(file pix) The biggest difference between your time in secondary school compared to your time in higher learning institutions is how much hand-holding you are being given

If you are currently studying at an institution of higher learning; when was the last time you visited your instructor during their office hours?

Whenever a new college semester looms in, one of the first thing I do is to figure out who are my instructors and what their office hours are like. I’ll make a separate schedule to meet each instructor at least once every few weeks.

And you, my dear fellow students, should make it a point to go visit your instructor’s during office hours as well. Even if you have nothing to ask regarding the class itself; go say hello. They are humans too — and humans have a hardwired need to socialise.

One of the most important reasons for doing so is to simply get your instructor to acknowledge your existence within their class.

Here’s why; your instructor is perhaps the closest and most important connection you have towards the very field you are pursuing after college.

Making friends in college is important especially if they’re in the same major as you and the same should apply to your college instructor.

You do not have to be best of friends with your instructors but having them acknowledge your existence within a student body, which is likely made up of hundreds if not thousands of students, is a direct step into networking within your chosen field at a professional level.

Academic journal entitled Student-Faculty Interactions: Dynamics and Determinants published by Springer suggests that students have an instrumental and short-term perspective on their educational experiences. They are interested in what may help them in their courses, and do not necessarily think about the long-term implications of their educational endeavours and interactions in the academy.

And this is what students should commit to heart. Be invested in the long-term implications of your academic endeavours. There is a life beyond your next final examination; work for that too.

Another reason to drop by your instructor’s office is to get a better grasp of the academic material. The biggest difference between your time in secondary school compared to your time in higher learning institutions is how much hand-holding you are being given.

There is no spoon-feeding in college, it is a place for independence and as such, you must take the initiative to seek out the best value from the education you get. Due to class sizes that can sometimes range in the hundreds, it is simply impractical for an educator to do one-on-one sessions in a classroom situation as opposed to an experience you may have had during your time in secondary school.

Unlike secondary schooling that runs the same classes and teachers throughout an entire year, college semesters are merely three or four months long. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough time and we should be extending semester periods. It simply means that you do not have time to waste. Time is money, be economical with your time.

Considering how each class isn’t spread out over a year; getting one-on-one sessions with an instructor can be a quick way to grasp your material faster and get insight into how to tackle your exams the street-smart way instead of simply studying everything with no sense of direction. Your instructors are meant to act as your guiding light in college, but only if you seek that light out.

In an interview published by Penn State University, their faculty members weighed in with helpful tips regarding the practice of student-professor networking. In response to a question about what they think are some of the best ways to become better connected with an individual student, senior lecturer in Sociology Sam Richards chimed in by saying: “Talking about anything other than grades is fine during office hours, at least for me. I think students can get a lot of great advice from professors about a wide range of issues. We are a resource that is very much underutilised.”

Your instructors can go beyond just strict class-related material and this is often an overlooked fact. Instructors are scholars and as such spend their lives dedicated to approaching life in general with a critical eye that they are often more than willing to share with fellow students who seek them out. Instructors are as much a valuable resource of study as your college textbooks and will likely have more practical advice when approaching class materials in response to your chosen field.

In the interest of covering all bases, there may be some of you asking, “but what if I’m not available during their office hours?” And that’s easy, just email your instructors.

I speak from personal experience from my time back in Universiti Teknologi MARA and my current experience in The University of Iowa here. It is very likely that your instructors will be more than happy to accommodate for you to meet with them outside of their office hours.

And finally, a reason for you to make use of an instructor’s office hours is to build a rapport with your instructors. This goes back to my initial point about your instructor being your closest professional networking contact, at least for the time being. Often a student will need to ask their instructors for a letter of recommendation when seeking an internship or anything immediate when it comes to professional life after college.

Your instructor will have a lot more to say about you and it is likely their rhetoric will be stronger if they know you better. You’ll be more than just a face in the crowd to your instructors and there will be a personal touch to that letter. In turn, your potential employers will see great value in you as a person and as a professional. Professionalism begins the moment you choose what you want to do for the rest of your life. This small gesture of dropping by your instructor’s office hours, even if it is just to say hello may have a greater impact on your life than you might think. So, what are you waiting for? Don’t keep your instructors waiting, go say hello!

Emillio Daniel is an adventurous English and Creative Writing student at The University of Iowa in the United States. Email him at education@nst.com.my

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