Get to Know Your Professor

There’s no one better qualified to help you than your instructor

Do you want to have a crazy adventure this term? Here’s an idea: try getting to know your professors. Most students never do this because they’re too intimidated, but it can be a great experience. Not only can getting to know your professor benefit you academically, but you might also gain a new friend.

Developing a relationship with your professor is a lot easier than you think. Start by simply introducing yourself and maybe talking about why you took the class and what you hope to learn. Demonstrate that you’re interested in learning and doing as well as you can.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of professors as mysterious, powerful people. They may have a great deal of expertise in a particular subject area, but they put their socks on one at a time just like you (they probably have fewer holes, though). When talking to your prof, try to keep things relatively informal. This will help melt away any intimidation you may feel.

Office-Hour Etiquette

Face it: your professor knows a lot more about the course than anyone on your dorm floor. If you need help, he or she is the best source to go to. Most professors are thrilled to meet students who are hungry for knowledge and will be more than happy to help you with your studies.

That said, you need to remember that professors lead very busy lives, so you should show them a bit more courtesy than you show your roommates. Keep these general rules in mind:

  • Don’t get in the way. Many professors enjoy hanging around after lecture to chat with students. Some have other classes to teach, though, so don’t cause a delay if your prof seems to be in a rush to leave.
  • Make an appointment. Some profs are open to having students just drop in unannounced during office hours, but it’s never a bad idea to give notice that you’ll be stopping by for help. E-mail is a great way to do this.
  • Only phone your professor during office hours. Contrary to what you might want to think, your prof isn’t paid to be at your service 24 hours a day.
  • Don’t suck up. Most profs hate brown-nosing. Bringing flowers or other gifts will not be seen favorably and may make your professor feel uncomfortable or even insulted.

Future Benefits

The advantages of getting to know your professor can be more significant than simply performing better in one course. Your professor may help you discover new possibilities for academic study and your career. Many students who become close with a professor ask for a letter of reference, which can be very valuable when it’s time for look for a job in your field.

Style Points

Even if you aren’t brave enough to form a personal relationship with your instructor, it’s still a good idea to learn as much about his or her personality as you can. Every professor has a unique teaching style and a unique way of demonstrating what course material is the most important for you to understand and, thus, most likely to be on the final exam. Make sure you regularly attend lecture and pay close attention to the cues your professor gives.

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