Office Hours — make the most of it!

Now that we’re more than halfway through reading week, it’s worth thinking about how we’re going to use the next couple of weeks -- we don’t have many of them left! A good place to start is office hours. You may have used office hours to drop in and  say hello to your professor or discuss something quite general, which is great. But now, it’s time to start thinking about how to use the limited time you have efficiently so you can get the most out of what you’re studying. Moreover, because we’re nearing the end of the semester, those empty rooms are going to get filled with students. As a result, the professor or tutorial assistant can only give you so much time. To make sure you’re get the most out of the session, it’s important you go prepared. Here are some helpful tips that I’ve learned over the years --
  1. Make sure you know if your professor prefers drop-ins or appointments. With things getting so busy, I think most professors and tutorial assistants might prefer prior notice of your meeting with them. Most of the time this can be done with a quick email requesting a certain time but some professors also have forms outside their office for you to fill in your slot!
  2. If you’re referring to a specific assignment, print it out. This makes a huge difference. There’s something about reading and editing on a hard copy that just works better.
  3. Even if you have a general idea of what questions you want to ask or the kind of comments you want to make -- write them down. You know how sometimes something sounds a certain way in your head but then sounds completely different when you say it out loud or you really try to articulate it? It’s important you do this before you go to the professor because the very act of externalizing your thoughts can teach you some useful points and make you self-correct. Plus if your comments and questions are well articulated, the professor knows you put effort into engaging with the material and will automatically be able to help you more as a result.
  4. Be respectful of the professor's time. If the professor has answered your questions, it’s important that you express your gratitude and let the other students have their chance. My Cognitive Development professor for example, prefers to speak to each student for not more than 20 minutes during his office hours. This is because he wants every student to have a fair chance. Be aware and respectful of this not just for the professor and for your fellow student but also because if you follow the rules, the professor is more likely to go out of his or her way to give you help when you really need it.
  5. Lastly, a lot of the times students’ schedules clash with office hours. This is by no means a dead end. Most professors and tutorial assistants are happy to make some time for you during the week. However you must know that this is time outside the professor's usual hours and so it is especially important in this case to go prepared with questions and comments -- if the professor is being a little more accommodating, you would be expected to take that extra effort in return!
So, what do you think of these points? How can you start implementing them?  And do you have any other useful tips you could add to the list?

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