Your college years can quickly turn into some of the most confusing time of your life. From picking your schedule for the next semester to making it through the next two weeks with as little as 20 dollars to your name. Mystery consumes these years. Consequently, questions zoom through your brain like speedy lightning bolts. Of all the countless questions that pass through your mind daily, how to impress your professors enough to get the grades you desperately desire lingers with you the most. Fortunately, the education experts arrived just on time to take some of that weight off of you.
The formula remains quite simple. Five W’s plus one H equals impressive questioning.
Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? The single-worded, yet most complex start to any impressive questions you can think of to ask your college professors. Also known as the five W’s and one H, these six question starters hold the key to your academic success. Each time you raise your hand and let one of these appealing words guide your questions, you water your garden of academic growth, development and excellence.
Even if they don’t admit it, professors want to flaunt their skills. After dedicating years of their lives to education, many professors enjoy taking full advantage of the chance to show off their years of accumulated knowledge to a class of information-hungry students. This explains why WH questions impress them. By asking these questions, you open the floodgates to a professor’s heaven; the places where their deepest teaching passions reside in the form of boastful answers to all your questions. If you constantly present your professors with provocative questions, they’ll provide you with the help you need to succeed. While their classes can feel intimidating, all college professors don’t enjoy terrorizing you. Instead, many prefer to assist you throughout your academic career.
Continue reading to get the scoop on 15 expert questions professors find most impressive when asked by their students. Your final grades will thank you later.
The Who Questions:
You ever caught your significant other smiling at their phone for a little too long? Or noticed that the same person in their messages also appears in their Instagram likes and comment sections a little too frequently? Or what about the way their body language speaks a little too friendly when they enter the company of that friend you “don’t need to worry about.” Regardless of how this new suspected more-than-just-friends-friend invades your relationship goals, the “who” question weighs heavy on your mind. You absolutely need to know the identity of this romantic intruder, no matter what level of pain you will experience after gaining that information.
Likewise, the significance of “who” questions transfer over to your academic studies as well. “Who” questions allow you to gain knowledge about the important people in the fields of discipline your professors specialize in:
1. Who should I place the most importance on familiarizing myself with in this field of discipline?
2. Who inspired you to dedicate your life to this field of education?
3. Who should I look to network within this field of education?
Conversely, unlike your two-timing significant other, your professors’ answers to your “who” questions don’t come with any pain. Instead, they come with helpful knowledge and insight to boost your GPA (and possibly a networking opportunity)!
The What Questions:
When most people encounter some sort of confusion, they first ask themselves or others, “what.” Whether the confusion arises as a result of someone calling your name without explanation or trying to chat with you despite their hard-to-understand accent, asking “what” questions acts as a quick way to resolve misunderstandings and miscommunications. The same applies for misunderstandings that occur in your communication with your professors.
Such questions help you lay the foundation for basic understanding:
4. What teaching style do you primarily use?
5. What alternative techniques can I use to better understand this subject matter?
6. What did the process consist of for you to grow into an impactful educator of this particular discipline?
7. What piece of advice do you wish someone shared with you when you attended college?
A house cannot stand if it doesn’t rely on an even stronger foundation. Similarly, your academic career doesn’t stand a chance if the foundation of your basic understanding consists of confusion. Especially if your lack of questioning contributes to that confusion. To secure a strong academic foundation for yourself, ask those “what” questions!
The Where Questions:
If you ever lost your mother in the grocery store or your phone that you just put on silent, the question of “where” probably took over your mind instantly. In those moments, figuring out the exact locations of your possessions transforms into your number one concern. Panic mode activates until you find them. Remember that sense of relief after you locate your wandering mom and hidden phone and allow those feelings to follow you into your college classrooms.
“Where” questions allow you to locate specific resources that can help you during your academic career. From specific people to lab equipment, asking “where” questions enables your ability to find exactly what you need:
8. Where can I find more resources to help me in my independent studies?
9. Where can I contact or meet with you for extra help outside of the classroom?
Fortunately for you, in the presence of your professors you won’t need to panic. For every “where” question that comes to your mind, your professors hold the answers to them. Just ask!
The When Questions:
You can’t make plans without knowing the answers to the much needed “when” questions. Whether you need to attend your sibling’s birthday party or a fresh-out-of-quarantine brunch with friends, times and dates play a large part in your planning process. Likewise, “when” questions also play a huge role in your planning for academic success. “When” questions act as locators for specific resources, information and skills by providing exact or approximate measurements of time to help advance your education.
You can’t make plans to succeed in the classroom without knowing your professors’ answers to all your “when” questions:
10. When during the day can I most easily contact you for extra help?
11. When can I expect to implement the knowledge and skills I’m learning in your class into my professional works?
These questions will more than likely award you with short answers. Nonetheless, despite their length, the answers to such questions contribute greatly to your academic success. They help to prove to your professors that succeeding remains a top priority to you. Consequently, you will impress them enough to engage their help and support in class and during their office hours.
The Why Questions:
Why, why, why, why? If you ever shared the same space with a young child going through their questing phase, inevitably, they filled your ears with various “why” questions. Although they can get annoying, you can actually learn something from them. Asking the “why” questions allow for a deeper understanding of your professors while also making genuine connections with them.
“The role of asking good questions is invaluable because [it] helps build relationships, pure and simple,” St. John’s University First Year Writing Professor Harry Ewan said. “Relationships build between the student(s) and professor, among students, and with the topic/subject matter, as well.”
These relationships help to nurture your college education. Nurturing academic relationships allow you to build and enhance the quality of your college support system. The more your connect with your professors, the more they can modify their lessons and teaching styles in a way that you can easily understand and apply. The more you connect with your fellow classmates, the more you solidify your ability to lean on the shoulders of your peers in times of difficulty. If you pour into your classroom connections they will pour into your academic success.
Ask the following questions to grow in your understanding:
12. Why decide to pursue a life in educator?
13. Why did you decide to devote your academic expertise to this field of education?
“Why” questions don’t only allow you to better understand your professors, they also serve as great follow up questions. This allows you to further grasp the details of the class material.
“If you are asking questions about the class material, you are on the right track,” St. John’s University Journalism Professor Peter Feuerherd said. “The three most standout qualities of an impressive question are, in any order of importance, that the student posing the question manifests curiosity about and engagement with the topic/subject matter, and that the student demonstrates desire to fill in a perceived gap in their understanding of the topic/subject matter. Why? That’s the most important question. It will help set a context for the class material.”
So, don’t hesitate to why, why, why, your professors’ ears off. Unlike the average person talking to an annoying questioning child, your professors will actually enjoy your intriguing questions.
The How Questions:
Your professors supplied you with all the insightful answers you can wrap your stressed-out brain around so far. But how to display your new proclaimed understanding of them still remains a mystery. Now presents the perfect time to start asking those “how” questions.
“’How’ questions are the best questions to engage professors and fellow students. These types of questions enable the professor to provide additional information about the topic for better understanding. In addition, these types of questions also allow the learner(s) to get a deeper understanding or develop new thinking about the topic,” Newark Public Schools teacher Jenelle Strachan said.
Along with deepening your understanding, “how” questions also equip you with the steps you need to turn your knowledge into action. Such questions helps you better understand what you must do to get from point A to point B as you continue on your academic journey.
Ask the following questions to gain insight on the steps that will best suit you and your journey in the academic world:
14. How can I improve myself as a student?
15. How do I continue to grow as a professional in my career after I complete your course?
If you ask these 15 questions to your professor, not only will you succeed at impressing them, but you will also increase your chances of receiving a tape-this-to-the-refrigerator-worthy final grades.