You had a question in class but you missed your chance and the moment is gone. What if your professor thinks you do not pay attention if you go up to them? Yikes!
Don’t worry, that is exactly what office hours are for. Instructors understand that sometimes students may need one-on-one time to ask questions, talk about concepts or have other academic concerns they would like to address. Office hours can be resourceful to university students, such as us, in more than one way.
As someone who relied heavily on office hours during their first year at UBC, I wanted to share some of the many different function office hours have provided for me and how they can be useful.
A Safe Space for Learning
Most professors understand the stress and anxiety that comes with asking questions or participating in class. While it is a good practice to get used to engaging during class, going to office hours might be a good way to start getting that experience. Not only that, sometimes office hour conversations lead to many different topics. It can be interesting to learn about things that are outside of the course outline. For example, during office hours with one of my Sociology professors, we started talking about the dilemma of having so many systemic issues and being unable to fight all battles (I know, intense!).
However, they reassured me that while it is common to feel disheartened by all the problems we learn in Sociology, it is okay to choose one battle and fight it as well as we can. This led me to find my topic of focus in Sociology which is gender and sexual inequalities.
Support in Academia
If you are considering grad school, some professors host information sessions regarding what you need to prepare. For example, one of my Sociology professors holds grad school info sessions for Arts students every few months. She talks about the pros and cons of grad school, the requirements needed, and the time period by which we should start preparing for it.
In addition, if you are looking for teaching or research assistant positions, asking your professor might be a great place to start. They may have a course coming up or research they are already conducting in which they could use an extra hand!
Advice On Other Job Prospects
Not looking into getting into academia after graduation but also not sure what your degree is worth? Professors are great at that kind of advice! Either from personal experience, people they know or general knowledge, professors can help you figure out the different professional prospects to your major. If you have a good relationship with the professor beforehand, they might know you on a personal level enough to suggest opportunities that better suit your goals and ambitions. For example, I had a professor whose first assignment was to go on the internet and look for jobs that had the words “Sociology”, “quantitative analysis”, and “qualitative analysis”. To my surprise, there were a lot of jobs for which I would be qualified for once I graduated. Hence, professors sometimes even build advice or exploration about job prospects into their course outline to boost our confidence.
Great Source for References
Often, employers ask for references when you apply to work for their organization. Professors are a great source for this. When you go to office hours, a professor gets a chance to get to know you better, not just as a student, but also as a person in general. When you build a good rapport with a professor, they can be a great choice for a reference because they will be able to tell the employer about your performance and personal qualities as a student and also outside the classroom.
Here are some other resources that might come in handy as well!
If you are looking to engage in office hours outside of your courses, Profs-in-Commons is a place where instructors from different disciplines hold office hours and students from any discipline are welcome to join! They can also provide the same space for learning, advice on academia and other job prospects as well as well other learning supports that you might need. This is also a great way to build your network! Visit the Profs-in-Commons on Level 3 of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.
Another great resource for support with your job search is the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers. They can assist with reviewing your resume and cover letters, help you prepare for specific job applications, connect you to employers and alumni and much more. Make sure to visit their website for the many different options they provide to building your career profile!
Undergraduate Research Opportunities is a team of aspiring undergraduates and graduates who actively help students of all levels and years to find and connect with research opportunities!
Last but not least the Chapman Learning Commons can support your learning in a different way, by answering any questions you have regarding academic tools such as Canvas or resources on campus. Printing assistance and equipment borrowing are available too! Here are some similar resources created by my fellow colleagues regarding interacting with professors:
So, the next time you feel nervous to go up to your professor, keep in mind that they really appreciate students that are keen on learning outside of the classroom, and they enjoy teaching and helping you. Take advantage of your resources! After all, you worked hard to be here.