Okay, but what do I actually say when I get there?

We’re not really sure, either, but we’ve gathered some tips and wisdom from our staff to make your office hours visits as painless and productive as possible! Feel free to comment down below with any more office hour go-to strategies that have worked well for you.

  • Look up your professor online and read about their research and area of expertise. Come up with a few questions about a publication/essay/book of theirs that you’ve read and found really interesting!
  • Pick your favorite reading or topic you’ve covered in the class so far, ask your prof for more material that’s similar so you can dive deeper into it all (only if you’re actually willing to dive deeper into it all!), and then after you’ve engaged with it in your own time, you can go to another office hours to discuss.
  • Ask your professor how they became interested in their field of study. Did they have any jobs or roles before academia? Do they have any advice for interested students moving forward? This is especially interesting and helpful for juniors/seniors who are becoming increasingly stressed about their futures and decisions.
  • In general, I only ever go to office hours if I have a clear question—this is a really low bar, though. It could be as little as “I want closure on this section of the reading” to as big as “Here is a topic for the paper we have, please help.” I think this is a good “in,” if you will, and is helpful if you want to talk to them more broadly but are uncertain about how a conversation would go if you just Showed Up.
  • For stem/math courses: be honest about what you don’t know. It is personally still unbearable for me to roll up to office hours and say I have No idea what’s going on with this theorem or problem or what have you, but you’re not going to get better if you pretend you understand it when you don’t! And I would like to think profs and TAs appreciate when you’re there really trying to understand something rather than just getting by.
  • Depends on how your course schedules office hours, but I think it’s nice to give your prof a heads up on what you want to talk about so they’re in the same head space as you.
  • I live by the rule “showing up is half the battle”  when it comes to office hours. Don’t be discouraged by a few negative OH experiences—most profs/TAs really do want to help!
  • Ask your prof or TA about something as casual as places to eat or sights to visit in NYC! My Lithum prof last year was more than willing to share all the secret spots she loved in NYC (maybe more for the humanities and social sciences profs).
  • Ask questions about other courses that your professor teaches if you are interested in or thinking about taking them or doing the major.
  • You can go to office hours just to sit and listen to other people’s questions––especially helpful for stem classes! In case you get called on, have one idea in mind that you want to be more clearly explained. Office hours don’t have to be stressful!

imaginary office hours via Unsplash