Office hours are often a foreign concept to new college students.
Many freshmen are uncertain or shy about utilizing a professor’s office hours. Don’t let that be you!
Used correctly, office hours can not only make you a better student, but also provide you with some great references when you apply for jobs or graduate school.
Why Professors Hold Office Hours
If you wanted to talk to a teacher in high school, odds are you simply had to approach him or her after class to talk or make a personal appointment.
American college professors, however, generally handle a much larger group of students.
It would be impossible for a professor to schedule individual meetings with students after class, especially if you are taking a 200+ student seminar. That’s why each professor holds office hours, a designated time once or twice per week in which the professor is available in their office to speak individually with students.
In some cases, professors will post a sheet on their office door so students can signup for a designated time slot. In other cases, professors will simply sit in their office and see students on a first-come, first-serve basis.
How You Can Use a Professor’s Office Hours
So why might you need to see a professor during office hours?
Maybe you got a grade or comment on an exam or essay that you don’t understand and you want an explanation. Or, maybe you are doing poorly in the class and want to know how you can improve your grades. If you have a big final paper coming up, you may also want to get tips from your professor on writing your thesis or clarification on a topic or theme covered in class.
A professor’s office hours can also be necessary for mundane administrative tasks. For example, if you have two final exams scheduled at the same time, you will have to move one exam to another time slot. You will usually need your professor’s signature to OK this.
Etiquette for Visiting a Professor During Office Hours
Office hours are a limited resource for the many students who want to meet with a professor.
If you have signed-up for a designated time, make sure you’re on time. If you have a half-hour time slot, try not to exceed it. Remember that you’re not the only student who needs to talk to the professor!
If you go to a huge school, don’t expect the professor to know you personally, especially if he or she is teaching two huge freshman seminars! If this is the case, introduce yourself, say which class you are in, and what you would like to discuss. This is always appreciated by professors with big classes!
At the end, thank the professor for his or her time.
Don’t Be Shy!
At the beginning of the term — maybe even the very first class — a professor will tell the class when and where office hours will be held.
Don’t be shy or embarrassed about seeking out a professor during office hours. Professors are one of your most valuable college resources, and office hours may be the best way to get to know them better.