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.