Meeting with Your Professor

Academic Success

Another school year is about to begin, but sometimes it feels like you’re supposed to know things no one ever told you.  In this series, we offer advice to help students succeed in college.

Going to Office Hours

Most instructors have office hours and these are listed on their course syllabus.  This means that at specified times each week, they are sitting in their office waiting for students to come speak with them.  Thus, if you choose to take advantage of office hours (and you probably should), you normally do not need to notify your instructor that you will be arriving.  If you know it’s a busy time of year, however, and other students might be flooding the office of your instructor, you may choose to notify your instructor that you wish to meet with them so  you can claim a time for yourself.

Scheduling a Meeting

If your instructor does not have office hours but instead asks students to schedule a meeting, you can try to speak with them after class, though this can be annoying for them if they need to be somewhere else or if another class starts filing into the room.  You should probably schedule the meeting through email instead.

In this case, send an email with a clear subject like “Meeting” or “Request for a Meeting” or something like that.  Then, explain why you want to meet (talk about a paper, discuss a grade, etc.) and offer times you are available.  Do not simply write “Can we meet?”

Refer to our previous post on email etiquette if you are unsure how to send an email to an instructor.

At the Meeting

Discussing an Assignment or Paper: Arrive at your meeting with specific questions you would like addressed.  Your professor will have difficulty discerning what you would like from them if you simply say “I wanted to talk about my paper.”  Are you having trouble finding sources?  Are you unsure if your thesis is clear? Do you want to go over your argument?  The more specific you are, the more help your instructor can offer.  Also arrive with a copy of your paper or project.  Your instructor has a lot of students and may not remember your work in detail.

Discussing a Grade: Again, arrive at your meeting with specific questions or concerns about your grade.  Also bring the graded assignment if possible.  Try to remain calm and polite.  Ask your instructor if they could explain why your project received the grade it did and how you can do better in the future.  You may be frustrated or upset, but you will usually get more out of a meeting if you try to frame your question as an open discussion rather than charge in demanding how they dare give you a “B.”

If you sincerely believe that your grade was unwarranted after discussing it with your instructor, your university probably has official channels for you to go through to contest a grade.  You should refer to your school’s handbook or talk to someone like your advisor for guidance in this situation.

Krysta 64

2 thoughts on “Meeting with Your Professor

  1. Briana says:

    I want to second coming to the meeting with specific questions! It’s one of those tips that sounds obvious once someone says it, but isn’t necessarily self-evident. Probably 90% of the students who come to my office wave their paper at me and say something vague like “How can I make this better?” or “What can I do to get an A?” The worst-case scenario is that the student hands the paper draft over in complete silence and then stares expectantly at me.

    It’s really better to have specific questions about the paper because 1) it’s a better use of time, especially if there are other students waiting and there isn’t time for the instructor to read an 8 page paper and comment on it in depth and 2) it shows you put some thought into the paper and you have specific areas you want to improve. This makes a much better impression than putting the burden on the professor to “tell you what you need to know about the paper”…whatever that is. Besides, most instructors will just turn it around and ask you variations of “Well, what do you want to improve?” and “Why are you here?” until you say something specific anyway.😛

    I also want to reiterate, which I believe I’ve discussed on other posts, that most instructors will give you 2-3 things to work on, tops, if you give them a paper draft. I think sometimes the people who hand the draft over in silence and then stare kind of envision “going to office hours” as “mystically being told everything the need to know to get an A.” It’s quite possible you’ll be told to do one major thing like “choose a more focused topic and thesis.” But doing just that might not get you an A.


    • Krysta says:

      The specific questions really help, too, because an instructor probably doesn’t remember the paper in question, sad to say. When you’re reading hundreds of pages, you might not be able to recall them all in-depth on command.

      Liked by 1 person

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