By Morgan Donohue (CAS’22)
What is an “office hour,” anyway? In my senior year of high school, the most common piece of college advice I heard was “go to office hours.” It is one of those things that everybody says, but which you don’t really believe until you do it for yourself. Office hours are scheduled times that professors and instructors make available for meeting with students outside of class, and all of those people are right. You should absolutely go to office hours, talk to your professors, and build those connections. After three years, I have finally learned that lesson, and I would recommend all students go to at least one office hour session with each professor at the very least to introduce yourself. Not many people utilize office hours, so you have a good chance that you’ll be able to have a nice conversation and ask questions about your class. Your professors are probably excited to talk to you and share their knowledge. But that is not why I am writing this! You should also talk to your Teaching Fellows (TFs)!
A TF is a graduate student at BU who helps a professor by leading discussion sections, running labs, and grading assignments. They also have office hours! Your TF is a wonderful resource. They know what goes into the weekly planning for lectures and discussions, so they can help you identify and understand the most important topics from lectures. In big classes, your discussion section TF is probably grading your assignment, and if you speak to them before an assignment is due, you might get some good tips. I’ve even had a TF offer to read and comment on a draft of a research paper if we got it to her a few days before it was due. This automatically gives you the opportunity to revise, edit, and improve your paper. Going to their office hours is a chance to speak with someone who is a little closer to your age but who has valuable insight into what you are studying in class and how to succeed in a course.
Office hours are only the start. TFs hold review sessions before exams, can provide feedback on labs and research topics, and tell you about graduate school if that is something you are interested in. Your TF is probably a pretty cool person, too. They are doing research themselves, and they will definitely share what they study with you if you ask. You could learn something new from someone who is passionate about the subject.
All of this is to say that you shouldn’t forget that your TFs are there to support you, and taking advantage of their office hours and expertise is definitely beneficial. Your professor’s office hours could be at an inconvenient time or are unusually busy. Maybe it can be a little intimidating to talk to someone who used to work at the Department of Defense before becoming a professor. Perhaps you just want to talk about something one more time. And sometimes you just want to talk to someone closer to your age. Whatever your reason, you should definitely check out your TF’s office hours!