It can be daunting to talk to a professor outside of class, but it almost always pays to visit your teachers during their office hours. You may think you’re annoying your professors and taking up their valuable time, but in my experience, professors love when students come to visit them. Fewer students take advantage of office hours than you might expect, and being a student who does interact with their professors can make you stand out from the rest of your classmates and give you extra insight on how to succeed, in both your classes and your general academic career.
Here are some questions to ask to get the conversation started.
Can You Explain This for Me?
If there’s any part of a professor’s syllabus or instructions for an assignment that you didn’t understand, office hours are a great way to get clarification straight from the professor. Going to their office and asking them directly to clear up any confusion is a lot more convenient for both of you than holding them up after class or having to text a friend who may have also misinterpreted details. Office hours are also a good time to get clarification on a grade you received, or go over answers that you may have missed on a test so that you’ll have a better grasp on the class subject material in the future.
Which Classes Should I Take?
The first person to go to for class advice is probably your academic advisor, but your professors will also have plenty of insight into their own departments. Your professors may also know you and your work more personally than your advisor, and can more easily recommend faculty you might interact with and class subjects you’ll be interested in.
How Can I Land My Dream Job?
Don’t believe the old adage that says, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Whatever your major is, almost all of your professors will have experience working in that field. It’s part of what qualifies them for their teaching position. Your professors were once in your shoes, and will have advice on what to do in college to prepare to enter the workforce. Some of them may even have recommendations on positions to start with or places to look for work.
Would You Write Me a Letter of Recommendation?
Professors are much more likely to write letters of recommendation for you if they know you, and there’s no better way to get to know your professor than visiting them one-on-one during their office hours. When your professor can attach a face to your work in their class, and also know what your academic and professional goals are, they can write stronger and much more detailed letters of recommendation that will look especially great as part of your internship or grad school applications. To help with this, give them an accomplishments resume that highlights your interests, activities, awards, and accomplishments you’re proud of.
Don’t be pushy, however. Professors get asked to write recommendations for a large number of students, and you shouldn’t take it personally if they say they already have too much on their plate to take on yours as well.