How to Prepare for Office Hours in College
Last updated September 18, 2023
With many college classes having up to hundreds of students, connecting with your professor and getting individual attention during regular class time can be a challenge. That’s why professors and teaching assistants (TAs) establish office hours to support you throughout your college journey. If you’re unfamiliar with college office hours, here’s everything you need to know, how to prepare, and how to make the most of your time with your professors!
What are College Office Hours?
In college, professors and teaching assistants (TAs) will have set office hours that are scheduled outside of the normal class time. This time serves as an opportunity for students to ask their professors and TAs any class-related questions and express concerns. While office hours typically aren’t mandatory for students to attend, they’re still beneficial in many ways.
Reasons to go to Office Hours
Going to office hours can be a great way to get help, make sure you're on track, and demonstrate your commitment to the class. Here are other reasons students go to office hours:
Check-in with your professor when you've been out sick or have a planned absence
In college you are responsible for any information and assignments you missed during an absence. Visiting office hours can be a great way to catch up on any important information you may have missed. If your class grades for participation, you might be able to work with your professor to possibly make up for missed time. This will show them that you are being proactive about your absence, and they may be more willing to accommodate your situation.
Let your instructor know when something is affecting your ability to learn
Going to office hours can be a great way to keep your instructor in the loop of any issues that are impacting your ability to fully participate in the class. This could range from seeking learning accommodations like longer test times to asking for more elaboration on a concept that was covered too quickly. College is a lot about you taking ownership of your experience, especially in large classes. While there is plenty of support and resources provided, there will be times where you will need to advocate for yourself.
Take responsibility for your success
If you think you've answered something correctly but got low marks, going to office hours to discuss with your instructor is a great idea. Don’t wait until the end of the quarter/semester to bring this to their attention.
Get to know your instructor
Building a relationship with your instructor will be beneficial to you in the long run. It will allow you to feel more comfortable addressing course concerns, gain a deeper understanding of the class, and allow a professor to get to know you as a student. This will be helpful if you ever need an academic reference for a scholarship, graduate school, or a job!
How to Prepare for Office Hours in College
Office hours can be a rare opportunity to connect one-on-one with your professors and TAs, and being prepared will help guide the conversation. Here are some tips to prepare for office hours, and how to get the most out of your time with them:
Check your syllabus for information about office hours
Office hours vary by instructor. Some require appointments, while others allow drop-ins within specific windows of time. Office hours can also take place virtually (like on Zoom) or in-person. Your professor or TA will provide details about their office hours and preferred contact methods in the course syllabus, so make sure to review this information before attending any office hours. If you can't meet with your instructor during their available times, they might let you set up a separate time to meet. You can send them an email, just remember to keep it respectful and professional. For tips on how to write a professional email, you can check out How to Write a Professional Email for more information.
Have questions and talking points prepared
Make a list of things you'd like to discuss ahead of time. This can include things like a grade you received recently, an assigned reading or piece of homework you’re struggling with, or a concept you’re learning that you could use more clarity on. You can also bring specific examples of work you want help with so your professor or TAs know exactly how they can support you.
Take notes and follow up with any action items
Depending on how many topics you cover during office hours, it may be helpful to take notes while you meet with your professor or TA. After meeting with your instructor, take a few moments to organize your notes, and make sure to jot down any action items or suggestions from them. These notes will serve as a valuable reference when you're studying or working on assignments later. In addition, consider sending a follow-up email to your instructor, thanking them for their time and summarizing the key points from your meeting. This not only shows your appreciation but also ensures that you both have a clear record of what was discussed. It's a great way to maintain a strong line of communication and show your commitment to your studies.
Don’t wait until finals week!
Office hours are not just for getting help with last-minute questions - it can also provide you with consistent support and guidance throughout the entire term. Visiting office hours early and often can allow you to have more meaningful discussions about the course material while building a strong connection with your instructor. By visiting office hours towards the end of the quarter or semester, you’ll miss out on so many opportunities to enhance your learning experience. Also, you might not be the only one with that idea – if many students go to office hours during finals week, it could mean less one-on-one time with your instructor. So while it’s better to visit office hours during finals week than not at all, waiting until the last minute to meet with your instructor may not be the best approach.
Remember: your professors and TAs want you to succeed! Taking advantage of office hours will go a long way in ensuring your success in that class and your understanding of the subject as a whole.
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