Student life in UC Berkeley

PUBLISHED SAT, MAY 29 2021


Karissa Xu

Bachelors in Biology-Others at University of California, Berkeley

Chemistry and Biology Teacher


Academic

UC Berkeley is widely known for its rigorous academic environment. Its finals were known as one of the hardest among colleges in the US. However, there are always a good number of students getting 4.0 and scholarships for their high academic standing. For getting into internships and applying for graduate programs, a good grade can show the academic capability of the student. Thus, it is important to put effort into studying, while having a healthy lifestyle for managing stress and wellbeing

UC Berkeley

Choosing Major

Before I share some In UC Berkeley, different majors are housed in different colleges including the College of Letter and Science (L&S), the College of Engineering, the College of Chemistry (CoC), and the Rausser College of Natural Resources (CNR). Applicants do not have to choose a major to get into Berkeley, but they will be applied and admitted to one of the colleges above. Thus, many first-year students’ majors are undeclared in one college of UC Berkeley. When they discover a major that they would like to choose, they can look up the list of required classes (usually fundamental classes) that allow them to declare the major. Taking the fundamental classes of the major is beneficial for students to get a taste of what they will learn more in-depth in that major. However, one thing to keep in mind was if the major they want to declare is in another school, they need to file an additional form for transferring into that college. Besides the required classes for declaring, sometimes there are also required classes that need to be completed before transferring between colleges. Moreover, usually, there is a minimum required GPA or grade for the required classes. Generally speaking, transferring majors within the same college is usually easier than between colleges. Thus, it would be a good time to seek help for getting a good grade in those classes, like attending office hours, joining study groups, or getting private tutoring from companies like Helppo.

Grading system

For major requirements, the students are often required to take the classes as graded, which is A, B, C. Different from high school, A- will lower your GPA. Thus, getting a high GPA is not an easy thing. Another thing to keep in mind is that colleges have their own rules for general education (GE) classes, which are commonly referred to as the 7 breaths, which include Art, history, science, language, etc. For L&S, all students are required to complete one class in each breath with a letter grade. However, for the college of engineering, all these classes that are not major requirements could be taken as P/NP (pass/no pass). P/NP is a grading system that only a C is required to pass the class, and classes with P as their grade does not count toward GPA.

Having GE classes as graded can be good or bad. If the student is acing the class with an A, the GE class becomes a GPA booster, especially like the language classes with many units. However, if the GE class is hard to get an A, the overall GPA will be affected. This is also something to keep in mind before declaring your major. Do you want to take many different classes that can be fun but will factor in your GPA, or do you just want to focus on your major classes only?

Taking classes at Berkeley

As a public school, Berkeley offers many big classes with student ranges from 50 to 1000. Many classes offer lecture recordings that can be accessed anytime over the semester. With the current pandemic and all classes become remote, the number of classes providing recordings will only increase. Class recordings are good for students to go back to any material they do not understand. For most of the classes, there are graduate student instructors (GSI) who coordinate the class and teach discussions.

Discussions are usually offered once to three times a week depending on classes. In discussions, GSIs will go over lecture notes, provide extra practice, answer questions, and proctor quizzes. It is important to attend discussions because many of them are mandatory, and sometimes GSI will provide some good input on what to focus on in exams. They are usually more accessible than professors, and their office hours can be a good resource for students. Besides discussions, some introduction classes also have student tutoring at SLC (Student Learning Center) from upperclassmen who had a good GPA and had taken the class before. However, when it gets close to midterms finals, SLC can become overly crowded. Feel free to check out Helppo, which can provide efficient and effective tutoring not only before exams but also for any time during the semester and for previews to help students succeed in their academic life.