Office Hours: A Concept

If you’re new to college you’ve probably reviewed and accepted the syllabus for the courses you decided to stay in. And on that syllabus you may find an important detail: the professor’s office hours. If you’re not familiar with OH, it’s essentially a time where you can go to your professor and ask questions -about class, homework, advice, etc. Some OH are open door policy meaning the professor is available whenever they’re in their office and the door is open.


Others may be during designated times or by appointment. Whatever the case may be for your course here’s my advice: GO VISIT YOUR PROFESSOR! This also applies to graduate students who were scared by undergraduate encounters.

As an undergrad TA and later a freshmen engineering instructor, nothing bothered me more than a student who is doing poorly and doesn’t ask for help. Now I get it; if your professor is a mean old bitty who does more harm than good when you meet with them, that’s a barrier in and of itself that you have to cross to even make OH useful. But there are some instructors who legitimately wants you to succeed AND actually learn something in the process. By the way this is college now, extra credit who?

It may be intimidating but go to your professors and introduce yourself. They already know who you are but by making the effort to allow yourself to be known, also allows you to stand out from the rest of the class in a good way. We won’t admit it but teacher’s pets are still a thing and you’re more likely to be one if we can easily match your name and face without relying on the roster to do so.

By introducing yourself you have now elevated your playing field. This is the time where you can be brutally honest with the professor – “I’ve never seen anything like this before”, “I can’t really afford the required materials for this course”, etc. Do these admissions come with vulnerability? Absolutely. But the reward may be far greater than your initial discomfort. Through this you’ve placed trust in your instructor. You’ve shared that you may struggle but you’re here to learn with proper guidance. And it’s those things that can create a soft spot in your professor. And because all things need to be fair you may be the person that convinces the professor to offer opportunities to the entire class just so that you may benefit without the reveal that we secretly adore you.

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It’s also during OH where you can get the tea on upcoming assignments and exams. As you’re seeking help, pay attention to your professors words like “I really want you to understand this because the next unit builds on these concepts” or “this is definitely something you may expect to see on a quiz or exam”. You’ll be surprised at how lazy – I mean busy we are: change a few numbers, reword a few things from the slides then voilà! there’s your next exam.

Will every instructor you have be willing to go the extra mile to help you understand? Not exactly. But you’ll never know unless you talk to them. Relationships built in OH can extend beyond the course. Think research and employment opportunities, recommendations, etc. So come by and say hi to us. You may find that we truly do have your best interest at heart.

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