A professor can either make or break a class. I’ve taken classes I thought I would absolutely hate but ended up loving just because my professor was so interactive and relatable, I could actually understand and enjoy the topic.
Professors aren’t always receptive, though, and you have to try a little harder than just completing the assignments and being present on exam day.
What’s the payoff for reaching out to professors? They might write you amazing teacher recommendations for jobs, abroad programs, honor programs and other opportunities you are thinking of immersing yourself in during your college years.
They can actually be an amazing support system when you’re confused about the direction your life is taking. They were once young college students taking similar classes and feeling the pressure just like you.
Listening to their experiences and how they got to where they are today can be extremely insightful; it might even be life-changing. Teachers understand the pressures you feel and, normally, are exceedingly understanding in giving you the extension and/or advice you may be seeking.
One of the professors I had freshman year is still my go-to advisor. He’s wise beyond my years, provides me with the perception I usually lack, and he tends to complete my teacher recommendations, which is just an added bonus.
So, how do you find that one professor who's going to be there for you during your college years?
There’s a reason I didn't say participate. If you’re like me, you might not feel super comfortable speaking in a class of 100 or even 20 students if you aren’t completely confident in your response, but that’s not the only way to participate.
If something your professor mentions sparks an interest in you, it can be as simple as sending an email or making a comment to him after class that will grab his attention.
A professor's job isn’t to just explain a certain topic to you, it's to give you an opportunity to pursue a passion or an interest of yours that you didn’t even know you had.
They want you to succeed. Yes, some professors do it because they’ve been doing it for years and it’s what they know, but most of the professors I have had the pleasure of learning from genuinely care, and it would be foolish not to take advantage of that.
Ask About Their Research
Many professors do a lot on the sidelines that students may never know about. If they’re invested enough to teach in their subject, they most likely are willing to write scholastic articles and do their own research to stay updated in what they’re teaching.
Even if they don’t, most professors have actually worked in the field they’re teaching, so ask about their experiences. You’d be surprised by how much they are willing to share.
Sit In The Front Of The Class
This is probably the easiest and smallest thing you can do for a professor, yet people hate doing it.
If the whole front row is taken, obviously don’t try to fight someone for it, but it must be just a little frustrating for a professor when everyone immediately fills the back seats, leaving the first two rows completely empty.
Sitting in the front takes the ability to talk to your friends away, but you are paying a lot for your education and to be sitting there in the first place. If you’re going to be in debt, you might as well learn something that could get you out of it later on, right?
Plus, it will discourage you from using your phone and basically force you to take notes, ultimately providing you with the resources to do well in the course (hopefully).
Office Hours, Office Hours, Office Hours
Do it. Don’t even think about it. Just go.
I try to make the effort to visit my professors’ office hours at least once a semester and that’s outside of midterm/final season.
They expect students to stampede their offices when they’re studying, but it’s a stronger impression when a student stops by in the middle of September just to ask about a certain assignment, a point made in class or even just to see how their day is going on the way to another other class.
Professors appreciate the extra effort more than you know, and they’ll absolutely remember it when you start struggling in the class and need a little push in the right direction.
One of the best things I ever did was visit my professor during office hours for a paper I was writing for him. I was five pages in the wrong direction, and he sat with me for an hour redirecting my paper, still keeping my original thoughts and opinions, but in a way that benefitted my knowledge of the topic.
Stay In Touch
Just because you have a professor for one semester doesn’t mean your relationship has to end when the class does. You may even want to have him or her again later on, and it’ll make the transition a lot smoother if the professor remembers (and likes) who you are.
I still email one of my high school teachers who inspired me, and it has benefitted me greatly, ranging from helping me decide on a college to talking me through my internship options, to just checking in on my family. It’s such a comforting feeling knowing I have that connection if I ever need it.
Professors are there for our benefit, so make your education worth more than what you’re paying.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It