Academics
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Angela Wei / Staff Illustrator

It’s a week before finals and you are swamped with work: essays need to be written, tests need preparing for, and labs need to be done. Speaking from personal experience, the hardest part of the week isn’t the excessive coffee-drinking or the all-nighters––it’s the helpless feeling of simply not knowing how to solve a problem or structure an essay. In those moments, the best solution is to reach out and get help. Detailed below is a series of Columbia’s undergraduate resources that one should make the most of.

1. Help rooms and private tutors - Columbia College, General Studies and School of Engineering and Applied Science students

Help rooms and tutors can offer in-depth assistance on different subjects for Columbia College, General Studies and SEAS students. This resource is great for students who might need more intensive one-on-one help and would also benefit those who prefer a slower teaching pace. Departments offering these help rooms and tutors include chemistry, computer science, economics, math, physics, Spanish, and statistics. See below for instructions on how to access these help rooms.

Chemistry - help room

Students can join the chemistry help room at specific times each week with Zoom links provided for the corresponding tutor.

Computer science - help room

This help room is offered by Barnard but open to all students for assistance in introductory and intermediate courses in computer science. There are listed specific times and days each week that these help rooms are active. To join, students should contact the computer science department administrator listed on the website.

Economics - private tutors

For economics, the relevant page has a list of available tutors. To schedule an appointment, students can email a tutor directly. Barnard students have access to their own economics help room (to make an appointment, click here).

Mathematics - help rooms

For math, there are two help rooms. The first is for students who need help on College Algebra and Analytic Geometry, as well as Calculus I, II, and III. The second is for students who need assistance on Calculus IV and higher. For both help rooms, there is a chart listed on their websites detailing the time and date each tutor is available, as well as their corresponding Zoom links. Barnard students have a separate math help room they can use (click here to access).

-Click here for Calc I-III

-Click here for Calc IV+

Physics - help room

This help room offers assistance on any physics course. The times and days are detailed on the website.

Spanish - help room

Offered by Barnard, any undergraduate student currently enrolled in a Spanish course can receive help here. The website lists the times, days, and meeting links.

Statistics - help room

This help room can aid understanding for Introduction to Statistical Reasoning, Introduction to Statistics, and Introduction to Statistics with Calculus. Click on the website to download a PDF file with all the available tutors, times, and meeting links.

2. Tutoring - School of General Studies students

Click here to schedule an appointment for any form of tutoring.

The Academic Resource Center at Columbia offers a range of free tutoring services for students in the School of General Studies. Traditional peer tutoring is offered, in which tutors work with one or two students depending on the subject, with each session lasting 50 minutes. This resource covers mathematics, science, foreign languages, and economics courses. To participate, students need to book appointments in advance. Tutors may also lead study groups, which are more suitable for students who already have a good understanding of the material but struggle with the specifics. These groups offer reviews of key concepts and discussions. Students will need to make an appointment in advance. Finally, there is also the option of participating in Reading and Argument Coaching. In these sessions, students can work with their tutor on reading effectively, crafting better arguments, and more.

3. The Writing Center - Columbia students, with exceptions

Click here to book appointments.

The Writing Center uses one-on-one consultations as well as workshops to offer feedback and plans to improve students' writing. The consultants can help students at every stage of their writing process, from brainstorming to editing, and usually last around 45 minutes. All Columbia undergraduates and graduates can attend, excluding those from Barnard, Teacher’s College, and School of Social Work. For frequently asked questions regarding the Writing Center, click here.

4. Barnard Writing Center - Open to students enrolled in Barnard classes

Click here to book an appointment for Writing Fellows.

The Barnard Writing Center is perfect for students whose forte isn’t in writing, or who simply want another set of eyes to look over their work. This resource helps students strengthen their essay drafts, general writing skills, and the content of their papers. The writing fellows are trained Barnard students who can provide candid, constructive feedback. Moreover, drop-in hours are also offered to students during midterms and finals each semester.

5. Barnard Speaking Fellows Program - Open to students enrolled in Barnard classes

Click here to book an appointment for Speaking Fellows.

Speaking Fellows is a great resource for students who may not feel confident in their public speaking skills or want extra practice and feedback. This resource offers one-on-one appointments, workshops, and more. Students can receive help on their class presentations, interviews, and other public speaking situations. The Speaking Fellows Program also offers a series of workshops that usually last one or two hours and touch on a variety of topics, from how to confidently use comedy, to the art of listening. These workshops aim to improve your speaking ability through the participation and support of a small group of peers.

These help rooms and tutoring sessions are very useful, especially if you go in with the right mindset and preparation. Below are some tips that will make your learning experience smoother and more effective.

1. Plan ahead: Book appointments in advance

During midterms and finals season, many academic resources are booked full. Planning ahead in these moments would be wise, as it can ensure a better chance of a time slot with a tutor or group you are familiar with. A good way to plan ahead during those busy days would be to write out your academic timeline through either a physical agenda, Google Calendar, Apple’s Calendar, myHomework, or other applications. A tried-and-true method to ensure you remember your meeting is to set reminders on your phone and on your computer.

2. Bring specific questions and pointed areas of confusion

Depending on what resource you use, some sessions will be shorter than others. Use these shorter sessions to answer specific questions you might have. This means that even if you are unsure about how to solve a problem, you should give it a try and work out as much as you can in advance so you have a clear understanding of where your issue lies. By going to your sessions with these areas of confusion in mind, you will save time and your academic tutor will better assist you. An effective way to approach this would be to write down your questions beforehand or highlight the areas that you want extra explanation on.

3. Take detailed notes throughout the meeting

We’ve all had the experience where after a lengthy, in-depth explanation, the next day we wake up forgetting almost everything that we learned. To avoid this issue, it is important for students to take detailed notes throughout the course of the meeting. For STEM subjects, especially mathematics, don’t just write down the final answer, but include also the specific steps along with logical explanations leading up to that answer. For humanities subjects, writing down a detailed structure or outline for your essay throughout the session may be more useful than trying to craft the perfect sentence. During the session, it is more important to capture the ideas. Later on, you can consider revising your structure and then thoughtfully writing out your sentences with better grammar and style.

4. Try to work with the same tutor or group consistently

Working with the same person or group every time has many benefits. First, it fosters a closer bond between you and the tutor, allowing for more candid conversations on how to improve. A consistent working relationship also means that the tutor or group may be able to better understand your ways of learning, your academic strengths, and your weaknesses, allowing them to tailor a better approach to teaching.

The next time you’re flooded with questions, remember to give these resources a try. Be sure to approach these resources with an open mind and to arrive to help sessions prepared with questions. Sometimes just connecting with a more experienced academic mentor can reassure you and give you the confidence to continue. With the help of these resources, your busy weeks will be much more manageable.

Staff writer Charlotte Wu can be contacted at charlotte.wu@columbiaspectator.com. Follow Columbia Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

Columbia Barnard Resources Tutoring Help room Help TA Writing Study
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