I’m sure there are many students – like myself – who have a fear of or become anxious when considering visiting a professor at office hours. I would like to confess that this is my biggest weakness academically. This fear is founded on the unknown of what to ask, fear of asking stupid questions, wasting the professor’s time, etc. Throughout undergrad, I was able to perform well in classes without any visits to office hours. Now that I am in law school, I realized that visiting professors on a regular basis makes a huge difference in my learning. The learning style in law school is a lot more independent than the learning style I depended on in undergrad. I am still working on getting over the office-hours-phobia, but I have greatly increased my office hours this semester. I want to share with you some tips and reminders to help my fellow fearful students.
- Arrive prepared. In law school, if you have not been consistently and thoroughly learning independently, it will show when you visit with your professor at office hours. I take notes on OneNote and have a notebook section dedicated to office hour topics and questions. As I outline at the end of every week, I add questions and discussion topics that come up.
- There’s no such thing as a stupid question, but sometimes there is. The fear of asking stupid questions should never stop you from reaching out for help. However, in law school, there is an expectation to be a professional. Being professional means that you did everything you can to find the answer to that question before resorting to asking the questions at office hours. For example, if you don’t understand a topic I always try to review my case brief, review my lecture notes, discuss the topic with a friend, and only after those avenues will I ask my professor a question. Do your due diligence and there will never be such thing as a stupid question.
- Make an office hours schedule. I made it a semester goal to visit my professors at office hours every one to two weeks. Depending on my understanding of the topics that week I will determine if it is necessary to go to office hours. You will find that you won’t have to visit your professor every single week, but it is helpful to have a schedule.
- Do not wait until right before an exam or too late in the semester to get help. I’m guilty of this. My first semester I was not outlining as often as I should be and realized I didn’t full understand topics until it was late in the semester. I do not recommend delaying your learning process like I did.
- Quick questions are acceptable. I have an unreasonable fear of being that student that wastes the professor’s time. As I have progressed academically, I realized that quick check-ins may be just what you need. Some weeks there are materials covered in class that I have 99% understanding, and I just need a quick question answered to make it to 100% understanding.
- Remember that learning is wholly personal – you determine what you need. Whether you need regular check-ins, scheduled time to visit a professor, or long topic discussions.
I hope this helps reduce any anxiety or fear any of you may have regarding office hours. I know I did. If an upperclassmen would have given me this advice a long time ago, I wouldn’t be as fearful. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, contact me!