Communicate Effectively at School to Get What You Need
It’s nearly move-in week, and for most students, that means that they’re about to have to get to know a whole new slew of teachers, maintenance and custodial staff, IT people, and residence hall coordinators. These people are united by a common theme: they work for your school, and–at some point during your years there–you will need something only they can provide you. That’s where people skills come in.
RA’s and professional residential staff will likely be the first people you encounter. Make sure to learn your RA’s name and put in some face time with them. This will ensure that a) they know who you are, which is nice and b) you can mine them for a list of contact information for building staff. Getting this information from Res Life staff is likely to be a whole lot quicker than digging for it on your school’s website.
No matter whether you live in an apartment or a dorm, make sure to learn the names of cleaning staff and find out who does maintenance on your building. (Your RA should have the information if you’re in school housing.) Then, build a relationship with those staff–say hi to them in the hallway and ask how their day is going. They put up with all of the gross things college kids do to a dorm building; the least you can do is be polite. By building a relationship with cleaning and maintenance staff, you’re likely to be listened to when you tell them that a toilet on your floor is clogged or that the common area’s microwave smells funny. This way you can ensure that no strange stains are missed in your floor’s common areas.
However, don’t use this method for anything other than basic cleaning. Instead, find out how maintenance requests are supposed to be submitted (the form is probably hidden somewhere on your school website), and clearly and concisely state the problem. Double-check that you have correctly identified your room, that your building is labeled, and that you tell them when they can come repair the problem. If you’re vague in your maintenance request, it’s entirely possible that your room won’t be fixed–maintenance staff are busy, and don’t have time to decipher what you meant by “that thing is wonky.”
For IT staff, remember to be polite: being angry with help desk employees won’t get your machine fixed any quicker. If your school has an option to open a help desk ticket online (check your IT department’s website), then submit it that way rather than calling or emailing individual staff. Make sure to include as much contact information as possible: you want your machine fixed, and that’s much harder to do if the IT people can’t find you.
When it comes to asking things of professors, Michael Leddy’s “How to email a professor” is the golden standard. Though the post was written in 2005, its points are still valid for college students communicating with any college faculty or staff: proofread what you write, make it clear who you are, and thank the people who are helping you. Professors are people too, and treating them as such can help you get a much-needed extension or a rewrite opportunity on a less-than-perfect paper.
Most of this comes down to basic politeness and following protocol: make it easy for college staff and faculty to help you, and it’s likely that they will. That, as much as any complicated study mechanism, can make your year go as smoothly as possible.
Commenters: do you have any tips on getting to most out of communication with college staff and faculty? Let us know!