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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The hidden usefulness of office hours

Getting personal with your professors is a key part of the college experience

By OWEN RUDERMAN — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

For most of the time I’ve been in college, I’ve always seen attending office hours as a last-ditch effort to raise a grade. Back at my previous college, office hours seemed to be a way to plead for an extension or to request extra credit. But after transferring to UC Davis, I realized that I was making negative assumptions about office hours. Turns out, there is a lot of value to attending office hours that isn’t often talked about.

I’ve experienced some of this hidden value myself. At the start of last quarter, I took 15 minutes to attend one of my professor’s office hours. I didn’t plan out what I was going to talk about, I just showed up to introduce myself. I thought it was no big deal, but over the course of the quarter, I realized that my initiative was having a positive impact on my experience in class. The professor recognized me and remembered my name. She was interested in how I was doing in the class and what I thought. A 15 minute interaction at the start of the quarter made the entire class so much more engaging and pleasurable.

As crazy as it sounds, professors like it when students are invested in their classes. If you are interested in your class and your professor seems nice, I highly recommend you try going to office hours. It is never a waste of time. You will immediately stand out as someone who is actually trying in a sea of students who don’t seem to care. And who knows, your professor might end up enlightening you. They could help you figure out what you want to study or what you want to do with your degree. You could discover a new passion.

General life advice isn’t the only plus to attending office hours. Getting to know your professors more at the beginning of the quarter can help you to succeed academically. If you establish a relationship early, coming in later for help or clarification becomes less stressful. I’ve heard from a couple of professors that they aren’t huge fans of students who only come to the last few sessions of office hours to attempt to salvage a low grade. Attending office hours once or twice at the start of the quarter shows your teacher you’re serious about the class and helps to maximize your chances of getting the grade you want. But attending office hours shouldn’t always be about the grades.

As you probably know, many UC Davis professors are experts in their field. As a result, they have a depth of knowledge that likely extends beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Many of them have impressive careers and experiences. Being able to draw from these banks of knowledge is incredibly valuable and one of the best things about attending college. Where else would you have access to so many smart and talented people? It would be a shame to miss out on office hours and, in turn, this incredible pool of knowledge and experience. But even if you don’t learn anything new, having a professional connection is always useful.

Building a professional relationship with your favorite professors can help you even after you leave the classroom. During my first quarter at UC Davis, I met with one of my professors during her office hours a number of times. We discussed the class, but we also talked more generally. Things like traveling, her past career and my future all came up during my meetings with her. Because I attended her office hours, I now have a better understanding of what I want to do with my degree and potential opportunities. Whenever we see each other around campus, she always checks in to see how I’m doing. And since we now know each other decently well, she’s offered to put in a good word for me wherever I should need it.

As you can hopefully see, office hours aren’t just a place for students who are struggling. They’re a valuable resource that can help you in almost every aspect of your college life. They’re not scary, and they aren’t a huge commitment. A few minute-long conversations with an interesting person at the start of the quarter can transform your entire experience. When you look at it like that, who wouldn’t want to pop into the office?

Written by: Owen Ruderman — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.



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