Top 5 Reasons to Use Office Hours
Tips for Using the Time Effectively
Whenever you meet with your professor, bring a notebook and pen to write down what you have discussed. It is easy to think you will remember what you have covered, but several days later, you will likely forget what you have discussed if you have not written it down.
REASON 1: INTRODUCE YOURSELF
Near the beginning of the term, it is fine to introduce yourself and discuss your interests, especially as they relate to the class.
TIP: Take cues from the instructor as to what is appropriate.
While it is fine to introduce yourself at the beginning of the term, be careful about only using office hours to chat about topics that don’t relate to the class, your future, or your academics. Instructors feel differently about this, so gauge your interactions with your instructor to see if it is acceptable to use office hours for chat sessions.
REASON 2: CLEAR UP CONFUSION
Instructors can help to clarify readings, notes or other questions you have about course material. Concepts and skill sets tend to build from lecture to lecture so it is very important to address confusion about lecture materials or readings as soon as possible. Letting gaps in your knowledge accumulate and waiting until a few days before the exam to try to generate understanding can create a very overwhelming and unproductive situation.
Tip: Go to office hours sooner than later.
Visit your instructor during office hours early in the semester and before you begin to feel overwhelmed. Ask your questions as they arise rather than waiting until they pile up.
Tip: Prepare before you go.
If you are utilizing office hours because you are struggling in the class, need clarification of concepts or need help solving problem sets, then do some preparation ahead of time. Read the required material, attempt to solve the problems on your own and review your notes before visiting your professor. Your goal is here is to try to identify where exactly you are having difficulty, so that you can get the best help from the professor. Write down specific questions, bring with you the problems you have tried and where you got stuck, highlight sections of your notes that you would like to discuss. If you have tried all this and still cannot identify where you are struggling, go to office hours and show the instructor what you have done thus far.
TIP: If you have missed class, target the most important concepts.
While it is appropriate to stop by office hours if you have missed a class or two and, therefore, need clarification on some of the course material, don’t expect the instructor to re-teach the material or have time to go over all the material you missed. Target the most important concepts and write down specific questions that you would like the instructor to address.
REASON 3: EVALUATE HOW YOU ARE DOING AND IMPROVE THE WAY YOU STUDY
It is appropriate to meet with instructors to discuss how you are doing in the class and to ask for assistance in evaluating your study techniques. Instructors can help you develop strategies to better understand course readings and assignments. They can help you formulate the kinds of questions you should be asking of the course readings, think about what you might do differently to better prepare for an exam, or analyze the results of one of your tests to better understand where the gaps in your learning lie.
Tip: Think about how you study for the class.
Before meeting with the instructor, think about how you study for the class and jot down some notes. Consider the following: how much time you devote to the class and how you allocate your time (i.e. do you study every day or do you study for 10 hours right before the test), how you use the textbook, how you use the notes, how you prepare for the test (i.e. Do you read through the notes and the textbook? Do you create flashcards? Do you give yourself practice test questions?).
Tip: Use a recent test as a springboard.
If you have recently taken a test, take the test with you to talk to the instructor about the questions you got wrong. Don’t simply find out the right answer, but talk about the way you approached the test, the types of questions you got wrong as well as the ones you got right. For example, were most of the questions you got wrong questions that required you to infer or apply your knowledge? If so, then ask the professor how you can better prepare for these types of questions.
TIP: Don’t expect an instructor to be more lenient.
Stopping by office hours to chat with a professor with the expectation that he/she will be more lenient in their grading is insulting and disrespectful. Professors have gotten where they are due to their keen analytical skills and will certainly pick up on this ploy.
REASON 4: ENHANCE YOUR EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE
Instructors are excellent resources to help you explore interests that relate to their area of expertise. Instructors enjoy talking to students who find the course material interesting, so if you like the class, visit your instructor during office hours to ask him/her to recommend other classes. They can recommend particular courses to help you develop an academic path that is coherent and specific to your areas of interest. They can help you to explore graduate programs that are most appropriate for you. They can discuss research opportunities that relate to your academic pursuits. They can suggest potential jobs and internships that would give you practical experience and allow you to try out your interests. They can also provide insight regarding campus organizations, programs and other opportunities that would help you to develop your academic path.
TIP: Give it some thought
Think about what your interests are and what you hope to achieve during your time in college. Think about the types of classes you have chosen and why you have chosen those particular classes. Think about what kinds of experiences beyond the classroom you would like to have and what you would like to do after you graduate. Be prepared to discuss these ideas with the professor.
TIP: Write down specific questions
Write down the questions you would like to ask. Your list might include something like the following: What concentrations would be the best fit for me considering my interests (of course, you would have to share those interests)? What job opportunities are available with someone who has my interests and goals? What kinds of organizations or programs would help me to develop my interests outside the classroom? How can I explore my interests through practical experience?
REASON 5: DISCUSS SPECIAL REQUESTS
Office hours may be appropriate for requesting a letter of recommendation or discussing an idea for an independent study or an internship opportunity. However, it is important to contact the instructor before meetings such as these to be sure office hours are appropriate. Instructors may prefer to meet with you outside of office hours.
TIP: For information on how to request letters of recommendation, click here.
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