As you start a new semester, you likely are going to class and getting a new syllabus from each of your professors. You might have noticed on these syllabi that your professors list their “office hours” and wondered what exactly these mysterious office hours are. What does the professor do during an office hour? And why should you go? Office hours are actually an incredible resource available to you — and one that you should take advantage of — so we thought we’d provide some more information so that you can utilize them throughout the semester.
What are office hours
Office hours are a designated time in a professor’s schedule where they are available to talk with and help students. Generally, professors will offer a few times throughout the week when they are available, and during this time you can make appointments with them, or simply stop by their office if you have any questions or if there’s something you want to discuss.
Why do professors have them
Simply put: professors have office hours to help students with class material and assignments outside of class time. Though you might see your professor and ask questions during class, attending office hours gives you one-on-one access to your professor. Professors like to make themselves available to provide more information to students or to go over class material in a personalized way, versus during classtime when they’re trying to give a generalized lecture to the entire group of students.
Why you should go
There are a few reasons why you should attend your professor’s office hours:
Get more information about or help on an assignment
If you have an upcoming assignment, but feel like the expectations or guidelines aren’t totally clear, visit your professor during office hours to find out more. This allows you to get a clear picture of what you need to do so that you can be sure you’re giving the professor what they want. This is a great opportunity to also bring what you’ve worked on already and ask for help. Just remember to ask for specific feedback – your professor likely won’t have time to read an entire assignment or review all of your answers, so come prepared to talk about what you’re having difficulty with and what you are looking for help on.
Ask questions about class material and content
Have you had a class recently where the professor was going over a new concept or topic and you just didn’t get it? Or maybe you didn’t have a chance to ask a question about something, or maybe you just simply feel uncomfortable asking questions or sharing ideas during class. Office hours provide a great opportunity to do exactly those things. Write your questions or ideas from class down, and go to your professor’s office hours. Not only will this allow you to get answers and feedback on your ideas, but it will likely affect your participation grade – which is often a significant percentage of your overall grade for the class. If you’re uncomfortable participating in class, then doing so during office hours is a great way to ensure you still earn full marks for that grade.
Review unfamiliar terms and concepts before a test
Ever wish you could prepare for a test with your professor? You can by attending office hours. Your professor won’t re-teach concepts and content to you, but your professor can help explain things that you’re still having trouble understanding. Come to office hours prepared to speak about what specifically you need help with. It helps to bring your notes or any study materials you’ve been using, and mark what you’d like to discuss. Your professor can help you feel confident ahead of test day, and they’ll likely appreciate your commitment.
Get feedback on an assignment or test
So you got an essay or test back and you aren’t happy with your grade. Go to office hours and talk to your professor about it. Let your professor know ahead of time that you’d like to get feedback on your essay, or maybe you’re confused as to why certain answers were marked as wrong on your test. Bring whatever the assignment was, and think about what specifically you’d like to get feedback on. If you think that you deserve a different grade, ask why your professor gave you the grade they did, versus arguing for or against a particular grade. It also helps to ask your professor what you can do next time to get a better grade. Avoid being argumentative, as that will result in an unproductive session.