Office Hours: The Ins and Outs
Office hours are a golden opportunity that many students miss. The main reasons students may avoid office hours is not knowing what to discuss or are nervous about attending. Regardless of your “what” for going, try to attend office hours as early as possible before your test/assignment is due or early in your semester to kickstart that line of communication.
- What to Discuss During Office Hours
- Nervous to Attend Your First Office Hours Session?
- What Will My Instructor Think if I Visit Them?
- I Can’t Make Any of the Office Hours. What Should I Do?
What to Discuss During Office Hours
- Discuss your research topic.
- Get formative feedback on a draft.
- Review graded work together.
- Get further feedback on an assignment/test.
- Clarify key content.
- Discuss connections between content topics.
- Review trouble spots you’ve encountered.
- Expand on a subject discussed in class.
- Build rapport for reference recommendations
- Discuss post-grad opportunities within their field.
- Discuss their research specialty.
Nervous To Attend Your First Office Hour Session?
Remember that office hours exist because instructors want to help students succeed. If you think you could benefit from any of the discussions listed above, book in an office hours visit.
Let’s look at ways to prepare yourself and make the experience less nerve-wracking.
Break the Ice: Open up communication by simply saying hello and introducing yourself on your way into or out of class. A brief 30 seconds to break the ice that won't take up too much of her/his time or require you to have much prepared to discuss.
Early Semester Start: arrange to meet with your instructor early in your course. In preparation of your first test, first assignment, or the first major link you make between course readings.
Consider Emailing: Even if your instructor hosts their office hours drop-in style, if you’ll feel more comfortable sending a quick professional email to notify you’ll be coming, go for it!
Bring Notes: Make things easy on yourself by jotting down a few notes to bring with you.
Bring Resources: bring with you any applicable textbooks, journals, drafts, or your laptop as your professor may not have them on hand in their office.
What Will My Instructor Think if I Visit Them?
Students with really high marks are just as likely as any classmate to reach out to instructors to discuss course materials, ideas for assignments, or ask for references. Networking with your instructor is great for creating clarity about your coursework/assignments and developing an academic network. Even if you are completely stumped by coursework material, if you go to your appointment having tried the coursework, armed with the applicable textbook/readings, and a list of prepared questions, you will seem invested not aloof.
I Can’t Make Any of the Office Hours. What Should I Do?
Email them! Following our resource on writing a professional email, contact your professor to briefly describe the type of discussion you’re looking to have (i.e. review feedback, discuss assignment topic, clarify a concept) and offer all potential times you can be available. Also, indicate if these times would be possible in person, online, or both.
Looking for more strategies and tips?
Check out MUN's Academic Success Centre online!
Arizona State University. (n.d.). Your fear of office hours is about to end: a guide to meeting with professors. Arizona State University. https://adulting.asu.edu/blog/your-fear-office-hours-about-end-guide-meeting-professors
Oregon State University. (n.d.). Using Office Hours Effectively. Oregon State University: Academic success center. https://success.oregonstate.edu/office-hours-effectively
Sohal, D. (2018, Sep 8). Five ways to get the most out of office hours. Simon Fraser University: Student learning commons. https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc/incommon/office-hours
The University of British Columbia. (n.d.). Office hours. University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus: Chapman Learning Commons. https://learningcommons.ubc.ca/student-toolkits/interacting-with-profs/office-hours/
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (n.d.). Using office hours effectively. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: the Learning Center. https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/using-office-hours-effectively/
University of Victoria: Academic Week. (2012, October 2). How to speak to professors: a comprehensive guide. University of Victoria: Residence life and education. [YouTube]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BseHxtUiW98