Office Hours: The University’s Best Kept Secret?

How many people do you know who attend office hours? They might seem like another unnecessary extra thing to add to your workload, but utilising the office hours of your professors can be one of the most useful ways to make the most out of your learning experience… by Kumail Jaffer. 

At any given university, a student receives the right to sit in lectures, contribute to seminar discussions and take the necessary exams – and if lucky, perhaps a subscription to the Financial Times. What most fail to realise – or rather, make use of – is the access to lecturers that one receives, which can be invaluable for a number of reasons.

When an academic gives a public lecture, it is often well attended, and more ostensibly, he is bombarded with curious questions about the nature of the subject. Naturally, you may say, the individual is an expert in his subject, and is treated as such. Why, then, with the exception of term three, are office hours usually left empty?

One may think that not every academic is a ‘rockstar’ professor – of course, many don’t have the privilege of a Slavoj Zizek or Noam Chomsky type walking through their department. However, it’s important to remember that any sort of engagement with an academic in a field you are studying, in a module you have chosen to learn specially about, is valuable and key to the university experience. In addition to this, Warwick University boasts a number of highly influential professors across its departments and represents a level of academia one may not have access to outside of the institution.

Here are three ways to take advantage of office hours:

1. Academic Enhancement

As the term goes on, the amount of time left idle in a professor’s office hour will inevitably fall, and for good reason. Whether it be for an essay or for the final exam, they usually provide a short amount of invaluable, one to one advice on various concepts, past exam questions and the like. Occasionally, if you are savvy enough, you may also find hints of what is coming up in the final exam. Thus, for purely academic purposes relating to your degree, do take advantage of the office hours (find your professor’s room and times here) instead of struggling with the books on your own (or seeking the guidance of your equally confused friend).

2. Postgraduate Advice

Chances are, your lecturer will be in a similar field to what you wish to pursue. Even if you are not seeking academia after graduation, talking with them (or any similar professor) can get you some relevant advice for careers, references to helpful contacts or, in some cases, the opportunity to directly work under the lecturer. It’s useful to build rapport with the lecturer in case of the need for a reference letter.

3. General Interest

As alluded to earlier, office hours enables direct contact with an expert in a field – one who has likely written a number of books, articles and other material on it. While it may seem a little unprecedented, there’s no harm (and most likely, some benefit) in discussing topics of interest. It can prove to be an excellent supplement to your outside reading and study, which provides a huge bonus when taking on any kind of side project in the area.

If this has convinced you to make use of office hours, make sure you have an actual agenda for the discussion –  being aimless when going in is unlikely to garner any benefit. For some more tips on how to utilise office hours to their full potential, there are some more helpful tips here.

Office hours may be the university’s best kept secret, but they shouldn’t be – book one today!


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