Big Lecture Halls and Intimidating Professors? Not a UIUC Problem!

After my first class of the day, ten minutes separated me from a front row seat to my first chemistry lecture. Because students usually arrive at least fifteen minutes early, I was already late and out of luck. Throughout high school, all that I heard about college general chemistry is that it was a pre-med’s biggest pain. After frantically weaving my way through the Quad (trying not to get hit by cyclists) I finally entered Noyes Laboratory. Speed walking my way through the building to the huge lecture hall, the sound of my footsteps were muffled by the echo of people settling into their seats. Upon entering the room, I looked up and saw a sea of students organized by small, green chairs and tiny desks. On the opposite side, the professor stood behind large lab tables and in front of a wall of black chalkboards. Finding a front row seat was unlikely at that point! Sitting towards the back of the room and looking forward, I was overwhelmed. The number of students in this single class was greater than the number of students who attended my high school. After the clock struck one, a loud, confident voice took control of the room’s commotion:

“Welcome to Chemistry 102 lecture. My name is professor Huang. Let’s begin.”


Noyes Laboratory, Main Quad
Chemistry Lecture Hall
Credit: Google Images

Large lecture halls at U of I is almost unavoidable, and it is one of the main concerns of prospective students. The intimidation my peers and I felt after the first chemistry lecture was immense. But, as the week progressed, I started using the academic resources the school offers, and I also learned to walk a little faster. I felt my intimidation of big lecture halls and professors fall away. Here are some academic campus aids I wish I knew more about when I was college searching last year. Wow, time flies!

  1. Office Hours –  On the first day of class, your professor or teacher’s assistant (TA) will tell you their name, email address, and office hours. An instructor’s job during office hours is to simply sit in their office and wait for students to visit them with any questions or concerns. Not only are office hours a great way to ask questions about material you are having trouble with, they are also an easy way to make sure the professor/TA knows your name (especially if you’ll be needing a letter of recommendation for graduate schools). For me, visiting my professor during office hours made the teacher seem more friendly. That personal connection made me more comfortable with the large lecture setting.
  2. Campus Learning Centers – There are many campus learning centers for various subjects. For example, the Chemistry Learning Center offers help for general chemistry students, and the MCB (Molecular & Cellular Biology) Learning Center does the same for students enrolled in MCB classes. TAs usually host the learning center help sessions so students can get assistance with class material. There are also textbooks, computers and manuals available for your use.

  3. Talk to you advisor (AKA your new BFF) – Every student has their own advisor designated through their specific college. For MCB majors, students are allowed to switch advisors or talk to their advisor at any time (within designated hours, of course) about anything! No matter what you’re struggling with, academic or otherwise, your advisor’s job is to help you succeed.
  4. Collaborate With Your Peers! – Let’s be honest: College is full of students with Type A personalities which can sometimes make the learning environment feel tense. One way I counteract this vibe is to help students around me by reminding them of due dates and studying with them in groups. If you help your peers, your peers will help you! Plus, no matter which profession you choose, collaboration is a key skill employers look for. 

I’d tell a good chemistry joke here, but all the good ones Argon.

Sorry! I couldn’t resist.

Don’t forget to leave any questions, suggestions, and other helpful tips down below.

Happy studying!




Class of 2022
My major is Molecular and Cellular Biology (more commonly and lovingly known as MCB) in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I'm on the pre-med track—I’ve dreamed of becoming a doctor since I could spell the word!