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I Didn’t Know That: Office Hours

professor at his desk

Office hours: an important piece in the college experience puzzle.

Office hours are specific times your professors set aside for you to chat and ask questions. And they set those hours aside because they WANT to talk with you and help you. They’re listed on the syllabus for every class. Taking advantage of office hours is a piece of advice often given, but rarely taken.

Here’s something no one wants to admit: Office hours can be scary. Talking one-on-one with one of the most knowledgeable people you know (who happens to be grading your work) can be intimidating for anyone.

But the benefits of using office hours go way beyond just passing a class:

  • Build relationships with your professors. Later you’ll want to ask them for letters of recommendation and learn about interesting research opportunities.
  • Gain some motivation. If you’ve been slacking, or feel like your professor doesn’t know or care if you’re there, give up your anonymity and go visit or schedule a video call. Plus, if you’re struggling with the material, they’ll appreciate your extra effort.
  • Overcome obstacles. Maybe class participation is part of your grade and you’re extremely introverted or have a learning disability. Meeting with your professor outside of class gives you a place to work out a plan to help you succeed.

A few things to help you prepare before you go:

  • Know what your professors’ preferences are. Can you meet in person? Do you need to schedule a video call? Do they want you to email your questions?
  • Whatever works best for you and your professor, be sure to show up on time.
  • Be ready to take notes. Always take notes.
  • Have 3 open-ended questions to ask. Don’t say something vague like, “I’m lost.” Instead be specific, like “I was trying some of the stuff you taught us, and I hit a snag at this point.’”

Remember, never be afraid to ask for help: It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.

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