Fear Not—It’s Just Office Hours

Often in therapy, my clients mention that they are struggling in a class, The first thing I always suggest is attending office hours. And…… inevitably students push back. They simply don’t feel comfortable going to talk one on one with their professor. They feel like they are wasting the professor’s time, or they are not prepared enough, or they’ve got a scheduling conflict.

Several years ago, Arizona State University addressed this problem by creating a funny YouTube video, presenting office hour phobia in a pharmaceutical ad format. Here it is:

An idea I had to help students feel more confident attending office hours is sharing the professor’s perspective. Here are responses I got back from four professor friends. Here’s what they wish students knew about office hours.

  1. Professors want to get to know you. Seriously, they do. Just stop by and say “hi.” Most professors are happy to talk about anything.
  2. They want you to do well in their class, and they are more than happy to help you in office hours.
  3. Students don’t have to have a particular question about the class. Just stop in and ask for some career and academic direction, for example.
  4. Professors wish more students would go to office hours to get help.  Many days, no students darken the doorway.   So when they see you in office hours they are eager to help, and rooting for you to be successful.
  5. Professors like to talk about themselves and their subject.  Ask them their opinion about something related to their field that you’ve read in the news or heard in a podcast.
  6. Don’t wait until right before the midterm or final to come in.  They could be swamped.
  7. If your final grade is right on the border between say a B+ and A-, having gone a couple of times to office hours will likely encourage the professor to round up.
  8. A professor can serve as a mentor to you.  This will help you both academically and pre-professionally.  Identify a potential mentor, go to their office hours, do extra credit anytime it is offered, participate in class, and attend any outside study sessions they hold.  
  9. Think of office hours as free tutoring. Don’t be shy and go get your questions answered.
  10.  And if you need extra tutoring, ask your professor if they would put you in touch with some of their best students from the previous semester.

Remember, these professors were once undergrads too.  For some, it was not so long ago.  They understand that students often feel nervous in their office.  Most professors will try to put you at ease.  They went into teaching because they like interacting with students.  Now, get going!  No more excuses!