Everyone wants to start it off on the right foot, earn good grades, and find happiness in and outside of the classroom. Although it’s mid September, it’s not too late. One of the most sure-fired ways to improve your semester inside the classroom is to visit your professor’s office hours. However, since this is something new for many college students, they don’t always know how to capitalize on their office hours and make it worth their time.  

Here are four tips to help you be more confident when meeting with your professors and leave feeling like you’ve grown as a student and are more prepared for the semester at hand.

Research your professor’s background

No matter where you go to school or what your professor teaches, it is quite easy to find their background. Most schools will have staff pages where you can read a brief biography of them and perhaps even a curriculum vitae where their education, experience, and publication history will be featured.  While you should always learn about your professor before taking their class, it is even more critical that you do your research before you meet with them one-on-one. Where did they get their degree? Is their alma mater the same institution they are teaching at?  Are they from a small town or an urban area? Have they done research or writing in any particular fields you’re interested in? Doing this research will allow you to have organic, meaningful conversations that don’t just center on the classwork at hand.

Do your readings and bring questions

While this is of course applicable to all classes, make sure you did all of the reading before you go to your professor with further questions. It’s incredibly possible that your question was answered in the readings. If so, your professor may realize you’re not doing your work if you ask them a question that was answered on page three of the reading. However, you should feel free to ask clarifying questions about the readings or topics discussed in class. Don’t ask anything you can simply Google, like what year was this published, or did he write any other books? Take advantage of your professor’s knowledge and expertise in a subject.

Plan ahead for future projects and papers

A great way to take advantage of office hours is to come prepared to talk about future assignments. Many professors want to approve your paper topics or project ideas, or at least confirm that you are on the right track. Office hours are the perfect time to discuss these projects and plans.  Coming up with your ideas ahead of schedule will also help you avoid procrastinating until the last minute. While you still might put off the actual writing, you’ll at least have your idea. Professors can also be incredibly helpful in tailoring your idea to be as specific as you need it. They can even point you in the right direction of research you’ll need or supplementary materials that will help you.

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Be flexible with your time

We’re all busy. No one has time for endless meaningless conversation just for the sake of talking, but I’ve found that I get the most out of office hours when I don’t go in planning to leave after twenty minutes to get coffee or meet someone for lunch or go to class. While some scheduling conflicts are unavoidable, try and leave a large block of time for office hours. Professors usually have office hours once or twice a week for at least a dozen, if not many, many more, to come to. You might have to wait for your chance to talk to your professor. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity because you made other plans. Also, sometimes, the conversation flows a lot longer than you anticipated. I’ve had amazing office hour meetings last an entire hour because we got talking about a shared love of certain books. I was certainly glad I didn’t have to hurry away.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member