Professors can be intimidating. Talking with professors in office hours one-on-one without other students around or a homework assignment to talk about can be even scarier. A lot of this nervousness stems from the fact that many students don’t know why they should go to office hours in the first place – or what to say once they’re there.
But talking with a professor doesn’t have to be intimidating! You don’t need to be struggling with the material to visit office hours – office hours are there for you to utilize if you’re interested in a major, the material covered in class, or even if you just want to talk about some of the super cool things your professors have done in the past. Always feel free to stop by and say hi as well – they like that!
Although the rules for visiting office hours are a little loose, there are definitely some things that should remain unsaid and some questions that should remain unasked when you’re chatting with the person that grades your essays and knows your test scores. Remember that even though some profs are super casual in office hours, they are still both professionals and scholars who deserve your respect.
What not to say: “I hate math/English/history/[subject said professor teaches].”
Why not to say it: Hate is a strong word. It shouldn’t be thrown around so casually.And it definitely shouldn’t be used to express your feelings toward a subject to someone with a strong enough passion for it that they’ve dedicated their career to it.
What to say instead: It’s okay to let your professor know that you’ve had a bad experience with a subject in the past – they don’t expect everyone to major in their area of study. But remain respectful – try, “I’ve had trouble with this subject in the past. I’m hoping this class can change my outlook on it. Do you have any tips?”
What not to say: “Is this an easy class?”
Why not to say it: If a professor sees you immediately asking about how hard a class is going to be, they’re going to be a little turned off. In general, professors don’t want you to leave a class with a grade if you haven’t deserved it. And they certainly don’t want you to be looking at their class as just a grade. They want you to get way more out of it.
What to say instead: Keep in mind that you can still get gauge how the class is going to be without asking how easy it is. Try something along the lines of, “What can I do to get the most out of this class?”
What not to say: “I love this class! It’s so easy!”
Why not to say it: As previously stated, a professor doesn’t want you to judge a class for the amount of work that you do or do not have to put into it. They want you to get something more out of it. Loving a class because it was easy tells the professor nothing about the material, your interest in the material, or their teaching style. It can also convey that you are not invested in the course and you simply want to slide by with an easy A. Also, keep in mind that the class might have been easy because you enjoyed the content or the Professor’s teaching style matched your learning style.
What to say instead: Use something that you liked about the content of the class to spark a conversation with your professor. Try something like, “I loved the article we read for this week. It made me think differently about the topic, and I love that it relates back to our reading from last week.”
What not to say: “I didn’t finish the reading because I was doing a paper for another class.”
Why not to say it: This conveys that you don’t prioritize this class or the assigned homework. It tells the professor that you don’t think their class is as important as another class – and while we’ve all been here and professors understand that some weeks are going to be way busier than others, it’s never a good idea to let a professor know that it was because you didn’t have the time management skills to get a reading and a paper done.
What to say instead: At the same time, it’s ok to be honest, just not too honest. Don’t be afraid to let your professor know that you need a little help with the work. Try, “I’ve been having a bad week and got behind in some work. Can we talk about the reading?”
At the end of the day, your professors are another set of awesome resources for you during your time here at AU. Office hours aren’t just about school work – you might gain a lot from visiting them, from information on a class to finding that you both have a love for Apple Cinnamon oatmeal.
Remember that forming relationships with professors early on in the semester can make it easier for you to ask questions, discuss any issues, and get the help you might need in the class later on. And chances are you will probably learn more just by checking in with your professors during office hours now and then.