- Dear Miss Informed,
How do I talk to professors and attend office hours confidently?
Dear Soul Sister,
One of the biggest differences between high school and college is learning to advocate for yourself.
In high school, you were independent enough to get your own grades and do your own work, but the teachers spent time guiding you through the process. In college, you are expected to manage your time and your work on your own, which can feel like a huge responsibility.
It can also be intimidating to learn from someone with a fancy grad-school degree, especially in a field that excites you. I know I’ve had the feeling of walking into a new class feeling confident about my knowledge, only to have that confidence blown completely out of the water as I realize how much I still have to learn.
It’s easy to think that asking for help will just make the teacher judge you and think you aren’t worthy of being in their class, but that’s not true at all! Teachers aren’t expecting you to know everything — if you did, you wouldn’t be in college.
They know that students are going to have struggles and need support. Office hours are your teacher’s way of blocking out some time in their schedule to address the needs of students, so taking advantage of them is never a bad thing.
Take them seriously, though. If you schedule a meeting, SHOW UP! There are only a few things more annoying than someone who wants to have a meeting and doesn’t follow through. That’s true of any business environment, school or otherwise.
When thinking about asking a question, use your resources first. Check the syllabus and assignment descriptions to see if the question is already answered and check with your peers to see if they can help you out.
When you want to meet with a teacher during office hours, it always helps to email and give them a heads-up. That way they can prepare what you need and make sure they have that time blocked off for you.
One good way to prepare for office hours is to write down exactly what you need help with and whatever questions you have. Make a list of what you want to talk about, and when they give you feedback, write it down. That way you make the most of your time and theirs.
Most teachers will also respect a driven student who is putting in the effort to learn as much as they can. The more you listen to their feedback and take it seriously, the better your relationship with them will be. Eventually, you’ll find them much less intimidating.
Also, remember that you are paying to be here. When you walk into a space with a professor, you are paying them for a service with your tuition, so get your money’s worth! Ask every question you can! You’re an adult (even if it doesn’t always feel like it), and this is their job. If they’re a good teacher, they want to do it well.
At the end of the day, everyone is human, including your teachers. Respect them as a person and an expert in their field, but remember that you are human too and you need to get the most out of your degree. A note: If you’re ever in a class where the teacher is rude to you about asking questions or not understanding something the first time, get out of the class. They may know a lot of things, but nothing gives them the right to treat you poorly.
If you need additional help that office hours can’t cover, UCCS has the Excel Centers to provide one-on-one support with things like writing papers, giving speeches, math assignments and more.
- Dear Miss Informed,
How do I balance schoolwork and social life for the start of the year and throughout the semester?
Dear Luna Wright,
The same old story. We go back to school, and we look forward to seeing all our friends we’ve missed over the summer. But then classes start, and we tend to go one of two ways: either we put off our schoolwork to spend time with friends, or we spend all our time working and studying and forget other people exist.
Neither of these are healthy. School is important and you’re paying a lot of money to be there, so you should take it seriously, but not at the expense of meaningful friendships or mental breaks from work.
Isolating yourself to focus on school is detrimental to your mental health. According to the CDC, a lack of healthy relationships with others can lead to “heart disease and [strokes], Type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety, addiction, suicidality and self-harm, dementia, [and] earlier death.”
We have to make time for a social life, not just for fun, but as a way to mitigate the stress of college. At the same time, a social life can look different for everyone.
It all comes down to boundaries, both on schoolwork and on social time. A lot of people have discovered they feel successful when they treat school like a day job — they devote a specified number of hours to schoolwork on campus and don’t take any work with them when they leave.
What works for you is going to depend on how much work you are assigned and how much time that it will take. Set time ranges for yourself that are meant for school, and time ranges that are meant for personal and social time. As much as you can, don’t let them bleed into each other.
There will be some weeks when the amount of work you have to do is going to overwhelm whatever social time you have, but when the workflow peters out a little bit, take advantage of the free time as a rest and recuperation period.
It also helps to be conscious of what you’re doing with your friends, so you know you’re not setting yourself up for a hard school week. Drinking on a Friday night can be a lot of fun, but drinking on a Tuesday night and walking into class hungover on Wednesday will probably not be as much fun.
Setting up study sessions with people from your classes kills two birds with one stone. You get to spend time socializing and get some work done. After you finish the hard part, you can go do something fun with them.
Finding the school/social balance is just another part of learning to live. We all need to figure out what it should look like for ourselves, and once we’ve figured it out, we need to develop the discipline to stick to it. College is a great place to practice that.
If you have a question or need advice from Miss Informed, go to our Instagram @uccsscribe or email us at [email protected].
Graphic by Lexi Petri.