Almost every article about college life advises students to go to professors’ office hours, but there are very few that mention how to handle office hours. Many students feel like they shouldn’t go because they don’t want to seem needy. Others feel like if they are doing well enough in a class, there is no need to go to office hours. And others are at a loss about what to discuss or ask. Here are some suggestions about making the most out of your professors’ office hours.
Ask them about their research or their area of expertise. Professors are people too, and people love talking about their passions! Your professors went through hundreds of hours of work to attain their degrees and titles. Try searching up your professors’ name on your library database or on specialized engines like Google Scholar. If any journal articles come up, skim through those articles and formulate insightful questions about them! Of course, this should only be attempted if you are actually interested in their field and their research. Because many professors have dealt with hundreds of students before, they can tell when a person is not being genuine.
Check in with them about your progress while you’re working on papers or projects. If you start working on the project or paper as soon as it is assigned, it shows initiative on your part, and it gives you time to check in with your professors about your progress. Bring in your laptop or your rough draft and ask them pointed and specific questions that show you’ve been putting effort and thought into your work.
Have a (relevant) conversation! Remember, professors are people too. Sometimes they get tired of endless discussions about grades, tests, and papers. Having meaningful discussions with your professors about things like significant new findings and studies in their field can be a refreshing relief from grade talk. For example, asking a political science professor about the peculiarities of this election year can yield an interesting discussion. Remember to use common sense with this approach. Tailor your questions to your professor’s field and things that would be relevant to them! Additionally, keep it professional: if you wouldn’t say something to your boss, don’t say it to your professor.