The term is halfway over. You have received some graded work, so you know how well you are meeting academic expectations. Whether you are doing well or poorly, you need to go to office hours again.
For each class you take, you should attend office hours three times: once at the beginning of the term, once in the middle, and once at the end. The first visit is an introduction. The second visit makes you a familiar face; it conveys you are serious in your studies. The third and final visit…we will address that in a future post.
Fewer than a third of students in any class will make use of office hours. About 5% attend office hours more than once a term. There are a few reasons why 95% of people are missing out on the benefits of attending office hours. Maybe they don’t care, or they’re afraid of speaking to professors one-on-one, or they think the professor is too busy, or they don’t think it is worth their time.
You have two options for the mid-term office hours visit. If you are not performing as well as you expect, you can solicit advice for a mid-course correction. If you are doing well, use the opportunity to deepen the professional relationship with your professor. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
If you are not getting the grade you want, go to office hours to get advice on improving. If your grade is based on exam scores, tell your professor that you want to improve. Tell them how you are studying, and ask what you should be doing differently. Also share with them your notes from a recent class or reading assignment, and ask if your notes are sufficiently detailed. If your grade is based on papers, bring your work. Ask “what are the one or two areas I need to improve on to do better on the next paper?” Take notes on the advice you receive.
If you are doing well, congratulations! If you are enjoying the class, say so. You might ask the professor how you might link some of your own personal interests in the context of the discipline. For example, if you are a dancer, or a gamer, or an athlete, you might say “I really enjoy doing this thing. Is there a way I could link this thing with your discipline professionally?” You might also ask if they offer courses on similar subjects. After all, it is almost time to register for next term.
Maybe you don’t like the class or don’t find it very interesting. You might say something like: “I find this course pretty challenging since it does not align with my own interests, which are X and Y.” This can be a very good conversation starter. Your professor might point you in the direction of a class or another professor that would be a good match for you.
The mid-term office hours visit accomplishes two goals. In the short-term, it helps keep you on track with the class and could help you identify smart next steps to take. In the long-term, you are building a professional networking relationship that will help you in the coming years.
This week, look up your professor’s office hours. Plan to stop by. If you can’t make that time, email them and set up an appointment. Your future self will thank you.