If I knew then what I know now

Attending Office Hours

1 Feb 2021
Attending Office Hours

Arriving in university, it can almost feel like you’re thrown in the deep end with little guidance. Sure, orientation and introductory classes offer incredible support to new students, but sometimes it can still feel as if you are expected to know everything after the first week. Well, I’m here to tell you that is absolutely not true! While the college experience appears a world away from secondary school, gone is your rigidly structured timetable and study reminders, it is vital to remember there is always help available to those who ask.  

As such, in this blog post, I want to talk about the importance of attending academic office hours. For those of you who don’t know, office hours provide the opportunity for students to meet with a member of academic staff, most often a lecturer from one of the modules in which you are currently enrolled. Typical talking points during office hours include a discussion of a student’s progress, the requirements for upcoming assignments or even reviewing lecture topics you may be finding difficult. During my first year as an undergraduate, the idea of a one-to-one meeting with a lecturer was intimidating, I found myself having to work up the courage beforehand just to step inside the door. I was nervous about what the lecturer would think of me, wondering why I was asking certain questions and perhaps assuming I wasn’t listening in class. However, this was my own anxiety and working up the nerve to attend office hours was one of the best things I ever did during my undergraduate journey. If other people also feel nervous about attending office hours, I implore you to give them a chance, after all, academics schedule office hours for your benefit. Each time I left with a better sense of direction and feeling more capable in my academic ability.  

Taking just one example of how attending office hours helped me as an undergraduate brings me back to November 2019 with an incredibly vague essay title and little idea where to begin. While I had attempted to develop an essay plan, I was plagued with self-doubt that I was even answering the question correctly. Armed with my notes, I presented my ideas to the lecturer and it was extremely helpful. Not only did she offer reassurance that my plan was a solid approach to the question, she also suggested additional readings and answered questions which allowed me to further develop my argument. Without this invaluable advice, I don’t think I would have received the grade I subsequently achieved. 

That brings me to something I think is important to note; if you’re going to visit your lecturer about a difficult topic, have some questions prepared; if you’re hoping for some guidance with an assignment, have some ideas in mind. The lecturer will want to help you, but they won’t want to do the work for you, therefore, preparation is essential. Furthermore, you are not being bothersome for seeking advice or asking questions, I think most lecturers would rather discuss your concerns or further explore complex topics with you before you fall behind. However, another point to consider is that topics brought up during office hours should be largely contained to the module’s syllabus or the lecturer’s area of expertise. Other more general matters such as citation and referencing should not feature, a quick search for instruction on this will yield countless results. Just be sure to utilise a credible source such as The National College of Ireland Referencing Guide, which is linked here: NCI Referencing Guide  

Due to the ongoing public health situation continually evolving, office hours may be virtual this year, but that does not make them any less valuable. Depending on individual preference, some lecturers might want you to schedule a few days in advance if at all possible, so be sure to check. Something else that is particularly important nowadays is to be mindful of working hours, do not send emails at 10 pm, they will not be appreciated. 

On a final note, we choose to go to university to gain knowledge and expand our minds through new experiences. Certainly, if I knew then what I know now, I would have utilised office hours much earlier to learn from the expertise of the academic staff which can inspire, motivate and encourage you throughout your degree. 

Take care, 


Skills Centre

Q -1 (Q minus 1), Boole Library,