Everyone tells you to go see your professors during office hours, but what do you say? We’re not all extroverts—talking to new people is intimidating! Assuming you don’t have a specific question to start, you need something to talk about. So, here are 5 topics that will get you in the door and chatting with your professor.

1. How the reading relates to the course material

“How does [insert reading here] relate back to [insert class topic or theme here]?” Professors assign readings for a purpose. Asking a question like this will be a great way to show your interest in the class and get the professor to share ideas that you can expand on in your assignments.

2. Specific requirements and expectations on assignments

“The assignment description says part of the grade will be based on clarity of our logic. Can you explain what that would look like?” Read upcoming assignment descriptions and then go to office hours to ask questions about them. This way, you can get specific pointers from the professor to make your assignment better and get more insight into the class. (Bonus: You don’t waste their time during class.)

3. The professor’s research

“I read your biography on the department website. What is it about seventeenth century Russian literature that makes you love studying it?” Every professor at the UO has an area of research. Ask them about their research and let the chatting begin. And if you are really interested in the subject, how can undergrads get involved in departmental research? Keep in mind that office hours can be busy, so save this one for when there isn’t a line outside.

4. How to do well in the class or major

“What are the qualities that students who do best in this major and/or class have?” This type of question is great if you are in an introductory class or are just starting your major. However, whatever you do, do not ask how to get an A! Professors likely care about how much you learn in the course.

5. How to improve your writing

“What are the most common mistakes students make in essays for this class?” Every discipline, every department, and every professor have different ideas of what the perfect essay looks like. There is only one way to figure out what your professor is looking for—ask them.

The first time you go to office hours might feel awkward, but making a connection with a faculty can help you with recommendations later on. Just remember: Professors hold these hours to talk to you, and they want you to come.

By Bridget O'Donnell-Davidson