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What are office hours?

arcadefire1027arcadefire1027 Registered User Posts: 1,827 Senior Member
edited August 2008 in College Life
Hey there, I'm going into freshman year of college this fall. I've been reading up on tips for being successful in school, and I see a lot of people saying to utilize your professor's office hours. What exactly does this mean? Where is their office, and how do you know when they're there? By utilize, do you guys mean to go every other day, or just to go when you have a question or something you need help on?

Thank you in advance!
Post edited by arcadefire1027 on

Replies to: What are office hours?

  • ElectricTechElectricTech Registered User Posts: 882 Member
    Their office location and hours will be indicated on the syllabus that they give you. You go to your professor during their office hours (when they're available to assist students) whenever you have questions about the material.
  • nontraditionalnontraditional Registered User Posts: 519 Member
    Office hours are times that instructors (professors, teaching assistants, etc.) set aside to be available to their students. They will probably be doing something else if no-one is there, but if a student shows up it is fine to interrupt. You might go in because you don't understand something, because you want guidance on other things to read in order to pursue a topic in more depth than it is covered in class, etc.

    Office hours will be listed on the syllabus, although sometimes they change mid-semester. If you want to talk to an instructor for any reason, you can just show up at office hours to talk.

    Most of the time nobody goes, except right before major assigments or tests and right after grades are given for those things. Instructors are likely to be really pleased if you show up at any other time, because it indicates that you care about the class. If you do show up at those times and it's for any other reason than to ask for special help on the assignment ("I wondering which chapters you think I should study for the midterm?") or a grade change (often disguised as a request for an explanation for the grade), which are the main reasons people show up then, you should make that clear ("I only got a C on this test, and I was hoping you could help me figure out what I did wrong so I can do better on the next test").

    If you cannot attend office hours because they conflict with other classes, jobs, etc., you can make appointments to talk to them outside of office hours, but they really prefer you to go to office hours instead of scheduling appointments because they, like you, have other obligations -- so it's often a good idea to briefly explain why you need an appointment.

    You can also go to other professors' office hours if you have a reason to talk to them ("I am really curious about X, which I know is something you work on. Could you give me a list of things I could read in order to find out more?"), although you'll want to defer to anyone who is actually their student.
  • OKgirlOKgirl Registered User Posts: 2,134 Senior Member
    I think ^that covers everything! I wouldn't go every other day. Also try to refrain from talking about off-topic things when there is a line of students waiting. That is the way to make people mad and you might need them as a study buddy later on.
  • Weasel8488Weasel8488 Registered User Posts: 2,747 Senior Member
    Some people like to use office hours to get to know their professors if the class is a large lecture. Especially if you go to a large university, office hours are a great way to build relationships with your professors. At some point, you will need to ask your professors for letters of recommendation. This is hard to do if you were in a 300 person lecture class and the professor doesn't even know your name. Some people think the whole "get to know your professor" thing is really awkward, but most professors are happy to know you care. You should try to do this when other people aren't likely to go to office hours. You don't want to keep others waiting because you're shooting the breeze.
  • luckycharmedluckycharmed Registered User Posts: 247 Junior Member
    I think it's easier to say when you'll stop by their office hours during class. That way the prof is expecting you, they're not right in the middle of something with another student or involved in some sort of project, and it's generally just easier.
  • christalena2christalena2 Registered User Posts: 1,667 Senior Member
    ^^ Agreed. I emailed the professor before I ever go, or talk to them in class about it. They usually have to step out for various reasons during their hours, so letting them know will make sure that they are there when you come in. The one time I went in without emailing beforehand, I ended up waiting a half hour outside the door before I finally left. I learned my lesson there.
  • isnwtaisnwta Registered User Posts: 195 Junior Member
    I didn't knew it too. Thankyou all for the input and thanks OP for asking.
  • arcadefire1027arcadefire1027 Registered User Posts: 1,827 Senior Member
    Hmm, this sounds a little intimidating, just showing up like this, haha. I'll have to build some confidence.
  • mikemacmikemac Registered User Posts: 10,029 Senior Member
    Hmm, this sounds a little intimidating, just showing up like this, haha. I'll have to build some confidence.
    It's not just showing up. That would be if you are walking by the building and wonder to yourself "hey, I wonder if Dr. X is in; I'll go stop by". Just showing up like that is usually frowned upon because the profs are doing their other work (research or study, working with their grad students, working with other faculty members, etc). Office hours are a time specifically committed by the prof to meet with students in the class. As for saying in class you'll be coming, no need to do that. They're supposed to be there, that's the whole idea of office hours! And if they aren't there, as someone posted earlier, that's the prof not doing the right thing and if it happens more than once or twice you should let the department know the prof isn't holding office hours (of course this will ruin your relation with the prof if they figure out you're the one that complained, but if they don't show up for their announced office hours they probably have a disdain for undegrads anyway so its no loss).

    I hope that you are going to live on-campus your frosh year. Because then you'll have an RA who is a student 1-2 years ahead of you. You can go and talk to them to get more advice on how to use office hours effectively. The prof isn't your pal, its a professional relationship, but you shouldn't be intimidated from approaching them. If you have any thoughts of perhaps pursuing a professional or academic degree (eg. MD, law, Phd) you will need recs from profs. A lukewarm "X was in my class and got an A" isn't helpful. It needs to be more personal. And even aside from recs, your profs can give you useful advice on how to better study your subjects, additional info about it that isn't presented in class, and in some cases advice on how to prepare for a career.

    Most people never go to office hours except to argue over grading of tests. Its a funny thing, really. The kids at elite schools like the Ivys have assigned faculty advisors and expect to be getting assistance from their profs; put them at a large public and they'll do just fine. The kids going to large publics have by and large been trained in HS that a good student is the one that doesn't make waves and had no contact with their teachers outside of class. Going to a large U they stay on that same path, quite often there is no faculty advisor, and miss out on all the advice and guidance they should have been getting.

    BTW there are many good books about the transition to college that cover this and many other topics. I'd suggest browsing amazon.com and finding one of interest for you.
  • luckycharmedluckycharmed Registered User Posts: 247 Junior Member
    As for saying in class you'll be coming, no need to do that. They're supposed to be there, that's the whole idea of office hours!

    Sometimes, they're there, but they're meeting with another student, or right in the middle of something. Of course they'll help you, but if you say "Hey, Professor X, could I come by your office hours around 10 to talk about this paper?" that'll just ensure that they'll be there, won't be involved with something else, have looked over your paper or the paper assignment, and just be in the right frame of mind to talk to you. Of course you don't NEED an appointment or anything, but saying "Hey, can I stop by?" is hardly difficult and helps both the prof and the student.
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