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Making the Most of Office Hours

If you in a large class that makes it hard to ask questions, have questions about the syllabus, or need an idea of what to study before an exam, attending professors’ office hours can be a great help to you. Make an appointment with your professor in advance or drop in to clarify course content, expectations, and for you and your professor to get to know each other.

When & How

  • Visit early in the semester– not a week before the first exam.
  • Ask specific questions – the meeting will be productive, and you’ll learn more!
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting if needed.

Preparation

  • Check ahead that the professor will be available during office hours.
  • If your schedule conflicts with office hours, contact the professor and ask for an appointment, offering a range of days and times you are available.
  • Prepare questions beforehand– even if you feel generally lost in the class, your professor will be better able to help if you offer specifics. Ex: “I understand two parts of this problem or idea, but don’t know how to connect them.” This question not only shows that you attend class and read the material but gives the professor direction.
  • Bring whatever materials are appropriate: book, laptop, etc.

During the Appointment

  • Take notes.
  • Ask for clarification.
  • Ask about additional resources or supplemental readings that may help

Etiquette

  • Be respectful: arrive on time and introduce yourself.
  • Address the professor by his or her last name with the appropriate title (professor, doctor, etc.).
  • If you want to discuss an exam or paper grade you disagree with, don't be mad! Discuss questions you missed on the test or what was lacking in your paper. Ask: “How can I improve my next test or paper grade?”
  • Be aware that other students may be waiting.
  • Thank the professor at the end of the meeting.

Read Our "Communicating with Professors" Blog Post