No! Stop right there. Don’t send your prof that five-page email that’s just going to get lost in the shuffle. Suck it up and go to office hours. Professors are trapped for hours every week with the sole purpose of talking to us. Take advantage of it, but barging in without a game plan may not wind up going as smoothly as you’d imagined. So don’t wing it, because when it comes to unconventional office hour meetings, professors have seen it all. Keep their advice in mind to avoid making these epic office hour faux pas.
Please Remove Your Tear Ducts
One of the biggest misconceptions students have is that deadlines are set in stone. Go into office hours and ask for an extension if life gets hectic. Just leave the waterworks at home. In the witty, albeit understanding, words of Professor Tim Randall, “Limit tears to 10 percent of the visit and tissue-consumption to 25 percent of the box; I may have other appointments that day.” Professors are human too, and more often than not they’ll adjust deadlines if you need it.
If You Have The Plague Stay Home…Seriously
Professors are juggling university commitments, their personal research and publication projects, as well as their own families. They don’t have a week to sprawl out on the couch watching Netflix, chugging Emergen-C and tending a cold. Professors agree if you’re sporting any version of the common cold, an email is more than sufficient to explain why you’ve missed class.
Hmm, Should You Send A Replacement?
NO! Even if you’re terrified that the week you spent sniffling away with bronchitis has ruined your entire semester, just hold tight. “Don’t send your roommate, T-Bone, to discuss Edna St. Vincent Millay for you,” recommended Randall. Just breathe. Once you’re well you’ll be able to go to office hours and catch up.
It’s Really Not That Funny
If you thought you were really channeling your inner F. Scott Fitzgerald, it can be a little disconcerting to get your paper back covered in an explosion of red ink. Office hours are an amazing time for professors to translate their chicken-scratch comments and give you honest feedback. But cut the snark. “Erase sarcastic responses to my paper comments before bringing in your paper to discuss,” said Randall. It may have seemed like a great idea at the time to push Fitzgerald aside for a little Colbert, but professors tend to lack an appreciation for the snarky retorts you’ve scribbled after all their comments.
You Told Your Parents About Your Grades…
Helicopter parents are the kind who obsessively harass your preschool teacher to make sure you ate your gluten-free crackers after playing with non-toxic finger-paints. In elementary school, they made sure you came prepared for the bake sale. In middle school, they double-checked every math problem. In high school, they were solely responsible for getting you over an 1800 on the SAT and would strong-arm your AP Lit teacher into extending essay deadlines when you had club baseball tournaments.
Helicopter parents came in handy, but a firm line needs to be drawn when you come to college. You are a legal adult. It’s time for your helicopter parents to retire from their crazy antics. They absolutely do not need to make an appearance at your professor’s office hours. Tim Randall shared how he was ambushed coming out of a class by a parent dragging the student in tow, demanding an explanation for her daughter’s low grade. It’s a classic helicopter parent tactic, but those moves shouldn’t follow you to college. Professors feel uncomfortable. Don’t become that kid — you best believe you’re not getting a letter of rec after that sort of episode.
Awkward Silences Are Fun
Having a plan comes in handy when walking into office hours. “Speak, preferably before 10 minutes of silence have passed, to tell me why you have sat down in my office,” Randall said as one of his office hour musts. Professors can’t read your mind. There’s a decent chance they may not even know your name. So get it together and spit out a question before the meeting totally falls apart. If you suffer from conversation-narcolepsy, write down your questions. It’s your meeting so do something to lead the conversation.
So You Went in Guns a-Blazing
“My most horrifying office hours is one when I was insulted by a student. When we met up he proceeded to tell me that the lessons were useless, and that my teaching style was immature and ineffective. He tried to stare me down, but I think I won the stare-off,” said Hemminger. This office hour faux pas is pretty clear-cut: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. They can bring your grade to its knees if they want. So it’s always better to build a relationship then burn a bridge.
You Might Even Have a Good Time
Duncan McCosker advised, “[Tap] into the intense enthusiasms you have for life.” If you walk out of class sporting goosebumps and a goofy smile, it’s a good indicator you should go to office hours and build a relationship with that professor. They can help you find your passion, which is really the true goal of college. “I try and suggest something that goes beyond the syllabus, and that might be an opportunity for a luncheon with the director of photography at the De Young Museum or writing a letter of recommendation,” McCosker said. So going into office hours can manifest some spectacular opportunities. It doesn’t just have to be about grades or deadlines.
We’re paying nauseating amounts of money to go to college, yet resources like office hours are as underutilized as the thrifty budgeting app you downloaded freshman year. Office hours shouldn’t just be a time for professors to update their Pinterest boards. Take these do’s and don’ts into consideration and take the plunge: say hello to your professor outside of class.