Whether you're an office hour regular or you only visited office hours that one time during first year, you know that it can be a process. Between the initial stages of deciding to go to office hours and the final exit from the office, we all share some of the same experiences:
1. Pondering going to office hours.
This is the first step of deciding to brave the dreaded quest to meet with a professor. The fact that you even considered it in the first place is something to be applauded.
2. Making the decision.
Perhaps the most crucial step towards going to office hours is actually making the decision to go. You write it down in your planner, you verbalize it to a friend, or maybe you even tell a professor after class that you’ll see them in office hours. Making the conscious choice to go is the first stage of acceptance.
3. Deciding to stick with the decision.
By this point, you have probably thought of at least 17 excuses for why you can’t or shouldn’t go to office hours. But then you remember who’s holding you accountable and you feel a sense of guilt too strong to overcome. You reluctantly conclude that it’s best to keep your own self-promise.
4. Walking to office hours.
Whether your professor’s office is all the way across campus or just three minutes away, this feels like the longest walk of your life. You start rehearsing over and over in your mind what you are going to ask the professor, and the anxiety begins to seep in.
5. Waiting outside the professor’s office.
You’ve reached the point of no return. You know the professor’s in there—you can hear voices. It’s too late to turn back now, so you go ahead and knock on the door.
6. The awkward entrance.
The professor invites you in, and you squeamishly slide into the chair while figuring out what to say. This is the exact moment you’ve been dreading since the second you began pondering office hours.
7. Small talk.
You begin to talk about the weather, what your major is, and other surface, introductory conversation. If this is your first time meeting the professor, you attempt to make your best impression.
8. Looping the conversation back to why you’re here.
In the nicest way possible, you acknowledge that the reason you’re in office hours is beyond making small talk. You ask for advice on a paper, a question about lecture, or guidance with the readings. Almost always, the professor is enthusiastic and happy to help.
9. Asking the professor about him/herself.
You realize that you probably shouldn’t make this visit all about you, so you try to ask the professor about his or her own experience, research, or life outside the classroom. Professors are usually thrilled to talk about their work or share some personal insight, which makes this part easier on you.
10. Trying to make yourself seem intelligent and dedicated.
Before you leave, you want to show the professor that you didn’t just come to earn brownie points, but instead that you are committed to and engaged in the course. Not only is this respectful to the professor, but it also helps down the road with grading, recommendation letters, and forming a professional relationship with the professor.
11. Finding a way to wrap up the conversation.
Okay, you’re pretty sure you’ve both had enough of talking, and you’re ready to head out. No matter how painfully awkward this may be, you discover a way to end the meeting swiftly and politely.
12. The awkward departure.
You stand up, shake hands, and say goodbye…or at least this is the only way you can think to depart normally. What do you say to them? “See you in class?" “It was nice talking to you?" Whatever you choose to say, you know it will seem somewhat forced but necessary.
13. Congratulating yourself for successfully visiting office hours.
Phew, you made it. “Do people really go to these things every week?” you wonder. But it really wasn’t so bad after all, and it feels good to break the ice before you decide you need to return sometime, thus starting the stages all over again…