You’ve moved into your dorm. You’ve given your parents one last goodbye hug. You’re pretty sure your roommate isn’t crazy. You even introduced yourself to that cute guy down the hall. What else is there to do the first month of school?
Forget that cute floor mate; you need to introduce yourself to your professors.
If you work to build a relationship with a professor he or she can help you get ahead in class. UMass Amherst sophomore Jordan Schwartz found her performance benefitted from making the effort to see her instructors during office hours. “Most professors appreciate you seeing them so much,” she said, “they’ll give you inside information on what to expect on the next quiz or exam that they wouldn’t give to the whole class.”
Relationships with professors often yield benefits beyond class. Professors can provide recommendations for jobs or advice about graduate school. American University senior Chelsea Babcock was initially intimidated when a professor required students to meet with him outside of class. Babcock appreciated her professor’s requirement once she met with him. “I ended up discovering that my professor and I had a lot in common and shared similar academic interests” she explained. “Even though I had him two years ago, he’s currently in the process of advising me on graduate school applications.”
Office hours also offer a great opportunity to discuss more personal topics with professors. While she benefitted from her professor’s academic advice, Babcock also values the opportunity to learn more about her professors as individuals. Furthermore, she feels that professors return her interest, saying that, “Professors are usually pretty inquisitive about you, which I think helps you get to know your professor better as well.”
Professors can seem intimidating at first, especially if you’re a freshman or attending a larger state school. Schwartz, for example, said there are nearly 21,000 undergraduates at her school – and she’s sat alongside 100-200 students in some of her lecture courses. She admitted that large class sizes make it hard to build relationships with professors, adding that “it’s very rare for a professor to know more than ten students by their first names.”
While attending a smaller college can make it easier to stand out to professors, you don’t need to be in a small class to get to know them. Some larger universities, like University of Georgia, offer honors or other specialized programs with smaller class sizes. Other universities require all first-year students to take a freshmen seminar. These smaller, individualized courses help underclassmen in particular build meaningful relationships with professors.
No matter what kind of school you attend, creating relationships with your professors can benefit you. You’ll get help with your coursework. You’ll get advice for the world outside of college. You might even make a friend. Now go to office hours already.