Getting Started

A guide for new students in the Department of Astronomy.

Step 1: After You Accept Berkeley's Offer of Admission

  • If you are in the process of graduating, arrange to have an “official” final transcript sent to the Graduate Division once available.
  • Arrange your financial support for your first year. If you have a non-Berkeley fellowship, make sure the Student Affairs Officer (Dexter) knows about it. Most new students act as teaching assistants (GSIs); if you do nothing you will probably be assigned to be one.
  • Find a place to live in the Berkeley area. The page on housing has all of the gory details – see the “Incoming Student Strategy” section. The most important point is to start thinking about how you're going to find housing immediately! If you show up in August without housing plans, you will get stuck with something expensive and unpleasant.
  • If you are a US citizen or permanent resident but are new to California, you will be required by the department to establish California residency. To do this, you must arrive in California and begin documenting your presence more than one solar year before the start of your third semester in graduate school – don't arrive late! For more information on residency requirements, follow these links to the Office of the Registrar and the BADGrads guide to residency.

Step 2: Upon Arrival in Berkeley

  • Keep airplane receipts or other such documents that establish when you first entered the state. They should go into some kind of file of residency-related documents that you will accumulate over the year.
  • Get yourself a map or print this one of the campus out. If you know how to find your way to Campbell Hall (CH), you can skip this, because we'll give you a campus map on your first day; of course, it's useful to have a good area map. AC Transit gives out a good one with the bus routes and schedules on it.
  • You should stay in touch with your mentor and let him or her know when you intend to show up to CH for the first time (this can certainly be later than when you arrive in Berkeley). You and your mentor should work out plans for meeting.

Step 3: Upon Arrival at Campbell Hall (CH)

  • You'll need to bring the following things to CH to get set up:
    • A photo ID to get your ID card.
    • $20 in cash for key-card deposits
    • $10 in cash for cubicle deposits
    • A passport (expired is OK) or green card to prove your eligibility for employment. If you don't have these, various combinations of other documents are allowed. See the last page of Form I-9 for the specifics. Read the form carefully!
    • A voided, blank check for attaching to your Electronic Funds Transfer setup form. You can also set up EFT online by clicking here.
    • Make sure you know your CalNet ID and password!
  • Find your mentor. She or he will give you some useful information and start taking you around the department to the various staff members whom you'll need to talk to to get your key card activated, etc. If your plans for meeting your mentor fall though, go to the office of Dexter Stewart (501E) and introduce yourself. You might also look for the Mentor Masters: Jason Wang, Tom Zick, and Michael Medford.
  • As a new student, there are a bunch of administrative things that you need to take care of at some point. Your mentor can help you work on them over the rest of the day, or you can put them off and do whatever else you want to instead. It's up to you. Your mentor will be happy to help you get settled in whatever way you deem best.

Step 4: The First Few Weeks

There will be several activities over the first few weeks, some required, some not. Many university-wide ones are listed here. Some important and/or astronomy-specific ones are:

Fall 2017

  • Tues., August 15: You must arrive on campus by this day for residency purposes.
  • Wed., August 16 (Time TBD): First-year Orientation! A Q&A session about choosing courses, both practicalities and broader considerations, the first all-class lunch, and the annual Jobs Meeting.
  • Wed., August 16 (Time TBD): Respect is Part of Research Workshop
  • Thurs., August 17, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.: Astronomy Teaching Bootcamp to help prepare you for your first classes.
  • Fri., August 18, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: A mandatory orientation for all first-time (domestic and international) GSIs. Register here beforehand.
  • Mon., August 21: Total Solar Eclipse!
  • Wed., August 23: Classes begin.

You should also get acquainted with the normal schedule of talks in the department.