Reap the Benefits of Office Hours

It may sound like a chore, but taking advantage of your professors’ office hours is worth the hassle. By putting in just a few hours of your time each month, you can develop relationships that will help you get better grades now — and set yourself up for future career success, too.

That’s not to say that you should just start showing up at your professors’ doors whenever you feel like it. Make sure you are approaching each professor in the way that works best for them. Some are just fine with impromptu meetings. Others prefer a little heads up so they know to expect you. Email your individual professors to determine which group they fall into and then be sure to communicate clearly and concisely. After all, if you go to an average-sized school, you are most likely just one out of hundreds of students they are teaching this semester.

You can also try approaching your professor right after class, but pay attention to body language — if they seem to be in a hurry to get to their next appointment, email may be the best way to go to show you respect their time.

Be prepared — avoid agenda-less meetings! 

Office hours are an opportunity to show your professor how you hard you work in their class while also getting focused help on where you are struggling. Respect your professors’ time by coming prepared with a list of topics to discuss or specific questions that you want answered. “[Take this] opportunity to discuss with your instructor any special needs or challenges you face,” according to the College of William & Mary, “If possible, talk to your instructor before the semester starts or at the beginning of the semester.”

Are you constantly getting B+ on papers and want to know why? The only way to bump up that grade is to ask the person who corrects and grades those papers, especially since they’re most likely more than willing to help. College is different than high school. The instructor is not going to seek you out to tell you why you are missing the target. You need to take the initiative.

Think about your needs now, but consider long term goals as well.

ABN — Always Be Networking. Always. Whether in class, in the commons or during office hours, the connections that you create today will benefit you tomorrow. You never know which of your current contacts will connect you to your perfect job once you’re out in the field.

If you plan to go to graduate school or to continue your studies at professional school, you are going to need letters of reference. You’ll find lots of tips online about how to request them, but it’s up to you to choose which professors will recommend you. Use office hours as way to develop a relationship with your future references. Learn about their experiences going through grad school and tell them about your goals. They may have recommendations as to which programs best fit your plans. A bonus: When it comes time to request references, your professors will have a fact to put to a name! 

Don’t be “That Student” — you know which one we’re talking about!

Don’t be a negative, argumentative, grade grubber just for the sake of it. Challenging grades may be necessary if you actually feel like there’s a mistake, but don’t make this a habit every semester. 

Instead of saying “I need a higher grade,” ask  “What can I do to perform better in your class?” USA Today suggests taking critiques in stride: “The key is to take this feedback as constructive criticism rather than a sharp critique. Listen to and act on [your professors’] suggestions, and you should see your grades go up.”

The beginning of a new semester is a great opportunity to get into the habit of going to office hours. As you prepare for study groups, extracurriculars, jobs and all of the other responsibilities that’ll take up your time over the next few months, remember to set aside some time to meet the faculty. The connections you make in college can last a lifetime, so they’re most definitely worth the investment.

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