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Why students should attend office hours 

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By Diego Cagara

As a University at Albany student, each one of us is bound to have a mix of great professors, some of who we enjoy learning from and some who we dislike

However, there is at least one thing all professors have in common: All professors hold office hours where they can assist students face-to-face or clarify anything a student didn’t understand during class time.

Typically at the start of a semester, a professor will hand out a syllabus that outlines what students are expected to do, what the deadlines are, and the overall grading criteria. Also included are their office hours, which are a hidden gem. Often, the professor will discuss them briefly before moving on to a monologue about exams or his or her policy regarding in-class electronic device usage.

Office hours can be a better option than simply approaching a professor right after class. It is possible that one may immediately have to rush to his or her next class, have time-consuming to discuss, or the professor may already be bombarded with other students who have questions of their own. Also, if a professor’s office hours clash with a student’s own schedule, it would be best to inform him or her so a compromise can be found.

Naturally, there are some students who are more introverted than others and are more likely to be shy or intimidated when alone in a room with a professor that is well versed in a particular subject. As individuals, we hate coming off as unintelligent if we have questions about something, making it feel daunting to approach a professor who could perceive you as such.

There are many benefits of attending office hours even one time. If a professor is approached, a number of the following benefits will be earned:

  1. One will be able to understand something he or she didn’t quite get from class and the professor can reiterate the misunderstanding with more detail the second time around.
  2. Approaching a professor for help shows him or her that the student is indeed concerned about his or her grades and takes the class seriously.
  3. The professor will actually learn the student’s name, remember it and get a feel of who that person is as a student, especially ifthat student makes regular appearances at the office. They won’t just be some name on an attendance list.
  4. If the class is relevant to one’s major, the professor could, in turn, help that student by writing a letter of recommendation for an internship.
  5. The professor could perhaps serve as a mentor and give professional advice because they know what post-graduation life is.
  6. If a student’s personal life has a negative impact on their academic performance, going to office hours will give the professor the opportunity to know the student better.  The professor could even give some personal advice. A professor can indeed truly surprise a student.
  7. Once a student graduates and becomes successful in a career, they may decide to keep in contact with thatprofessor. The student can then support the former professor by returning to the campus to speak to the current class, talk about how they succeeded with the help of that professor, their office hours, and the course as a whole. This can inspire studentsto perhaps do that same thing.

Last year when I was a freshman, I used to go to the giant lecture halls for classes and they would always be filled with hundreds of other students. I felt swallowed up in the crowd and was frequently lost with what the professor taught. Thus, I found myself having to return to the old-fashioned textbooks to answer my questions, but even they didn’t always help.

At one point, I dared to finally see one of my professors during his office hours for help because a major exam was rapidly approaching. However, my professor was busy helping another student in his room at the time and I impatiently decided to walk away and do my best in the upcoming exam. Needless to say, I did not get a very attractive grade in the end, but it taught me to be more willing to seek help whenever I fell behind.

Nicole Glass of USA Today wrote “From Professor to Lifelong Mentor: How to Establish the Connection” in January 2013, which outlines how beneficial approaching a professor via his or her office hours is for not only getting higher grades, but having a better overall college experience. While the article is two years old, its themes and content still applies today, and Glass includes numerous real-life examples of students who have succeeded.

“[My professor] shared some of her own personal experiences and how she battled them and encouraged me to stay positive and think highly of myself,” Vanessa Jade, an American University graduate said. “Ever since then, she has always checked in on me, asked me how I was doing and always told me she was proud of me.”

Don’t be shy if there is a question that needs to be asked in class. Take the initiative and seek the professor’s help during office hours. It feels significantly better to get answers than to drown amid all those questions.

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