When I was a freshman, I was told over and over again, “Go to office hours”. I heard it so much that it transformed into this abstract item on my checklist – something to check off eventually, but not really that important to complete in the present moment. Then the semester got busier, and finding time for office hours got to be more and more difficult. The semester passed before my eyes, and I soon realized I would never check “office hours” off my list. A wasted opportunity. This occurred over the course of my entire first year at Cal, and while I did go to office hours to get help on assignments, office hours became a resource only if I was struggling. I had yet to see the beauty of going into a professor’s office hours without anything concrete to discuss. The idea that you could just have a conversation about whatever with a professor was beyond my understanding.
Now in my senior year, and after many recent trips to office hours, I’ve become that person. The one now saying to you, “go to office hours”. Despite a first year devoid of them and a last year chock full, I now say with clarity: office hours with both professors and graduate students can and should be an integral part of your college experience.
You will be blown away by how incredibly enriching it really is! Especially at Berkeley. Our professors are world-renown, innovative, and enlightening – just by going in and having a conversation with one will undoubtedly expand the limits of your mind and help you grasp broader themes or concepts that weren’t necessarily apparent from the course material. So in the span of fifteen or twenty minutes, you can gain help on any tangible material, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, extend the conversation to make it more personal. In my experience, this was the key to having conversations that aided both my academic and personal development.
The true beauty of office hours lies in the way you and a professor (or GSI!) can develop a lasting relationship that extends past the end of the semester. This can translate into professional help or even mentorships or tight bonds between you and them. I have been fortunate enough to be mentored by both professors and GSIs, forming invaluable connections and giving me access to a plethora of resources within academia and the professional world. Moreover, if you are interested in going to graduate school, developing connections with professors is crucial to your acceptance – those letters of recommendation will be much stronger if the professor actually knows and likes you, and can speak honestly about your characteristics, talents, and abilities.
So now that I’ve convinced you, there’s only one thing left to do: Go to office hours! And quick, before the semester, and then the year, pass before your eyes.