When you arrive at college getting to know your professors is not always your first priority. Just finding your way to and from class can be enough of a challenge! But once you have settled into your new surroundings, building a good relationship with your college professors has some definite advantages, and can add so much value to your degree.
Your professors can be great allies, as they know the system and can offer you the benefit of their professional experience during your degree. They’ll be the first to hear about new opportunities through their professional network, so a good rapport could have a real impact on your academic life and career development. Ultimately, it will also be one of your professors who writes your first reference in four years’ time. So what can you do to make a good impression?
- Remove that imaginary student/teacher boundary
You may feel shy around your teachers to start with, but don’t let that get in your way. Your college professors don’t expect you to be as formal as your high school teachers did, and you’ll have a lot more freedom to say and do what you think best. Use this opportunity to establish your maturity early on. Your attitude will set the tone for your relationship, so approaching your professor as a peer is crucial—students who don’t do this miss out on more than just small talk.
- Make your own introductions
Think about how many students there are in each lecture, and how many lectures your professor gives a day—is it likely that they are going to have the time to seek you out? Possibly not, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to if they could. Make sure you get to know your discipline leads by introducing yourself at the end of a lecture, or asking a question about something you didn’t understand. Not only will they remember you, but they’ll remember you as someone who listened and was eager to improve.
- Be curious in class
If your school encourages you to speak up in class, make sure you ask questions. The chances are that if you are wondering what something means, then so is somebody else. For professors there is nothing worse than blank stares, so aim to ask at least one question per class—but make it count. Your professor is working in their chosen subject because they enjoy exploring and explaining it, but it is the interesting little tangents they’ll really enjoy debating. Querying an intelligent tangent will earn you more brownie points than just asking the obvious.
- Be professional
Regardless of how good your intentions start out, at some point you will be tempted to go to that 9am lecture and slouch at the back of the class in your pajamas and a hoodie—but try and resist the urge. Your professor probably got out of bed earlier than you to come to class when they would much rather be on the couch with a coffee, so dressing right and making an effort is the best way to quickly show your appreciation. Illustrating that you are engaged and here to learn won’t go unnoticed, and it is great preparation for life after college too.
- Make your work count
The best way to get into your professor’s good books is the oldest and the hardest—writing submissions that impress. Choosing an unusual topic or angle when you submit coursework, particularly on bigger projects, can make you stand out from the crowd though. If the rest of your class are writing case studies on the same thing, picking something completely different will not only increase your chances of writing something original, it will also make your professor sit up and take notice. Your work is also a great excuse to seek out your professor and have a discussion. Office hours aren’t just for students who need help, so make use of them to discuss your plans, check out a professor’s work, or even ask for a book recommendation or two.
Are you ready to get started? If you’re new to college, let us know how it is going, or tell us what’s worked for you in the comments—we’d love to hear your ideas.