Instructor Office Hours and Communication

Communication Strategies with Instructors

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Email Communication Tips

Know what your goal is in specific terms. 

Examples; review a grading question, ask for help on a paper, etc.

Be as specific as possible and have examples in mind. 

Example; In your last lecture you covered (topic). I want to better understand the topic and would like to review that part of the lecture.

Reference relevant materials to show you have done your homework.

Example: book, notes, tests.

Use "I" messages. 

Example; "I would like some help on following the lectures on (topic). Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve reviewing the material?" Rather than "You talk too fast, or you didn’t ..." Using ‘I’ statements helps promote a productive, problem-solving approach.

Email Greeting

  • Include a greeting like “Hello,” or “Dear” 
  • If you are not sure how to address your instructor, use their title (better to be overly formal than informal) 
  • You can also ask your instructor how they would like you to refer to them

Subject Line

  • Include your course and section number 
  • Include a specific topic that matches the content of the message


  • Use complete words and sentences throughout your message 
  • Be polite and concise; only include needed information 
  • If you have multiple questions, group them in a bulleted list 


  • Include a polite farewell like “Sincerely,” or “Regards” 
  • Include your first and last name
  • You might include your major

Prepare before you go to Office Hours

Write your questions down beforehand, and have them available when you meet with your instructor. If you want to talk about a test, paper, or reading, have the information ready for you and your instructor to reference.

Be active in the conversation.

First, say hello and introduce yourself. If your instructor teaches several courses, indicate which course you are taking. Then, begin the conversation. You might say: I'd like to ask you about ... or would you mind working through this problem together? 

If you do not understand, ask more questions!

Seeking clarification demonstrates that you want to learn. Be sure you have answers before you leave. 

Take a friend.

It can feel less intimidating to go with someone else from your class. Plan to meet together beforehand and decide what questions you will ask your instructor. 

Make an exit plan.

Before you visit office hours, decide what information you need to acquire at the meeting. If there is a certain time you need to leave by, consider telling your instructor when you start. Knowing your exit cues ahead of time can help you to transition smoothly into saying thank you for meeting with me.

Make visits a habit.

This is your time, and visiting office hours shows your investment in learning. Your instructors are incredible resources and can help with your classes. So plan to use office hours regularly. 

Frequent Questions

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Q: Should I go even if I do not have any questions about the course?

A: Yes!  If you haven't introduced yourself yet, then go and do that. Ask your instructor what strategies they believe will help students succeed in the course. Share how you are preparing for the course and how you are studying the material, and ask for additional suggestions. Meet with your instructor as soon as you can, so that talking with them and asking questions becomes a habit. 

Q: Will my instructor think I'm dumb for asking questions?

A: No!  When you have questions and visit your instructor, you show that you are invested in learning.