By Sarah Wright
Office hours are common in higher education. During these periods, professors and other staff open their doors to students. It's typical for faculty members to post office hours outside their office doors, or to list them on a syllabus. Generally instructors are available a specific day and time, though hours may vary by semester or quarter, depending on teaching schedules.
Some professors are very busy during office hours, so you might want to try setting up a specific time to talk with them. Also remember that some instructors may have office hours by appointment only. On the other end of the spectrum, some professors have very open office hours that may allow you to pop in whenever they're free.
If you show up for office hours and a professor isn't there, don't consider this a rejection. Like everyone, faculty members have unexpected things pop up. Don't hesitate to approach the professor in person or via email. If you have a concern you'd like to discuss, the person should agree to meet with you. After all, it's an instructor's job to help you learn.
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A one-on-one sit down with a professor or teaching assistant can be a great way to get some extra help and learn new things that aren't discussed in class. If you got a bad grade on a test or paper, you can bring it to office hours to discuss where you went wrong. You might even be able to get some career or academic advice. Office hours are also a great way to dispel some nerves over a class. Sitting down with a professor and having a personable conversation with him or her might help make the class seem less intimidating.
So don't hesitate to take advantage of this resource. It can be an important part of academic life, and the benefits are worth the few minutes it takes. It might even help you gain some face-to-name recognition with your professor, which can be important in getting the most out of your class.