How to get students to actually show up to office hours.

Empty Office Hours?

_how to get students to actually show up to office hours

02 Dec 14 by Margaret Amisano

It’s no secret how valuable office hours are for college students. It gives them the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a professor, get feedback on ideas for projects and papers, work through problems, and create connections for their future career.

So why don’t they show up?

Many professors lament that between the convenience of emails instead of face-time and busy schedules, students simply don’t show during office hours. While this can be a great time to get your own work done, interacting with students gives you invaluable feedback about your instruction, what students are getting stuck on, and what you can do to improve.

Taking the simple steps below can up your chances to get students to actually come during your office hours:

Survey Your Students

Use a simple online tool to find out what time your students are willing and likely to show. Oftentimes students skip office hours simply because it’s at an inconvenient time. 

Survey Monkey is free and makes it super easy to create a survey to send out via email to see when they’re available. Scheduling tools like Doodle also make it simple to offer several options and see what times are preferred.

Publicize When Hours Are

It’s always smart to include office hours within the syllabus, but let’s be honest: students may never read that section again. Be sure to re-iterate the times you hold office hours during class time.

It can also be helpful to write a note inviting them to office hours in feedback on papers or projects – without them feeling like they’re being singled out. Keep it positive. Point out topics or questions that you’d love to discuss with them further to hear their thoughts.

Engage With Students

Before and after class is an ideal time to get to know your students and let them know you’re approachable. Many students choose not to meet with professors one-on-one because it can be intimidating or they fear it will be awkward. If you engage with them on a personal level, and even suggest items you could speak about further, they’re more likely to feel welcome and come by.

Set Expectations

Giving your students helpful tips on what to bring for office hours can also ease the situation, and help you avoid the students that show up unprepared. Many professors state that a short, bulleted list of questions or issues is the best way to construct the conversation. Let them know what books, papers, or other resources they should come with. This helps avoid the issue of having “no reason to go” or feeling awkward with nothing to discuss.


Having an open discussion about it and getting student feedback is always helpful as well. The better you know your students, the more likely they’ll show.  

Since we’re in the midst of holiday celebrations, check out some tips on staying connected to your students during long breaks as well.  

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