Taking Advantage of Office
(Continued from 1)
2. If you are confused by a math
or science class, arrive with a written representative
list of problems and concepts (but dont include
everything on the syllabus!). Take time to isolate significant
problem areas and concrete examples. This lets the instructor
see exactly where your troubles lie and gives
him/her something specific to work with right away to
illustrate the ideas involved. You may then follow-up
with other questions as they arise. Be sure
to leave room on the page under each question to take
notes on the help and answers you receive.
3. If you are having trouble writing
a paper, try to come equipped with some concrete
ideas written out and even some free-writing exercises
based on the
assignment. The best approach is to compose a few possible
theses. And, if you can, it would be great to rough
out a brief topic sentence outline for
each thesis. Dont worry about bringing in even
the sketchiest of ideas. Its not unusual for me
to locate a really great thesis somewhere in a students
outline or free-writing. So the more you bring in, the
more the instructor has to work with. You might leave
the office hour with an entirely new approach, but it
will be based on work youve already begun.
4. Dont waste time with small talk. Other students
may be waiting, so be sure that you get right to your
most important questions early. This is another reason
to prepare your office hour visit in writing. List your
concerns in order of importance and relevance, so you
can begin at the top and not have to take up time trying
to remember what you wanted to ask.
5. Using office hours to let your professors get to
know you in order to secure letters of recommendation
later isnt entirely illegitimate. However, you
need to combine the visit with real classroom needs.
If you are not all that engaged with the class material
or if you dont honestly need help with the work,
believe me, it will show. You may think you are being
charming when, in reality, you are only being irritating.
This will not result in a good letter. If you find yourself
truly interested in the class and have honest questions,
then, by all means, take advantage of an office hour.
It will certainly help you with letters later on as
well as with your work now.
6. In my experience, most professors understand that
students have schedules that often conflict with posted
office hours, so usually theres a and by
appointment note following the regular days and
times. Please dont be shy about asking for an
appointment. If you need to meet with the professor,
talk to him/her after class or e-mail and briefly explain
your predicament. Then offer a range of days and times
when youd be available, having already made
sure that none of them conflicts with the professors
Theres no reason for any student to stay mired
in confusion because of a difficult class. Just dont
wait until just before an exam or due date for a paper.
Prepare early, identify what your problems are, write
out your questions, and meet with the TA or professor.
Youll be surprised how much your work improves
as well as how much more connected youll feel
to your college experience.
See also, Partners with the Professor.
Emily Schiller has been a re-entry student twice.
She left college after two years to pursue work in dance,
theatre and teaching and then returned six years later
to complete a B.A. in Theatre Arts with a minor in Philosophy.
After working as an office manager for a chiropractic
office, manager of a national playwriting competition,
free-lance reader, and public radio producer, she returned
to college again, this time earning an M.A. in English
from California State College at Los
Angeles and a Ph.D. in English from UCLA where she taught
American Literature and Writing until the end of last