It may seem intimidating to speak one-on-one with a professor, but it will benefit you in the long run. Developing a strong relationship with your professors will help you build important connections for the future and pave the way for leniency, if you run into trouble. You may be wondering, do professors like when students come to office hours? The answer is usually yes. Most professors are student centered and enjoy the opportunity to build connections outside of the classroom. It’s important to ask politely for a meeting and come prepared with a tangible reason for the meeting.

1. Professor Office Hours Etiquette

Once you’ve determined that it’s time to meet individually with a professor, begin by sending an e-mail to request a meeting. Even though professors are required to have office hours, it’s best to ask, in advance, for a time that works for them. Consider sending an e-mail like this:

Example:

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Dear Professor Black,

I am an Economics major and I plan to graduate in the Spring. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss my next steps, after graduation. I am considering graduate school, but I am wondering if it is best to work in the field first. Your recent presentation about the research study that you conducted was intriguing and it helped me realize that I have similar interests. Is there an ideal time that would work for you to meet about this? I would be very appreciative of your advice.

Sincerely

John Doe

Don’t expect an immediate response from your professor. Faculty members are busy and may need a few days to get through their e-mails. If you don’t hear back within a week, consider approaching your professor after class or send a follow-up e-mail. Once you have a meeting scheduled, be punctual and prepared with questions to ask.

2. Meet About Your Progress in the Class

If you’re experiencing difficulty in a class, don’t hesitate to schedule a meeting with your professor. It’s best to share your concerns as soon as possible. If you wait until the end of the semester, it may be too late to get extra help. If you’re wondering how to talk to your professor about failing, the best approach is to be direct. Everyone encounters a bump in the road and the most effective course of action is to be open and honest with your professor. If the material seems too difficult, ask your professor about tutoring options. Your professor will be more likely to cut you some slack, if you go in early and ask for help.

3. Ask About Working on a Special Project

Demonstrating interest in something above and beyond the class requirements is a great topic to ask about during office hours. In addition to a teaching load, faculty members often spend time on research projects, writing for publications and grant funded work. If you’re interested in demonstrating your commitment to the discipline, schedule a meeting with your professor to ask about how you can get involved in a special project. Volunteering to assist your professor could lead to a student assistant job or graduate assistantship, in the future. At the very least, you’ll cultivate a relationship that could lead to a positive reference and will establish that you’re a student that reaches above and beyond the norm.

4. Discuss a Personal Situation

In addition to teaching and research, faculty members are charged with providing support and advice for students. Emergencies come up and a personal crisis doesn’t have to be the end of your college career. Rather than stopping out or dropping out, talk to your professors about your situation and discuss options. It is okay to ask for extra time. It’s up to the professor to grant the request. If you wait until the end of the semester to disclose that you’ve encountered personal difficulty, you may find less latitude from the professor. In addition to assisting you with class material, faculty members are also aware of other resources available at the institution. For example, if you’ve experienced a medical crisis, you may be entitled to a special accommodation.

5. Explore Career Options

A college professor has a wealth of knowledge about how you can apply your major to the real world. Discussing career options is a great conversation starter for a one-on-one meeting with a professor. Come prepared with questions that will help your professor know more about your interests.

Examples:

1. Where have recent graduates of the anthropology program been hired?

2. How important is a graduate degree, when seeking employment as an anthropologist?

3. Is it better to work in the field for a few years, prior to going to graduate school?

4. What kind of academic and extra-curricular experiences would help me be a stand-out candidate in the job application process?

In addition to asking questions, take notes of the information your professor shares. Your interest in their advice will make them more eager to help you, especially once you graduate and seeking for a job.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.