Office hours are periods of time college instructors set aside to be available in a set location to help students be successful. Take advantage of this private time to communicate with your instructor! There are many situations when you might benefit from meeting with your instructor during office hours. Use these tips and tools to make the most out of your office hour visit.
Reasons to attend office hours:
Ask questions about course content. If you are confused about class material, ask your instructor to explain it again or differently. Ask thoughtful questions about readings, discussions, or lecture material.
Review an exam or paper. The vast majority of students don’t do as well on a paper or test as they expected at some point in their college career. Office hours are an appropriate place to privately discuss your performance and how you can improve. Don’t be embarrassed to speak with your instructor if you did poorly on an assessment. You want to improve, and your instructor wants you to be successful. Improvement takes effort.
Clarify upcoming assignments or due dates. Read assignment descriptions and the syllabus carefully. If you have any questions about the instructor’s expectations or you want to inquire about an extension then come to office hours.
Talk about grades. Office hours are an appropriate place to talk about grades with your instructor.
The location and times of office hours are usually listed in the course syllabus. If you cannot find office hour information, ask your instructor during class or by email. If you are not available during the instructor’s designated office hours, most instructors are open to making appointments. Keep in mind instructors are busy like you so offer a range of times that work with your schedule.
Have a plan!
It’s a good idea to come prepared for a visit with your instructor. Here are a few suggestions for preparation:
- Have a purpose to your visit. Do you want to introduce yourself and build rapport? Are you struggling with course material? Do you want to discuss the reason for a specific grade? Have some goals for the meeting.
- Come up with some specific questions or comments. Write these down before your visit.
- Prepare to give context to the issue you’re having. Don’t assume your instructor is aware of your struggles.
- Bring any appropriate materials with you to office hours, such as your book, notes, or assignment. If you need help with a practice problem, don’t assume your instructor has the textbook readily available or remembers the exact problem/question discussed in class.
Build good rapport with your instructor!
Developing good, professional relationships with your instructors is part of college. Keep these tips in mind when communicating with your instructor.
- Communicate professionally. If it is your first time meeting with this instructor, address him/her by their last name with the appropriate title (Professor/Dr.).
- Be respectful of your instructor’s time. If you have an appointment, be on time. Email or call if you are running late or need to reschedule. Don’t monopolize the whole office hour if other people are waiting.
- Recognize your instructor has expectations for academic performance. He/She does not give grades out but rather students earn them.
- Recognize your instructors have a lot on their plate and are people too. They likely teach multiple classes, have many students, have a lot of grading to complete, and have other collegial responsibilities on top of their course work. Before meeting with an instructor, try to think of how you would like to be treated by a student.
- If you are upset about a grade, try to calm yourself before meeting with an instructor.
- Speak up and be honest if you are lost and need more explanation.
- Consider your word choice when communicating with an instructor. Questions are often more effective than statements when you are struggling. Saying, “Could you please help me understand this question?” is more effective than saying “This question doesn’t make sense.” or “Your exam was confusing.”
- Before leaving your meeting, summarize your takeaway or plan of action.
- Thank your instructor at the end of the meeting.