How to Visit Your Professors

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Coming from high school, a teacher saying, “I’ll just be hanging out in my office during these times every week. Come stop by,” sounds like a joke. But once college academics hit you like a train, you’ll run to their office faster than you ran out of high school at the end of your last period. Do take advantage of free extra help from your professor and don’t make rookie office hours mistakes with these tips.

Do: Go early in the semester.

You’ll soon find that while syllabus week might be light on homework, it’s not light on other (social) obligations. Even with this hectic start to the semester, find some time to stop in to office hours as early as you can. The earlier you make it into office hours, the more likely your professor is to help you out when it all hits the fan later in the semester. Even professor will tell you this is important, but very few students will actually listen, meaning you’ll definitely make an impression if you do.

Do: Prepare questions in advance.

If you walk into office hours with nothing but a feeble, “Help,” your professor won’t be able to do anything but shrug. You have to know what you don’t know so they know how to help you. Luckily, opening that huge, expensive textbook is an easy step to narrowing down your confusion from the whole book to hopefully just a few pages or paragraphs.

Do: Prepare to be the first person there or else prepare to wait.

Among all of the other ways finals week turns students into caffeine-rattled barbarians, students before an exam lose all sense of the line between persistence in contacting a professor and stalking. If your professor’s office hours start at 10:30 on Tuesday, make sure to be there at 10:20 at least lined up outside his door. You might feel overeager or even creepy, but someone will definitely be even more overeager and creepy and they’ll get their questions answered first.

Don’t: Overstay your welcome.

Remember all those people waiting outside his door like you did? Don’t make them wait all day. Don’t waste your professor’s time either; part of the reason for preparing your questions in advance is also to save time for yourself, your classmates and your professor. Accomplish what you can on your own and get answers over email if possible to use your office hours time wisely.

Don’t: Be embarrassed.

Almost every college student you ask will tell you they’ve cried in office hours or have gotten their questions turned away by a professor with a blunt, “It’s in the textbook” or “It’s in the syllabus.” Professors have seen it all too. It’s better to be embarrassed while getting help than being embarrassed to show your parents your grades at the end of the semester.

Don’t: Suck up.

You might think that because you can BS your reading responses in class when you’ve never cracked the textbook that your professors will also miss your BS in office hours. You would be wrong. Professors can sniff out a brownnoser even from the back row of a lecture hall. There’s a difference between agreeing with and discussing one of their points from class and making an obscure reference to their favorite book that they added to their likes on Facebook three years ago.