Don’t be intimidated by the idea of meeting your professor
When you get your first college syllabus, you may be confused or frightened by the idea of office hours. However, from experience, I know you shouldn’t feel apprehensive about meeting with your professor, nor should you think the benefits of office hours begin and end with grades.
These hours offer you the chance to build a relationship, make the course more enjoyable and simply have fun meeting your instructors.
Office hours are normally a specific weekly time and place that professors and teaching assistants make themselves available to meet with students. Many people will visit office hours to have grades explained or to get help with specific problems, but simply getting to know your professor can make the class more enjoyable as well.
For example, I visited the office of Brett Whalen, my Medieval History professor, which led to him learning my name and my friends’ names. He would chat with those of us on the front row before lectures about the course and anything else that was on our minds.
Visiting teaching assistants, often called TAs, are a great place to start using office hours. TAs are almost always graduate students assigned to teach a course or recitation for a large lecture, and they are usually the ones who will be grading your assignments.
Over the years, I’ve found that visiting my TAs helped me solve problems I was stuck on or gave me insight into how I could make better grades on papers and exams. It also showed the TA that I cared about the course, which often improved my participation. TAs in the department of your intended major usually can help recommend courses and give you advice as well.
Informal Office Hours
Besides normal office hours, a lot of professors hold informal office hours or are willing to meet you at places and times you might not expect.
When I took a course on The New Testament, world renowned biblical scholar Bart Ehrman found time between his research, debate traveling and television appearances to hang out and chat with students every Wednesday night at Armadillo Grill in Carrboro. He even offered to buy each student a drink. Surprisingly, the conversation usually had more to do with weekend plans and ACC basketball than the gospels.
Through the Meals with Heels program, UNC Housing even offers a chance to have a free meal with you professor if you chose to meet at a campus restaurant.
So when it comes to office hours, I say go for it! Professors teach for a reason: they almost all love students and enjoy meeting them. Teaching Assistants can be great advocates during (and after) the course as well.
Getting to know your professor and making a lasting relationship can also give you someone on campus you can turn to for a recommendation letter or for help finding an internship or job. Get to know your professors, and keep in touch with them, and it will make your experience at UNC even more enjoyable!