Tips From an Online Tutor: The Number One College Back to School Tip

The fall semester is beginning all around the country, and many college students are hoping to make this semester a good one.  Whether you’re a freshman just beginning classes or a senior hoping to finish off your final requirements with good marks, many students just like you are looking for advice. 

Fortunately for you, the internet is filled with dozens of blogs and articles giving you tips.  Unfortunately for you, most of the tips are trivial, generic, or something you already know.  For instance, it should be common knowledge to you that you should go to class, complete assignments on time, and start studying early.  Similarly, generic advice like “avoid stress,” “make friends in your classes,” and “find a major that you enjoy” aren’t exactly groundbreaking or beneficial besides some motivation.

Nothing frustrated me more in college than to look for help online and be overwhelmed with lists that were just filled with “get plenty of sleep,” “study,” and “be organized.”  Here, instead, I will give you one piece of advice that I believe is the most impactful and practical for your college success.  This is the one most important tip that I give all of my high school freshmen that I teach and tutor, as well as my college students, and it is the one that is demonstrably effective for nearly every student.

Go to every teachers’ office hours.

If you don’t know what office hours are, they have designated times outside of regular classroom hours that a teacher makes available for students to visit them to talk or get extra help.  The problem is that most students do not take advantage of this invaluable resource as much as they should.  The common belief is that office hours are only for if you’re desperate for more help; so, students only go right before a big midterm or final, or if they need to ask the professor for a favor, or if they failed something.  Students also tend to feel that their schedules are too busy to add regular office visits.

Do not have this mentality.  Make it a requirement to yourself that you go to office hours every week unless it conflicts with your schedule (meaning that the office hours are at the same time as one of your other classes).  If you pretend that this is mandatory rather than voluntarily, I guarantee that you will see much more success – in your grades, your understanding, and your professor relationships – than if you hadn’t done so.

In short, regularly attending office hours has seven beneficial effects:

-It helps you get to know your professor and lets them get to know you

-It makes you think deeper about the material during class to have questions/topics for discussion when you go visit

-If you do have questions or confusion, you will have one-on-one time to work it out and understand

-Your professor is the expert on their class and knows the best ways to study the material and get an ‘A.’

-It shows your interest and effort to help with the ever-present participation grade

-Professors have helped many students and can give you guidance and recommendations for their field and college overall

-It holds you accountable to keep up with the material and finish your assignments on time or early

 If you are taking a class with very large class size, then you might have different options offered instead of traditional office hours such as office hours with a TA, group study sessions or homework sessions, or TA lead extra help classes.  If these are your options, then take advantage of them for similar reasons.

Do this for every class.  It will make sure that you don’t fall behind, your grades don’t slip, and you improve your learning and college experience.  This is just designated study time.  You would have already spent this much time or more studying and cramming for your classes – now you just have the benefit of doing it on a regular schedule and with the help of an expert.  Whether you’re just starting college or looking to improve your success, give regular office hours a try for a few weeks, and I guarantee that it will significantly help you.

From math to English, our online tutors can help you succeed this year.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.