University is different than high school. It’s a whole new style of learning in a whole new kind of environment. And who better to give advice on that transition than our very own UBC profs?
As a university student, you’re here to expand your mind and contribute to the scholarly conversation. You’ll be encouraged to ask critical questions and offer new ideas, which can take some getting used to! But don’t worry—you don’t have to figure it out on your own.
We asked 8 real live UBC professors to give us their best advice for new students. Here’s what they had to say!
1. Attend office hours
“Go to office hours! Go regularly, at least every other week.”
- Pam Kalas, Senior Instructor | Zoology, Botany, & Science One
“Each course has something called 'office hours', which are a good place to go and ask questions or discuss class material. Office hours are also the perfect place to get to know your fellow classmates and the instructor. Drop by mine for some more advice, or just to say hi!”
- Anthony Estey, Lecturer | Computer Science
“Going to office hours often with specific problems about the homework or topics you didn't understand in class is a great way to get to know your prof and for them to get to know you. Those relationships are very useful when you eventually need to look for references and reference letters.”
- James Charbonneau, Instructor | Physics & Astronomy
2. Ask questions
“If you're confused about the material, that's normal. It means you're paying attention and you're trying to take in the content. If you already knew all the material, we should just give you your degree right now and there is no point for you to be in university. Therefore, ask questions about what you don't know—it's the most important part of the learning process and the reason why you are a student.”
- Amori Mikami, Professor | Psychology
“Don't be afraid to ask questions—whether it's to your classmates, teaching assistants (TAs), or lecturers. There are many resources available to you as a UBC student, and I strongly encourage you to make use of them!”
- Anthony Estey
“If you don't have questions about the course material, how about: ‘What are the top three things that I should do to succeed in your course?’, ‘What are the mistakes that students usually make when studying for this course?’, ’How many hours a week should I be spending on homework for this course?’, ‘Which chapter is usually the hardest?’.”
- Pam Kalas
3. ...but read the syllabus first!
“Read first, ask questions later! Most of your professors put a lot of time and thought into preparing a syllabus and crafting assignments, so read what we give you. If you have questions AFTER reading or if you find answers that are confusing, then please ask us for help!”
- Stefania Burk, Senior Instructor | Asian Studies
“Read syllabi carefully before selecting courses and/or sections thereof, and once selected follow carefully the instructions provided by the Prof.”
- Neil Armitage, Lecturer | Sociology
4. It’s okay to be confused—just keep moving forward
“Embrace discomfort and be prepared that you will not understand everything—it gets boring when you do and probably means you have become complacent, c'est la vie.”
- Neil Armitage
“You'd be surprised to know how many of your profs have struggled with courses, messed up assignments, failed to understand course material when they were undergraduates. Just keep going to classes and make use of your profs' office hours! Even if you've fallen behind or don't feel like you're getting it. You'll succeed if you keep at it (though maybe not in exactly the way you might have expected).”
- Katja Thieme, Instructor | English
5. Remember that you’re a person, not a number
“Your grade in a course does not indicate your worth as a person!”
- Amori Mikami
“I want new students to know that they are not ‘just a number’ and that faculty members care about their learning and their wellness.”
- Meghan Allen, Instructor | Computer Science