Office Hours, Part One: What are they for and why go?

Office Hours, Part One: What are they for and why go?

by Christy Rotman, UVA College Life Skills Coach, [email protected]

Office Hours may be a new thing for students when they start at UVA or college in general. Here at UVA office hours are not just for struggling students nor are they only for getting class questions answered or helping a student catch up on the material. While a student can certainly do all of these things during office hours, the expectations and benefits of utilizing office hours far exceed these situations. Let’s explore a bit more!

First off, what are office hours?

Office hours are times that instructors (both faculty, staff, and teaching assistants) set aside each week to meet with students. These times are usually listed in the syllabus, though some instructors may prefer to meet by appointment instead. Know that if your schedule does not allow you to attend an instructor’s set office hours, they are usually happy to arrange an alternative meeting with you. In some classes, office hours will involve a group of students meeting with an instructor, while in others it will just be one-on-one – both kinds are valuable!

What are the benefits of office hours?

Connecting on a human level! Getting to know your instructors more personally can help them seem less intimidating and more personable. Instructors can also serve as excellent mentors, unofficial advisors, cheerleaders, and great sources for recommendation letters, career advice, and more. Most instructors are in this job because they love their subject, and they love to teach that subject to others! As a result, they really enjoy and look forward to connecting with students.

Building community in your classroom and beyond! Deepening your relationships with your instructors will also have positive effects on your own sense of being a part of a community in the class, major, and university. It will also increase your motivation in the course, therefore making it easier to engage in the hard and effortful work of learning!

Advising for your course, the major/department, and the broader field and careers.

Insight into unique and valuable opportunities in the department/major and field, such as research, internships, etc…

Review - Though this is not the only reason to use office hours, it is a valuable opportunity to review the course content, clarify confusing material, ask questions, and review exams and homework.

Next steps:

  1. Block off the office hours for each of your courses in your weekly planner so you’ll know when they are and can plan attend. Use office hours to hold yourself accountable to staying engaged with course content. This will help your motivation!
  2. Prepare and write down 1-3 questions to take with you to help you feel more comfortable.

Nervous about attending office hours for the first time? That's ok!

See Part 2 of this post to learn about how to overcome some of the most common barriers that prevent students from visiting office hours and for some helpful conversation starters.