UC Berkeley News
Point of View

Point of View

Seniors' advice to incoming students
How to get the most out of your years at Berkeley — and stay sane

— This spring, shortly before commencement, the NewsCenter asked a number UC Berkeley seniors for their advice to incoming freshmen and transfer students. What, in their opinoin, is the magic formula for succeeding academically and socially at Cal? How did they spend their college years? What, if anything, do they regret? Here's what 14 members of the class of '08 had to say.

I made the mistake of not getting involved in student clubs until my junior year. Now I would say that an important part of college life is to get involved in clubs, just to meet new people, experience everything. I think clubs are a good way to get involved.

Right now I'm in the Cal Hawaii Club, which basically helps people make the transition from Hawaii to the mainland. We have an annual luau every spring, so it's fun. I've also become involved in peer advising for architecture students, freshman, and sophomores — answering questions about what courses are good, what teachers are good.

Ashley Matsu, architecture (city and regional planning minor). Hometown: San Jose, CA
Ashley Matsu, architecture, with a city and regional planning minor. Hometown: San Jose, CA

Isaac Tse, Molecular and Cell Biology Hometown: Irvine, CA

Make sure you join some student groups. There's a lot of dance groups here, and cultural groups; it's definitely worthwhile to join one of those during your career here. I joined the Hong Kong Student Association and the Cooking Club; it was great.

Isaac Tse, molecular and cell biology
Hometown: Irvine, CA

Go out as much as possible, meet as many people as possible, and always be positive. Interact in as many activities as possible and always be friendly. Get to know the campus more.

Saba Younus, political economy of industrial societies. Hometown: Union City, CA
Saba Younus, Political Economy of Industrial Societies, Hometown: Union City, CA

Claudia Trotch, History Hometown: San Jose, CA

Live in Berkeley without regrets. Do everything that you want to do these four years. It goes by really quick . You don't want to look back and be like "Oh, I wish I'd done that, or I wish I'd done that."

It's important to join groups or some type of club on campus, just to get yourself in there and get to know people. I joined a sorority my freshman year. Not that everyone has to join a Greek house — but it's helpful to have people who are going to be there for the four years of your life here.

Claudia Trotch, history. Hometown: San Jose, CA

Come in with an open mind in terms of what you want to study. Take a lot of classes from a lot of different disciplines; take advantage of the wide breadth of academic opportunities that Berkeley has to offer. That's what I’m telling my sister anyway; she's probably coming here in the fall. It was an enjoyable experience, early on, being able to take classes from all the different professors.

Matthew Gilbert, art history and legal studies
Hometown: Santa Monica, CA

Matthew Gilbert, art history and legal studies

Regine Ho, social welfare Hometown: Oakland, CA

Of course you have to focus on studying and getting good grades and all. But you have to go out and meet and lot of people and connect, too.

Anyone can get good grades and focus on studying. But as a Berkeley grad, the most important thing will be getting out into work and having resources, the connections, to apply what you've learned.

Regine Ho, social welfare. Hometown: Oakland, CA

This is the best place on earth to study anything that you want. There's the type of people who like to have fun and the type of people who only study. If you can take parts of both of those worlds — if you can study real hard and be passionate about what you're learning, and still go out and have fun on Thursday nights, Saturday nights and meet all kinds of people — then you'll get the most out of the experience.

Lance Pollard, neurobiology and religious studies Hometown: San Diego, CA
Lance Pollard  neurobiology and religious studies  Hometown: San Diego, CA

Farah Memon, Mass communications Hometown: San Jose, CA

My advice to a freshman is be humble. With everyone competing, you're not going to be the one who gets the "A" automatically. Just try hard. Don't procrastinate.

Farah Memon, mass communications
Hometown: San Jose, CA

It's really important to try to build some type of rapport with your GSI or professor. That way you know what they’re looking for. You won't end up disappointed with your grade, because if you talk to them all the way through the process, you have some idea. That helped me out. It worked; my GPA is 3.9. So it's good advice to follow.

Jeremiah Sims, rhetoric
Hometown: Richmond, CA

Jeremiah Sims, rhetoric Hometown: Richmond, CA

Sandra Yam, mass communications major Hometown: Morgan Hill, CA

Have fun — in class, in life — and follow directions as closely as possible. I think half the battle of going to school is just following directions, so make sure you do that. On the tests, whatever the teacher says, or following the dorm rules. I've gotten up a couple of times here — but nothing too bad; I try to keep in line.

Sandra Yam, mass communications
Hometown: Morgan Hill, CA

Go to events so you can meet a lot of people. It's very helpful, because you need to have a social life. If not, you'll get too stressed out and you won't make it.

José Peña, nutritional science (physiology and metabolism emphasis). Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Jose Pena nutritional science, with an emphasis on physiology and metabolism Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Jen Schellbach, art history Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

I would live in the dorms the first year, just to make friends. 'Cause if you live in an apartment your first year, you’ll kind of miss out on the social bonding.

You have to balance everything, or you'll bomb out your first year. You can't just study. Some things Aristotle is right on: you have to balance the good and the bad. Everything within moderation — including moderation!

Jen Schellbach, art history
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

If you have any extracurricular opportunities, definitely pursue them. Try new things, explore all the resources, and enjoy the college experience while you can. The main thing I joined was Circle K; it’s a community-service club. It was a very enriching experience, because I got to meet a lot of great people who shared a similar interest in serving the greater Bay Area community. That was a great time for me.

I wish I could go back to the beginning of my four years and do more. I wish I’d studied abroad. I encourage all freshmen to look into that, right away. Regardless of your major, if you can go study abroad for a semester; that’s an awesome experience in itself.

Hedwig Hofschneider, history and South and Southeast Asian studies
Hometown: Saipan island, Micronesia

Hedwig Hofschneider History, South and Southeast Asian studies. Hometown: Saipan island, Micronesia

To read more about UC Berkeley undergraduates, see "The undergrad lowdown".