Freshman Week: 5 Steps to Building a Relationship with Your Professor
If you’re just starting college, you’ve probably heard this: “Get to know your professor!”
But how, you may ask?
It can be a little intimidating to impress or get noticed by a new batch of teachers twice a year. But building a positive relationship with a professor has many benefits. Professors, especially a department head or influential faculty member, are a great source of knowledge, advice, and guidance throughout your college education, maybe even your career. By developing a good connection with your teacher, you’re opening doors for recommendations, mentorships, or even job opportunities.
Step 1: Be on Time & Don’t Leave Early
Let’s start basic. If you want to make a good impression, one of the simplest things to do is to show up to class on time and not leave early.
Making a habit of sneaking in 15 minutes late can appear rude and disrespectful. I once had a professor who called out every poor soul who dared to arrive late or bolt out early. He’d stop his lecture, turn the class’s attention to the humiliated student and demand to know why he or she slept through their alarm. Safe to say, everyone was on time.
If you must leave early, give your teacher a heads-up before class starts. If you show up late, apologize after class ends. By doing this, you’re establishing yourself as a respectful and considerate student.
Step 2: Sit in (or Near) the Front Row
With the combination of a Wi-Fi connection and a back row seat, you can kiss goodbye any form of class participation or paid attention. When you sit in the front row, you’re more likely to focus on the lecture and take good notes.
It’s also much easier to get noticed, especially in a hall of 200+ students. Your teacher can remember your face and call on you for discussions, when you’re not hunched over a laptop playing Candy Crush. But a word of caution: do not fall asleep in the front row. If your professor thinks leaving early is rude, imagine snoring right in his face.
Step 3: Participate in Class Discussions
Not only does participation improve your grade tremendously, you’re making a mark in class, almost announcing your presence — “Professor Professorson, here I am and this is what I think!”
Some people dislike class discussions. It can be a little scary speaking in a room of 30 other people, but you don’t have to be public speaker extraordinaire. Comment on an interesting point or ask a question about the subject matter. Give a contradicting viewpoint to another student’s opinion. Your professor wants you to contribute and partake in discussions!
Through participation, you’re showing effort, interest and attention to the lecture. And there is nothing more uncomfortable than a silent class after a teacher asks: “So what do you all think?”
Step 4: Talk to Your Professor After Class
Now you’re really getting somewhere. Don’t be too shy to talk to your teacher alone. Introduce yourself (if they still don’t know your name) and ask anything.
If you don’t know what to talk about, make a mental note of an interesting comment from the lecture and ask them about it. Talk about an upcoming assignment or test. I once had a professor who shared the same hometown and in just a few minutes, we bonded over a mutual love for our city and a hatred for its traffic.
If you’re nervous or a little timid, have a friend stay behind with you. Bottom line, you won’t go wrong with some face-to-face interaction.
Step 5: Go to Office Hours
Though often ignored by most students, taking advantage of office hours is highly recommended. These hours provide extended, personalized one-on-one attention not available in a classroom setting.
Of course, you’re not expected to go every week, but you can receive detailed advice on a term paper or feedback from your last test. You should also use the time to ask your teacher about his own background, why he chose his field of study, or even career advice for your own dream job. What matters is you’re making a personal connection and getting to know each other.
From there, a fabulous recommendation letter is yours for the taking!
About the Author: Kyla Ross is a career training and education blogger for Ashworth College, an accredited online institution, and is finishing her own college degree (but she’d rather not think of that).
Image: Tulane Public Relations