It’s your first college class. You’re shaking in your shoes or maybe you’re strutting in to lecture room 402 like you own the joint. Either way, you’re among hundreds of kids who want to pursue a future similar to yours, and there’s only one professor who can determine your success. At the end of the lecture, there are bound to be a million suck-ups who wait around after class to introduce themselves to the teacher. You wanna be on top? Don’t do that. Here’s the real way to make friends with the prof.
“It sounds so lame but go and introduce yourself to the teacher outside of the big lecture hall setting,” said UVA freshman Kaia Dunne. You don’t have to wait until you have a question about the homework, and you don’t have to have an actual interest in the class. A simple conversation about your interests and how your professor reached this point in her career can be enlightening. “Also sending thank you emails is huge. If you go in and spend time with a teacher, follow it up with a thank you email. Then you’re golden,” said Dunne. Thank you notes may seem dated, but they scream, “I’m professional and considerate!” Just do it.
You may find you have a sincere passion for the class. If you’re watching documentaries on something scienc-y (sorry I’m useless in that category) or re-reading Beowulf in Old English in your spare time, take advantage of your natural interests. Why would you not get to know people who share your interests and have found success in your intended field? Be nerdy. Express your love of the material and back it up with some proof that you have been immersing yourself in it. Your prof needs to know you aren’t simply being a sneaky brown-noser with a hidden agenda David Gordon (Dear lord, someone please understand that reference).
Although, this can be uncomfortable if you aren’t the most forward person in the world. “Sometimes trying to be BFFs with a teacher feels awkward. I like to wait until I have a class-related reason for coming to office hours, but instead of rushing out of the office after we’ve talked about that, I stay for at least a couple minutes to have a real conversation,” said UVA junior Caroline Beuley.
It’s easy to forget professors are people, too. They just happen to be people with lots of specific knowledge and more years of schooling than most of us can wrap our heads around. They probably have kids, weird obsessions and even go grocery shopping on occasion. “I’ve found that if I get comfortable asking my teachers for advice about their class, I’ll eventually be comfortable enough to ask them for advice about bigger things. When I was having a quarter life crisis about my major and career path, my professors were great resources for advice and humoring the fact that I was trying to plan my entire life at age 19,” said Beuley.
It’s also never too late. Maybe you’re a rising senior and have flown under the radar in most college classes you’ve taken. Maybe you have never been to office hours or had a professor who knows your name. Maybe this also isn’t your fault. Often times, professors are in fact snooty know-it-alls who won’t give you the time of day. “Some seem to not have the time to just chat, which is sad, but the ones who do, we all should definitely take advantage of it,” said UVA rising senior Jordan Witt.
Don’t let your short time left deter you from taking advantage of it. There are still opportunities to reach out, make connections and network within your college. If they seem to just want to talk about themselves once you go in, let them. “After asking my professors questions to get to know them, almost always it switches to them wanting to get to know me and giving good advice,” said Witt.
Especially as an upperclassman, you’re closer to the real world and the level that your professors appear to be on, anyway. Run with that knowledge and approach them with confidence. They will respect your initiative. And if they don’t, oh well. That’s what bad reviews on Rate-My-Professor are for.