Engaging with your instructors is an essential part of being successful in a given course. This can mean visiting your instructor during their office hours, asking to set up a meeting, or sending them an email. This type of engagement should be part of your study routine throughout the semester… But engaging with faculty can sometimes be intimidating. Here’s where to start.
What are office hours?
Office hours are a set amount of time that your instructors set aside each week where you are welcome to stop by their office space. Usually, these times are listed on their syllabus. A faculty member may invite you to office hours after an exam if you have questions or just to say hi. However, you don’t have to be invited. Office hours imply that this is a time for you to stop by, introduce yourself, and get help you may need in the course (or beyond).
What are some reasons that I would visit hours?
- You have content-specific questions. There’s a concept in the class that is confusing or you missed key materials in your notes. Office hours are a time where your instructor can help explain the material at a different pace or through a different approach. They may have supplemental materials they can offer or have insight to bettering your performance.
- You are preparing for an exam. Your instructor likely makes the exams for the course. They may be able to provide insight into how they’d approach studying for the exam.
- You have questions about a grade you have received. You have questions about how a specific problem or paper was graded and you want to know how to do better next time. This could also include questions about where you stand in the course overall, such as, “Am I passing this course?”
- You want to learn more about them, their research, or their field. Maybe you are interested in finding a research opportunity, you are considering their discipline as your major, you are considering pursuing further education in their field, or you want to know more about academia. They are an excellent resource to tell you about opportunities within the field – research, careers, graduate programs, and more.
- You are navigating personal difficulty. There is something going on in your life – physical health concerns, mental health concerns, family emergency – that is (or potentially will) cause a disruption in your academic life. Faculty members appreciate when students are proactive and understand that many of life’s happenings cannot be predicted. They are often willing to work with you to find alternatives or support you. This can also include travel for conferences, athletic competitions, or other anticipated absences. Remember: The more notice – the better (if possible).
- You need a letter of recommendation. It is likely that you will need a letter of recommendation or a reference at some point in your academic/career trajectory. When your professor knows you and your interests, it makes for a much stronger recommendation.
- You just want to say hi. Yes, you read that! You can definitely just visit your professor to introduce yourself.
I can’t visit office hours because I have another obligation at that time.
That’s okay! Instructors understand that you have other classes, jobs, and obligations. You can talk to them after class or send them an email to request a time to meet. See the example email below.
Request A Meeting - Example
I don’t want to visit office hours or reach out to my instructor.
For many people, asking for help feels uncomfortable or like something you haven’t “earned” the right to. Sometimes students will feel embarrassed asking for help because they are not performing well in the course or think they are the only one struggling.
It’s common to feel nervous to visit office hours for the first time and it is common to experience academic difficulty at some (or many) points during your college career. Asking for help is something that the highest achieving students do. Instructors are a resource for you and the best way to get help is to ask.
How do I get started?
Use this agenda to prepare for office hours and/or a meeting with your professor (See “I can’t visit office hours because I have another obligation at that time” above for example emails if you need to request an appointment.)
Agenda: Meeting with Instructor