Q&A: Academics at Berkeley

August 28, 2014

I have a big exam in a couple days, but there’s a really rad concert I want to go to that’s the night before. I always studied hard in high school, but now that I’m in college, I just want to have fun. What should I do?

Depends on you! If you can trust yourself to prepare before the concert, and to be fully functional and able to ace your exam after it, then by all means go! But if not, then maybe consider putting off the instant gratification of fun for the later reward of being able to take your exam confidently. You know yourself best–just be honest about your own limits, and commit to whatever decision you make. The worst thing would be to procrastinate studying while wishing you were at the concert, or to spend the concert worrying about your exam. –Echo

I think I bombed my first midterm. My life is over–I don’t even feel motivated to go to class anymore. Is there any point in continuing to try?

Yes, definitely! Bombing a midterm sucks–especially when you’re used to getting good grades–but it’s never as bad as it seems. Do the math, figure out what you need to get on the next exams, and try different studying techniques. Even if you can’t save your grade for the class, you’ll build solid study habits that will help you do well in your future classes.–Echo

Dear anonymous, Don’t assume the worst. Of course there’s still a point to keep trying. :) One midterm is not worth your entire grade neither does it determine your intelligence, so chin up and know that it is still salvageable. Just take this as a learning opportunity. If you don’t accept one failure, how are you going to pick yourself back up, progress, and see the many successes that are waiting for you around the corner? You can do it. Trust in yourself and always be aware of when you’re losing sight of your goals so you can help yourself to be focused again.–Laura

I’m enrolled in a decal for my first semester here to learn a new skill, but I feel like everyone else has been progressing faster than me. I love it and I keep telling myself that with more practice I’ll get better, but I feel like I’m being judged and it makes me nervous. What should I do?

Hi there,
That’s great you’re taking a decal to explore your interests! You shouldn’t feel inadequate though because I can guarantee you you’re not the only one taking this decal out of plain interest. Yes there will be people who are good at what they’re interested in and may learn faster than others, but focus on doing you and going at your own pace. :) It’s all about self improvement and if you genuinely practice consistently, you’ll gain the confidence you need to go to the decal feeling prepared than ever before and soon enough, be better at what you do. Remind yourself not to slack just because it is a p/np 1-2 unit class and maybe make some friends who’d want to practice what you’re doing together. Good luck! :D Laura

I’m struggling academically. I feel like no matter how hard I try, I’m unable to get the grades I want in my classes. It’s almost the end of semester and I’m freaking out on what will be the outcome. I’ve hit a wall where I've become unmotivated because I feel that no matter the amount of work I put into some of my courses that it will never to good enough to get a good grade in a curved class.

Dear Anonymous, Berkeley is a tough place! But, it’s not necessary to struggle alone.There are plenty of folks on campus who want to help you. For example, have you had a chance to get help from your GSIs and professors (office hours are your friend) or fellow classmates? Also, the Student Learning Center has some excellent resources.

Please reach out to your academic advisers, too. At this point, it’s important to let everyone know that you need support. If you think it would be helpful, the Tang Center has a counseling department you can contact for emotional support (510.642.9494). Best wishes!

I’m struggling in school. When it comes to grades, I can’t keep up. Friends, I always feel like I’m an outsider. Relationships… nonexistent. Is this normal? I feel like everything is bringing me down.

You’re having a really tough time, and that’s ok – it happens. Life is filled with ups and downs … it’s never just always up. We all need to figure out a self-care plan so that when we’re feeling down, it’s more manageable. What’s one thing that you can do for yourself right now to take care of yourself? It could be something as simple as binging on netflix, going for a hike, or a phone call to an old friend.

Also, these self-care plans may be challenging to think of and create by yourself. You don’t have to think it through yourself. You can schedule an appointment with a counselor at the Tang Center and just check-in with them. They are a huge resource of support – they can help you with everything from relationships to grades. All students, regardless of health insurance receive 5 free counseling sessions. You have nothing to lose! http://www.uhs.berkeley.edu/students/counseling/PDF/CPSBrochure.pdf

– Marie

I’m graduating this Fall and I really want to stay in the bay area. I’m happy here since all my friends are here and I just love the area. But my parents really want me to go back to the east coast. I’m looking at job options and everything that I’m interested in is in the bay, but I don’t want to disappoint my parents either since I do care about them. Any thoughts?

Sweetie pie,

Your parents may be understanding of your situation. If your focus post-graduation is your career, and your parents feel the same, they may support your staying in the bay area for the first few years after graduation. Try having a discussion with your parents about your viewpoint and their concerns. On the other hand, there may be job opportunities on the east coast that pique your interest. Mama Luv would suggest applying to several jobs so you can have more options/offers (perhaps your parents will be happier with an offer in the bay area vs. one near home). In the meantime, keep your chin up, strut with confidence, and shake what your mama gave ya! Mama Luv is here to help.

Mama Luv

I need a social life to stay sane but between classes, studying and lab I have absolutely no time for my friends. How can I bring more balance to my life or am I destined to be friendless while in college?

Sweetie pie,

It’s completely normal to be incredibly busy during school! After all, your future is important. However, please keep in mind that your mental and physical health is equally important during this time. Mama Luv would suggest setting aside a few hours a week on your calendar to socialize. Everyone needs to grab a meal so perhaps a quick lunch or coffee break a few times a week will suffice. If not, many campus clubs have social events which will allow you to interact with people as well. In the meantime, remember to keep your chin up, strut with confidence, and shake what your mama gave ya! Mama Luv is here to help.

I’m having a rough time in a few of my classes but it seems like other people in the class have it all under control. I’m seriously starting to doubt my ability to be successful here. At times, I feel like I was admitted to Cal on accident. What should I do?


It’s completely natural to feel like your having a rough time at Cal. After all, a great education is meant to challenge you so you can learn and be your best! Perhaps others are feeling equally challenged but you aren’t aware! Mama Luv would suggest pinpointing where you think you can get additional help. Is it the content, workload, or participation? Once you figure out the root of your feelings, you’ll know your next steps :) As always, keep your chin up, strut with confidence, and shake what your mama gave ya! Mama Luv is here to help.

Mama Luv

I’m a first-year and with the start of the semester approaching I’m wondering if there are any tips for “getting in good” with professors. I want to start making connections so that I won’t have to stress when it comes time to ask for letters of recommendations.

When it comes to meeting professors, it can seem like a challenge- especially if you are one of 800 in a lecture hall! Many first-years as well as folks that aren’t used to taking an active role in their academics may not know the best way to make a connection with professors or can feel overwhelmed at the thought. Here are some tips to becoming visible to professors so that when it is time to ask for a rec, you won’t feel like just another face in the crowd.

Be on time
Berkeley time is a real thing. And also, being present, punctual, and attentive in class regularly can make you more than just “that person that awkwardly fumbles to their chair in the middle of lecture”.

Ask questions/participate in class
Set a goal to ask at least one question or provide one response each class. This can give your professor insight to your perspectives and allows them to get to know you better as a student.

Take advantage of office hours
Beyond introducing yourself, professors are great at providing academic guidance and support. That’s kind of what they are there for! This can also be a great time for both parties to get to know more about each other.

Do your homework (on the professor, that is!)
Do you know about their research areas or current projects? Knowing a bit about your professors professional background can not only give you talking points when you meet with them but you may also be inspired by finding out that some of your interests align. Plus, discussing research interests may mean that the next time a grant or internship comes around you will be up for consideration.

Keep in contact but don’t pester
Following up after lectures with questions can be really helpful yet staying after every single class with the sole purpose of standing out can get annoying. Besides, this can prevent students that actually need some clarity from getting time with the professor. Practice having boundaries with the methods you use for reaching out. Too much of anything is never good.

Overall, you want to be genuine in your approach and thoughtful about ways to make a connection.

I’ve been hella tired during the day lately and it’s affecting my studying. My roommate snores so nighttime isn’t exactly the most restful. I’ve tried to mention it to her and she doesn’t believe me. I’d love some advice on a great next step. Otherwise I’m not sure that I will get the grades I need this semester!

This can be a tough one, especially if she isn’t taking your claims seriously. Some helpful tips to try and make life easier can be:

1. Try scheduling your night so that you fall asleep first. Once you’ve reached a deeper state of sleep, you’ll be less likely to awaken in the middle of the night. Light sleepers may still find this option difficult.

2. Invest in a really good pair of earplugs. Professional grade would be best. If you are worried about sleeping through the alarm, you can set it to “vibrate” and place it next to you on the bed.

3. Listen to some music or white noise through headphones.

4. If you find that you are tired throughout the day and don’t have enough time to get back to your room, there are several rest/nap stations around campus that you can use to catch up on your snooze.

5. Lastly, ask for a room change. If it is beginning to impact your study time and/or grades, it can be worth the hassle!

Good luck!