Office Hours Aren’t Just for Posting – Use Them!

You’ve probably heard your professors mention office hours numerous times and have casually glanced past it on your class syllabus. But have you ever considered actually using them? And what are those after-class hours all about anyway?

I remember the very first time I took advantage of office hours. It was for a very challenging humanities class that focused on technology and risk. After three essays, I became super frustrated – I just couldn’t break a B- despite my best efforts. So I decided to pay a visit to my professor’s office. What he shared with me truly opened my eyes to the benefits of office hours that I had not anticipated. Here is what I learned from that visit that made those few extra hours my new favorite times of the week.

1. Visiting your professor shows effort. Anyone who said effort does not count for anything never visited a professor during office hours! When I took the time to talk, one-on-one, with my professor, he took it as a sign of my sincere interest in doing better in his class. Sometimes that effort can turn a B+ to an A-.
2. You can learn even more about how to improve your work or how to approach a problem. Your instructors only have so much time and so much space on your papers and tests to share with you exactly what you could do better. Office hours give you that extra insight that a bunch of red ink could not tell you. You are having a dialogue, so you have a chance to ask questions if you don’t understand where you went wrong or if you need clarification on how to do improve. On that B- paper, for example, my professor shared with me that my points were all there but that they just needed to be tightened up a bit, among other things. That insight was not clear on my paper and helped prepare me better for my next essay.
3. See your professor as more than just a voice in front of your class. Meeting my teachers in their own personal settings and in a more relaxed environment changed my perspective on them – and on my class. After visiting my professor about my last paper, we had a very interesting discussion about more than just my paper. He explained to me how he came to develop the class and why he felt it was an important course for any curriculum. I walked into the class a couple days later with a whole new view on what I was learning and who was teaching it to me. It definitely made going to class more fun and interesting.
4. Learn to speak with more adults. Office hours provide great practice for having more mature conversations. This can be a huge help in preparation for interviews, for example, or for other one-on-one situations. I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach my professor about my paper and what his reaction would be. That first conversation helped me learn how to prepare for an important discussion, state my case and ask for what I want. What I also found was that he was a person who loved to teach and just truly wanted to help his students.

So how did I do in my humanities class that semester? I ended up with an A-. I feel entirely confident that I would never have achieved such a high grade without having visited my professor. I learned that I could not improve without a little more insight. .

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