Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jessica Ong

Dear ILC students,

My name is Jessica Ong, and I am currently an upcoming sophomore at UC Berkeley! (oh, how time flies…). After just one year at Cal, I have already met so many amazing people, and also learned so much more about myself – so I’m here to give you some pointers.

First off, I would like to start by encouraging all of you to dorm for at least the first year, no matter how close you are to home. That experience will not only help you learn to be more independent, but also allow you to get a closer connection to the campus itself (and by closer, I do not mean distance). When I lived at Clark Kerr, I was initially quite sad. None of my high school friends that I knew were there, and the dorm was quite far from campus (compared to the others). Nevertheless, in less than a week, I got to know most of my floormates and, of course, my own roommates. I had lots of fun times with these people, and indeed, some have become my close friends. I think one of the things that made me cherish the dorms even more is that fact that, after a long day in class, I was always able to come back to people who were just as lost as I was. In general, just know that your first year at college will be quite a rollercoaster ride – but that you are not alone. Look to your peers for help – and keep reading these posts from former first year students – and you will go far!

Although living on campus may be quite nice, it’s not the only thing you should be thinking about. The first year at a college is an adjustment period. Even though the UC’s are considered public schools, it was still a drastic change from high school. I had high expectations for myself right from the beginning, but make sure you know your own limits. For example, I came into Cal thinking I would LOVE to join many organizations and clubs – to be involved and show others that I am capable of doing more than just studying. In truth, I did: I joined the UC Rally Committee and showed off my spirit during football and volleyball games. However, in doing so, I had to pay the price with my grades. (Now don’t get me wrong, I still ended up with good grades, but not as high as I wanted them to be). So, my advice to you is to use your first year as a trial – yes, join clubs or whatever you find interesting, and see how well you can manage your time. If it all works out, then great! If not, during your second semester, mix it up and try something else. That way, during your second year, you will have a gist about what you can and cannot handle.

What I find very interesting about the college system is being able to choose classes throughout the whole day. I personally like taking morning classes because it made my whole day more productive. Instead of sleeping in, I would be in class, and afterwards, I had the rest of the night to myself. But of course, this depends on what you like to do. All I can tell you is that two of my best friends when planning my classes were: and Courserank, as you can probably tell by its name, is a site where students go to see how others feel about a specific course. The class is not only ranked from 1-5 (5 being the highest), but some students also comment and leave their feedback about the class or the professors. Ninjacourses, on the other hand, is where I like to plan my schedule. After you choose the classes that you think you want to take, ninjacourses will come up with lots of possible schedules for you to choose from (if none of the classes overlap). As much as I like these websites, make sure you keep an open mind when you read other students’ comments on sites like courserank. It is often very hard to tell when someone is being honest, or just holding a grudge on his or her bad grade in the class. So, basically, don’t solely rely on these sites before you choose your classes – you might get more help by speaking to students in person and seeing their real expressions/attitude towards the class, or by going to speak with an academic advisor/counselor.

A whole semester of class goes by very fast. After tons and tons of learning and studying, comes the dreaded finals week. Often, the campus is quiet and students are in buildings studying like crazy; some pull all nighters and others go party. Here are my suggestions to you: DO NOT try to stay up all night. Please manage your time so that you study a few hours here and there on each subject. Cramming it in one whole night is not going to help you in any way. Also, make sure you give yourself some breaks to relax – but don’t get out of hand either or else you’ll not want to go back to studying. I think the best way to study for finals, is to start studying throughout the semester. Make sure you understand the material as the professor teaches it, and start getting to know students in the class that you could form study groups with. I think the best way to learn is by helping others – so grab a group of friends and hit the stacks together. Each person will have their own strengths and together, you will all ace those tests!

Of course, don’t forget to be thankful that you have the ILC to help guide you towards success. My time at Yale as a part of the Ivy Scholars program showed me how much potential I actually have, and without their help, I really don’t know where I would be in some cases. To those incoming freshmen, congrats in graduating high school, and welcome to another four or more years of craziness, fun, stress, and excitement. I wish you the best of luck! Please feel free to contact me ( about the college life or about Cal! Go Bears!


Jessica Ong

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