Office Hours

Office hours are an important part of your learning experience at Harvard – they are a chance to interact with your instructors outside the classroom. While they might seem like an “extra” or optional part of a course, most students find that attending office hours has a positive impact on their classroom experience. Instructors offer different types of office hours, each of which has unique benefits for your learning.

Here are some of the functions office hours may hold in your course and how to take advantage of them:

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Review key concepts.

Some instructors use office hours to review major concepts from the course and even to go over specific problems or material. Sometimes instructors will provide new insight or details about a topic in office hours, so it can be beneficial to attend to get a deeper understanding of the course’s content.

Answer questions.

One of the primary functions of office hours is to answer students’ questions. These can be clarification questions about concepts that came up in lecture or larger queries about the overall trajectory of learning in the class. Just be sure not to come in asking questions about things that are on the syllabus (unless it is unclear!)—your instructors will expect you to have read the syllabus and to know its content.

Try out ideas.

If you’re writing a paper or designing a project, it’s a great idea to run your plans by your instructor before beginning work on it. Go early in the process, but make sure you have firm ideas to talk about when you arrive. The more thought you’ve put into your work, the more productive your conversation will be, which is beneficial to your project and to your relationship with your instructor!

Go beyond the course.

In some office hours, you’ll have an opportunity to push your conversation beyond the limits of where the course has gone so far. You might talk to your instructor about relevant current events or extracurricular or professional goals that overlap with course materials.
Some office hours will be group office hours (you won’t be the only student there), and others will be solo, but all are an opportunity to engage more deeply with your courses. Attending office hours communicates to your instructor that you care about their course, and while this doesn’t necessarily translate into a higher grade, students who meet with their professors often find they learn tips and tricks for succeeding that supplement their classroom learning. Additionally, most students will need a letter of recommendation from a professor at some point in their college career, and attending office hours is often essential to developing the kind of relationship that results in a good letter. So go to office hours and enjoy the opportunity to get to know your teaching staff better!

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