When you’re dropped into a lecture hall of 200 students, it feels almost impossible to get professors’ attention, let alone connect on a personal level. You’re not alone. Most college students feel this way. I even felt this way for my first couple years of college. Not everyone likes getting to know their instructors, especially if the instructor has a bad rap among students. But when I put in some effort, I found that professors genuinely wanted to connect with me. Here are some tips that will position you for a professional relationship with your professor.
1. Attend Class
Of course if you have a fever of 101 and are coughing your lungs up, you should stay in bed and fire up CampusMD. But if you sleep in and say, “Oh, he puts the PowerPoint slides online anyways,” you are only hurting yourself. I have had days like this, and sometimes I was scrambling to figure out the important notes I missed. Attendance gives your professor the opportunity to get to know you in class, and it leaves a great impression from the get-go. Class attendance alone can even tip the scales in your favor, turning that C+ into a B.
2. Raise Your Hand
Going to class does not mean sitting in the back row, burying your head in your iPhone and waiting until everyone gets up to leave. You need to engage in what your professor is saying. I must admit, sometimes I’ve been too busy replying to my friends’ Snapchats to learn about fracking’s impact on the environment. But eye contact and questions show your professor that your mind is in the room, attempting to understand the material. Want your professor to know your name in crowded lectures? Stop using your hand for Words with Friends and raise it.
3. Stop By Those Office Hours
Don’t believe the myth that office hours are solely for students doing miserably in class. They’re also great for just talking, and they can be as simple as introducing yourself so your professor can put a face to your name. Working for my school’s paper made me comfortable with saying hello to professors or asking for help. Once, I visited a communications professor about registering for his class, and my interest excited him because he knew about my work. Do not think of leveraging your experiences as being a brown-noser – it just sets you up for a promising semester.
4. Get Involved
Many colleges provide programs that encourage students to engage with professors. Earl Warren College, James Madison University and the University of Pennsylvania allow students to take their professor to coffee or lunch courtesy of their college. My school, Temple University, offers the Research Scholars Program to the Fox School of Business students. Fox faculty members are then paired with students who participate in their mentor’s research. Ask around your campus and find out what it has to offer.
5. Remember That Professors Are People Too
Even when they’re buried in papers, professors still want contact with the outside world. I didn’t really understand this until I joined Temple’s newspaper staff as a sophomore. The student media director and communications professor for Temple is also the paper’s advisor, and as with any superior, I was hesitant to talk to him. But when he would visit the news office with donuts and connect with each member on staff, it was easy to get to know him as more than just another instructor. Now that we have a strong professional relationship, I appreciate that he remains an instructor to his students.
6. Keep in Touch
Even if you have already passed their class or graduated, professor contacts will benefit you long-term. After the semester is over, I like to drop my professors a short email thanking them for their time. They will appreciate the gesture, whether you used email or left a message at their office. Keeping connections could help you seal an internship or network with businesses. And who knows, if you left a strong impression on them, perhaps a stellar letter of recommendation is in your future.
(Main Photo via memeguy.com)