Why You Should Go to Your Professors’ Office Hours

If there’s any real fault of the younger generation, it’s that we’re caught up in other people’s opinions. Such is the issue I’ve often heard when my peers talk about the idea of office hours. Over and over, I’ve heard my friends talking about not going to their professors’ office hours because they’re afraid of seeming dumb, bothering their professor, or just because they have no reason to go. I’ve been guilty of using all these reasons as well.

But honestly, none of these are good excuses and we’re only hurting ourselves by neglecting this relationship. So, let’s go through those “reasons” and debunk them one by one. (And, I’ll give my own example that disproves all three at the end).

1. You don’t want to seem dumb.

This one infuriates me, and is the one I’m the most guilty of using. Our generation has grown up with seemingly-perfect examples of what a student should be (Rory Gilmore, anyone?). And, one of the biggest reasons professors list off when talking about office hours is, “come in if you don’t understand a concept.” This can make us feel like we should only use office hours if we’re having difficulty with a subject, and can make us feel like we’re failing our high expectations if we do use the help.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with needing help with a subject, but you shouldn’t be waiting until you’re failing a class to meet with your professor just because you don’t want others to think down about you. For one, no one really cares if you’re doing poorly in a subject (this isn’t middle school). And secondly, your professor can help you more if you go in earlier.

2. You think you’re bothering your professor.

This also drives me crazy, and I’ve heard directly from my professors that it’s usually the opposite. Your professors have office hours for the specific purpose of getting to know their students––but if no one shows up then they’re just sitting for an hour doing busy work.

They set the time aside because they would rather be talking with their students. I promise your professors want to know you. I’ve had some incredible relationships with my professors, and they emerged simply because I took the time to meet with them.

3. You have no reason to go to office hours.

This one is probably the most important to debunk, honestly. It’s time we stop assuming we have to have a good reason to take up someone’s time; we have value, y’all, and so do your professors.

Go because you’re interested in the subject and want to talk more about a topic in the class. Go because you want to get to know your professor. Go because you have nothing else to do during that time. Go because you need a letter of recommendation at some point in the future. There are a million different reasons to go to your professors’ office hours, and you shouldn’t feel bad for using any of them.

My story

So, I promised my own example that debunks these myths. Technically, it’s three examples, but each one made the next one possible. So, read on for a real story of why you should go to your professors’ office hours.

I’m a transfer student, and the first school I attended was my local community college. My first semester there, I only took two classes; one of them was an advanced writing class with a professor whom my brother had taken before me. My brother loved her and her class, so I signed up. I too loved her class, and ended up being one of the students who would come early and stay late to chat with her. Towards the end of the semester, I went to her actual office hours, half to ask for advice on my final paper, and half to ask for advice about transferring out of the college.

We ended up talking for the whole hour she had allotted for office hours (no one else showed up), and I had some guidance on my final and my future.

The next semester, I was taking an ethnic literature class that was taught by a radical feminist/therapist. I was sort of in love with her and sort of terrified; she was so outspoken and sure of herself, she seemed so healed of the traumas she spoke about to relate to the books we were reading. I met with her one time during her hours, and we had a long talk about feminism, the power of education, and my family situation. The next week, I held my own in an argument with one of my brothers for the first time, and felt impassioned by what she had taught me.

I told her of the confrontation later, and she celebrated me in class. That was when I decided I wanted feminism to be a cornerstone of my writing and study.

At that point, I had a list of where I would be applying for transfer, and I realized I would need a letter of recommendation. I decided to ask the ethnic literature teacher, and she said, as a rule, she didn’t write any letters. So she was out, but I’d still gained so much from our interaction. I then remembered my writing professor, and asked her. She agreed; over the next few months we met repeatedly so we could talk over my past writing and she helped me with my application essays. After committing to Emerson, we met a few more times just to chat and talk about our lives. I still meet with her for lunch every time I visit home

From those two office hour meetings, I found direction on my future and gained confidence in myself and my writing. These were so important in my steps towards attending Emerson.

Now, I’ve been at Emerson for six months and have already found a professor I have a genuine interest in. I took an economics class by chance my first semester, loved the course and the professor, and decided to build my major partly around economics. Now, I’m in two of his courses. On the first day, I paused after class and asked if I could follow him to his office hours. He agreed happily.

My reasoning was just to chat: to hear about his research, talk about the previous class, hear his take on the current economic climate, and maybe get his opinion/advice on my major and my future in academia. We talked for a while, fulfilled all of my vague reasons, and by the end I was actually signed up to be his research assistant. Because of a random office hours meeting, I’m able to get one non-tuition credit, test out my interest in doing economic research, and build a relationship with a professor I may want to have write my letter of recommendations in the future.

Hopefully my examples show better than the listicle could, but I can’t stress enough how beneficial office hours can be. There’s no good reason to avoid them, and everyone can benefit from getting to know your professors!