How Going to Office Hours Improves Your Writing Drastically

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Your huge term paper is due in a week, you’ve written a few drafts, really pored over every sentence and made sure it’s worthy of an A…. yeah, right. For those of us that don’t have the motivation to create a winning paper every time, we might need a little outside help.

Help can be found in office hours.

What do professors actually do in their offices? We picture our professors with glasses perched on their noses, poring over a copy of some ancient text or the newest best-seller, surrounded by bookshelves and beakers of foul smelling potions. But what most of us don’t know is that office hours can be your secret weapon to making that A.

Professors are college students’ biggest untapped resource. “There’s no shame in reaching out for help,” University of Florida freshman Karissa Seepaul said. “No matter how good you think your work is, there’s always room for improvement.” Professors want to help you take your work from incoherent garbage (the product of a frenzied all-nighter) to something that could rival David Foster Wallace.

Most professors actually encourage students to go to them for help with writing, knowing that the visit will help students in the long term. “I think often students don’t realize how helpful these appointments can be,” professor Katherine Peters said. “I definitely see improvement in students’ writing after office hour appointments. They know exactly what to work on for the next paper, and I see that reflected in the work they produce.” Your professors can give more in depth comments on style, format and content than your roommate ever could (or would).

But going to office hours isn’t just about getting an A. Going to a professor’s office hours means easily improving your writing as a whole. While professors have enough advice to assist you with any assignment you’re working on (for their class, anyways), they have more than enough knowledge to give you simple corrections that you can apply to a wide variety of what you write. Don’t know where to start on that grad school essay (cue hyperventilation) or cover letter you’ve been working on? Your professor has been they. He or she can help you in no time.

And while college students have a love-hate relationship with word counts, here’s a tip from one student to you. “[My professor] told me I could use less words and actually say more,” Seepaul said. “It was really helpful.”

Professors can quickly fix patterns in students’ writing to allow students to improve over the course of the term. “Make sure you have a clear and specific thesis to start with,” professor Alan Smith said. “A good outline can do wonders in terms of structure when writing a paper.” Though all college students would rather finish that episode of Friends than spend time making an outline, it’s nice to know that all our hard work really makes a difference.

My first semester of college, I avoided office hours like the plague. But let’s debunk that myth right now. Office hours aren’t scary. Say it a little louder for the people in the back. “I think one important thing is that it’s not scary to go into help, and it doesn’t mean you’re dumb,” University of South Florida Class of 2015  alumni Elizabeth Norbell said. “It helped me make an A on my paper which helped me get an A in the class.” Sometimes, sacrificing your nap time (or Netflix time) is worth making that grade.

With the start of the new semester, I suggest a New Year’s Resolution. No, don’t resolve to eat less Chick-Fil-A (though that wouldn’t hurt). Instead, take advantage of the resources your professors offer. Whether you’re a wide-eyed freshman who just can’t get that five-paragraph format out of your head or a zombie-fied senior who’s just ready to get out of there, knock on that office door.

With your head held high, let your professors help you get that grade you deserve.

Hilary is a first year English and Medical Geography Student at the University of Florida. She enjoys binge watching Parks and Recreation, drinking cappuccinos, and on occasion, dressing up as Princess Merida.

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