Taking advantage of professor office hours can clear up confusion and turn your worst subject into your best — or at least make it more tolerable. Here is why you shouldn’t be shy about paying a visit to your professor, and some tips on taking the best approach for visiting.
I’m a language-writing-music-art person, and if you’re a right-brained individual like me, the word math fills you with dread. I had high hopes that my liberal arts college would free me from the subject forever, but students were required to take one semester of “quantitative reasoning.” For me, that meant Statistics.
My Statistics class was going to drastically lower my grade point average — or so I thought. I went to talk to the professor about my fears, and it saved me. She was more than happy to help me work through problems and helped me better understand Stats by relating it to real life, which is one thing I had never been able to do with math before.
Office hours are there for a reason. Students can come up with a dozen reasons why not to use them: It’s awkward; you’re intimidated; you don’t want to bother them. Throw all those excuses out the window. Your profs really do want to help.
I was nervous to approach mine initially because I didn’t want her to think I was stupid. She reassured me that math doesn’t come easily to everyone, and vice versa. (She said she had always wished she was better at writing and languages!) Most are passionate about the subject they’re teaching, so they’ll love talking to you about it. One of my favorite things about my prof was her bubbly enthusiasm. She actually made the subject seem interesting, and — believe it or not — fun.
Use your time wisely. Professors are busy, so visit them with a specific topic in mind. Write down your questions and bring a notebook to take notes. Your question could be a general concern or problem you’re having with the class, and that’s fine, too. You can also drop by quickly to introduce yourself.
When I first went to talk to my professor, it was more to express general concern than anything else; when she gave me the green light to come to her with any questions, I started going back with specific questions about certain assignments. If the conversation becomes more casual and chatty over time, great! But gauge the situation first before starting a general conversation so they don’t feel like you’re just wasting their time.
Show that you care — don’t go just to suck up. Professors are pretty smart. They can pick up on whether or not a student is just trying to talk his or her way into a better grade. Using professor office hours doesn’t mean you’ll get special treatment or better grades. However, showing that you truly care about doing well in their class goes a long way.
My meetings with my Statistics professor served to clarify points made in her lectures that I failed to understand, not give me easy answers. The class was still challenging, and I still had to work hard to get a decent grade. Your prof will be more willing to work with you, and you will both have a better understanding of where the other party is coming from.
I still remember my Statistics class as being one of my favorites. Using your professor office hours can also help you build memorable relationships and connections with your profs, so don’t wait until senior year!