October 25, 2010 10:48 AM
Making the most of office hours
Lots of resources are available to you outside of what is presented in lecture. Many students get caught up in just finishing the weekly homework assignments or cramming for exams that they lose sight of why you’re actually at Cal – to learn and challenge yourself! Your GSIs and professors are worth getting to know for many reasons: whether you’re struggling in a class, in love with the topic that is being covered, hoping to get letters of recommendation, or looking for additional opportunities, it is definitely worth your extra effort to make the most out of office hours!
1. Go with questions
- Write down questions that you have during lecture while taking notes
- If something is unclear, circle it and write it in a different color so you can easily come back to it
- Or, if you want to know more about a topic they didn’t cover in detail
- Write down questions as you do the assigned readings
- Do extra practice problems if provided (check the end of the chapter in your textbook) and ask if you could go through the problem with them to check your methods
2. Do background research about your professor or GSI’s interests
- Read some of their papers
- Look up faculty websites
- Search faculty research expertise: http://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/faculty-expertise
- Use the library databases to search for publications from your professor/GSI
- Ask questions about some of their work they may have presented during lecture
3. Don’t just ask for answers
- Good students want to really understand what the problem is asking and the concepts behind it. Going to office hours should be more than just to getting the answers out of your professor or GSI!
- Reflects poorly on you as a student
4. Don’t just go the week of the exam
- As you all know, this is when office hours are most hectic!
- To get the most out of the class, try to go to office hours regularly (every week or every other week) to make sure that you’re staying on top of the material and getting to know your professor or GSI outside of exam weeks
5. Ask for advice!
- They were undergrads once too… It may be valuable to ask how they got involved in research, if they have any recommendations for summer programs or internships
6. For bigger lectures (especially lower division classes like Chem1A, Bio1B, Bio1A, etc.) you can go to the professor’s office hours just to listen to what other students are asking
- Almost acts as an additional, supplemental hour of lecture
- Good way to meet fellow students in your class and form study groups
7. If you can’t go to their scheduled office hours, don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment with them!
- That being said, make sure that you’re prepared to meet with them. There won’t be other students asking questions, most likely, so it’s all on you to make the meeting worth both of your time.
It's never too late to start going to office hours, so don't get discouraged that we only have a little over a month left of the semester. Good luck!
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