If you’re in high school, you may already know that having good relationships with your teachers is important; you can turn to them for academic help, advice and letters of recommendation. Once you transition into college, all of these things are equally important, if not more than in high school. Getting to know your professor can be a little different from getting to know teachers, especially if you go to a large university and have lectures with head counts in the hundreds. However, learning to approach your professors will help you build confidence, create a network and achieve higher grades.
- Attend & be engaged in class
Whenever I’m in class, I see a lot of my fellow students messing around on their laptops and phones; I’ve even seen kids watching Netflix during a lecture. Although you may feel camouflaged in a big class, professors can tell who is and isn’t focused more than you may think. If you fall in the latter group, not only does this send a message to professors that you don’t care about the course, but it also inhibits your learning (as well as your classmates’). Daniel O’Brien, an instructor at Ohio State University, can attest to that; “If there’s someone constantly [not paying attention] it can affect my impression of them,” he said.
- Ask questions
Asking questions in a big lecture hall can be intimidating, but it lets your professor know that you’re listening. Not to mention, a lot of your classmates may have the same question, so don’t be afraid to be the one to ask it. Prefer not to pipe up in front of your peers? You can always approach your professor at the end of class to ask them a quick question. Don’t worry that they’ll be annoyed or suspect you weren’t listening to their lecture. “The professor’s goal is, or should be, to help you understand the material and become a better student and citizen,” O’Brien said. Sometimes it takes more than one explanation to fully understand a certain topic, and that is perfectly okay.
- Reach out to them outside of class
Most professors have office hours that allow students to meet up with them one-on-one. If you’re in a bigger class, attending office hours will separate yourself from the sea of students your professor lectures to and make you recognizable. Aside from getting valuable facetime with your professor, office hours are also beneficial if you’re struggling with a concept and need a little more explaining. If you can’t make office hours, most professors will be able to schedule a different time to meet. Aside from getting any extra help you may need, meeting up with your professor outside of class time will demonstrate that you take the course seriously and are committed to doing well.
- Be respectful
Remember that your professor’s time is just as valuable as yours. When talking to them or asking them questions, avoid having a demanding tone. If you want to discuss a grade you’re not happy with, take responsibility and don’t accuse them of making a mistake. Even if they did mess up (which does happen sometimes) being rude to them won’t get you anywhere. If they set aside time to help you one-on-one, make sure you thank them for it.
Going to college is a transitive process: you leave the familiarity of home behind for an entirely different environment. It’s understandable that getting on your professors’ good sides may not be your number one priority while adjusting to your new life, but believe me when I say it’s better to start early. I never went to office hours until my last year of college, and I can say with certainty that I wish I had begun building that network my freshman year. You never know what opportunities may present themselves to you, and what friendships you may forge.