow your options.

What is networking and how can I use it to work for me?

  • Networking is making connections and building relationships with people. Building your professional network will not only expose you to different careers, but will also give you a supportive community from which you can draw inspiration and motivation.
  • You can start building your network by participating in student organizations and attending networking events hosted through the Career Center via Handshake Another great way to meet professionals is through “Information Interviews”. 
  • You can connect with people on networking websites like LinkedIn and ask to chat with them over the phone or on Zoom to ask them questions about their job position and career path.
Office Hours

When to go?

  • You can go to office hours at any point in the semester! 

  • OH are NOT only if something is wrong  - they can be used for building relationships with professors.

  • There is a common misconception that one should only go to office hours if you have questions or are struggling with course content. While that is an important reason to go, you can also attend office hours to get to know your professors/GSI’s and have more open-ended discussions about your interests. Remember, office hours are reserved for you – so don’t feel shy about taking up the time! Generally, Professors/GSI’s love to hear from their students and get to know them on a one-on-one basis.

What if OHs conflict with my schedule?

  • If office hours conflict with your schedule, you can reach out to your professor or GSI to find a time that works for both of you. In your email, be sure to indicate windows of time that work best for you.

Why go to office hours?

  • Office hours represent an intentional time set aside to create a space for students to feel comfortable approaching and talking with the professor or GSI about a myriad of topics. Some of the most common uses of office hours are around class material, tests/quizzes, future assignments, or overall grades. Students can engage in  deeper conversations about  the assigned readings and better understand course material during office hours, asking more specific questions and receiving more in-depth answers.

  • Office hours also allow students to engage more personally with their professors and GSI’s. Students can learn more about their background, interests, and personal research; as well as having the ability to ask questions regarding their reasoning for attending graduate school, specific academic interests, and intriguing areas of research. This also represents a great time for students to discuss their own areas of interest in the course, with the readings, talking about what you hope to gain from the class, or overlapping areas of interest between you and the professor/GSI. Many times, professors and GSI’s are aware of internships, research opportunities, or other resources that are available and can refer students to take advantage of these opportunities.

  • Both the professor and the GSI’s are extremely knowledgeable on the application process for graduate school. If students have an interest, professors and GSI can be great sources of information and can also provide assistance during the application process, such as with letters of recommendation. Taking the time to cultivate meaningful connections with the professor and GSI can significantly benefit you during the application process as they will be able to better speak toward your character, interests, and work ethic. You will also be able to chat with them about their time in graduate school and learn from their experiences to help guide you.

Icebreakers to Build Relations with Faculty  

  • It’s normal to be a little nervous when talking to a professor one-on-one for the first time, especially if you’re naturally shy. However, the vast majority of professors are friendly people who genuinely want to see you succeed, both in your studies and in your life after college. Just relax and be yourself.
  • If you have taken an interest in the material that you are learning in class, asking faculty questions about their research can help begin creating a relationship. This question opens up so many possibilities of where the conversation can go. For example, you can ask:

    • How they came across the topic, 

    • What interests them about the topic, 

    • Ask about how you can continue learning more about this topic, etc.

  • Once they begin opening up about their experience in the field ,you can  talk about your interest in the topic and your desire to continue furthering your knowledge.
    • What are you working on right now?
    • Ask about your professor's specialty, interests, side projects, or ongoing research they've been involved with.
    • Tell your professor why you took their class. Explain what you’re hoping to learn or share any questions you have about the topic.
    • If you like this field of study but are not sure whether you should major in it, you might ask what are some of my career options in this field?
    • If you really enjoyed the current course you’re taking with that professor, ask about any upcoming courses they might be teaching next semester.
    • Tell your professor what your big takeaways are so far. If you had misconceptions about the topic prior to taking the course, share how your perception has changed.
    • What are the most common mistakes you see on papers for this class? Do you have any guidance for avoiding those mistakes?
    • If you’ve been having trouble with a particular concept that your professor has discussed in class, you should go to their office hours and ask for additional help. It’s perfectly normal for students to not understand everything right away.
  • In most cases, it’s best not to overshare your personal issues with your professor. However, if you’ve been missing classes or having trouble keeping up with the assignments because a family member is ill or something else significant has happened, you’re likely to find that your professor may understand, but that doesn't guarantee they will give you a pass.
Setting yourself up for success

General Advice

  • Each year you should be building your academic skills.  Analytical reading and writing are key to success in many fields.  Stay organized, practice effective note-taking, and seek feedback.
  • Visit the Student Learning Center (SLC). 
  • Stay on top of your academic work. Go to office hours or tutoring as soon as you feel yourself falling behind.
  • Meet regularly with college and major advisers to review your course selections.
  • Learn about your degree requirements, options, and all of the available enrichment opportunities
  • Consider academic enrichment options. Independent study, tutorials, and fieldwork can provide you with significant insight into research and graduate study.  DeCal courses are also opportunities to supplement your academic experience.
  • Think about studying abroad or pursuing opportunities for mentorship and leadership. The UC Education Abroad Program and local programs and organizations provide opportunities for exploring your interests and potential.
  • Take an undergraduate research course. The Office of Undergraduate Research offers many research opportunities. Identify courses in your major that prepare you for research and take one or more of them.
  • Network, network, network! Start building a personal network of faculty, grad student instructors, advisers, friends, family, and employers to call upon for support. Schedule “informational interviews” with people in your field or the field you hope to get into.

Visit the Student Learning Center (SLC).

  •  Establish academic resources to support your efforts in course work at the Student Learning Center (SLC). Join Math, Science, and Social Science study groups led by upper-division-level undergraduate tutors.  Sign up for small seminars, adjunct courses, and writing workshops to solidify your academic foundation in introductory courses.  Become acquainted with like-minded peers who want to succeed and collaborate.  Leverage drop-in and individual tutoring resources at the SLC with your lower-division classes.
  • Stay on top of your academic work. Go to office hours or tutoring as soon as you feel yourself falling behind.
  • Use your resources! Cal has a ton of programs to help you on your journey.

Visit the Career Center & Career Counseling Library

  • Utilize their resources to help you research graduate school programs, internships, or assist you in a job search.
  • Visit the Career Counseling LibraryLocated in the courtyard of the Tang Center, The Career Counseling Library is a unique collection of books, files, directories, and electronic resources staffed by professional staff who will help you explore majors, careers, and graduate programs.
  • Visit the Career Center and utilize their resources to help you research graduate school programs, internships, or assist you in a job search.
Graduate School

What do I need to know about going to graduate school?

  • There is no right time or way to start thinking about grad school. A great way to begin the process is to chat with your professors and GSI’s to get their input on the field and the process. 

  • Check out the Step by Step website which has tons of useful information about building a plan to prepare from graduate each step of the way during your undergraduate career.
  • Ask your GSI or Professor: “I’m interested in Graduate school, how did you know you wanted to go to graduate school and how did you decide which degree to pursue?”

  • Plan to take courses that will strengthen your skills and prepare you for graduate school.

  • Consider doing an honors thesis during your senior year; start preparing for it now.

  • Explore other ways to strengthen a graduate school application- for example, study abroad

  • Gain research experience with an independent study course that focuses on an interesting research topic.

  • Review journals in your field to learn about issues and topics of scholarly interest and how scholars report their findings. Academic journals are available online through the UC Berkeley Library

  • Be involved with a summer research program.  The summer can be used to develop your research skills or construct a small part of your honors thesis.  Engaging in summer research programs will also provide you with more one-on-one opportunities to work with faculty members and interact with peers with similar interests.

  • As a senior, your fall courses and grades are crucial, so make thoughtful selections and try your best to earn all A’s.

  • Speak with L&S graduate student mentors or graduate students and postdocs in your department. As recent applicants, they can tell you what to expect regarding graduate work.

  • Undertake an honors thesis or a senior research project.


General Advice

  • Seeking out research/ internship opportunities can be a great way to further explore your interests and get a sense of how your major can be applied in the real world. 

  • For those of you who are undecided and have many interests to explore, internships can help with narrowing down and focusing your interests.

  • It's important to remember that majors and careers are not a one-to-one equation, so figuring out what kind of work you enjoy is great information to have!