STUDY SKILLS: Office Hours, and How to Make the Most of Them

First day of class and everyone gets a syllabus. Usually close to the top there’s a bit about when classes and x-hours are, the name of the class (hopefully you already knew that one), and then when office hours are held.

Ahh … office hours. I will (to my embarrassment) admit that I didn’t go to one until freshman spring, because I was really intimidated by professors (not because my professors were intimidating, per se, but because they’re so awesome and published that I was nervous about talking to them). Whereas there are also some people who go to every single office hour, without fail. Once I got over my initial anxiety, though, I found that office hours are ridiculously useful. I’ve used office hours to ask questions about material in the course, figure out paper topics, and even discuss post-graduation plans and which grad school programs to apply to. It’s also a great way to find out more about your professors, such as what kind of research they are doing. I have very rarely met a professor here at Dartmouth who wasn’t nice or approachable. In fact, I have definitely had classes where professors openly requested students to come to office hours because they were feeling pretty lonely and underutilized during office hours. One professor even rescheduled office hours for the rest of term when he found out that most of the students had scheduling conflicts with the previously decided time, in order to encourage more folks to come to office hours.

Bottom line – definitely go to office hours. But don’t just show up to office hours. There are definitely ways to get the most out of your professor’s office hours (plus, it’s also just polite). Cornell’s website has some tips for how to make the best use of your professor’s and your own time, which I will re-post here:

  1. Study your textbook and lecture notes thoroughly and attempt the assigned problems before you go to office hours.
  2. Try to identify specific questions or concepts you need to address during the office hours.
  3. Expect instructors to ask you questions about the material. They do this to find out what you understand, and to provide you with information and strategies tailored to your individual needs.
  4. Be patient! Several students come for office hours at the same time. If the instructor is especially busy, you may have to wait a little longer for individual assistance. Use this time to study the material.
  5. Expect the instructor to suggest general study strategies to help you improveoverall academic performance. These strategies will help in all of your courses.
  6. Avoid waiting until the day before the test or the day before an assignment is due to seek assistance. Study a few hours each day, and keep up with your assignments. It is EASIER to keep up than to catch up!
  7. Use other resources such as formal study groups and informal homework-help groups.
  8. Keep a positive attitude about the subject and about your potential to excel. Your attitude will go a long way in determining how well you do in your course!

– Angela

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