There are hundreds of things students can do to “turn over a new leaf” for the approaching semester. In college, I went through my laundry list at the start of almost every new semester: “Go to every class, join student organizations, volunteer, maintain a strict study schedule, etc….”. Did I ever do EVERYTHING? No. But I learned some very important tips along the way.
A new semester is a great excuse to jump-start your student motivation. Today, I am going to talk about one of the most valuable things college students can invest time in: getting to know your professors—and getting them to remember you.
The First Day of Class
Don’t just “Hi my name is Susie” and then stand there awkwardly grinning, or just walk away. Be prepared to tell them why you took their course (“it was required” is not an acceptable response), and what you are excited to learn about. Leave them with something memorable about you.
If they seem really busy or swamped with students before and after the first lecture, be sure to stop by during their first office hours or shoot them an email.
Second and Third Days of Class
Show up. Take notes. Ask questions during lecture. Say thank you.
During the first few days, you are still feeling out the class and the professors are still getting acquainted with all of their new students as well. A simple, “Thanks for the great lecture” will do. Yes, persistence is great, but professors are busy people. By simply doing the four things above for the first few days, you are developing a great baseline for future contact.
After creating an initial impression with your professor, follow through to help foster the relationship. Many professors have hundreds— even thousands— of students. So, it’s up to you to make sure you stand out in their minds.
Here are some tips for developing great relationships with your professors:
- The best way to get to know your professors is by attending office hours. All my professors continually encouraged us to visit their office hours, yet the majority of students never took them up on this offer. You can ask questions pertaining to lecture topics, an upcoming exam, a course project, industry news or anything else relevant to lecture or coursework.
- Go to every class. Seriously, do it. Your life will be so much easier when you don’t have to photocopy 150 pages of your friend’s notes two days before the exams because you just couldn’t get out of bed for your 9:30 a.m. lecture.
- If you do miss class, don’t ask your professors “Did I miss something important?” Of COURSE you did. Professors believe everything they fill class time with is important. Simply ask how you can catch up on what you missed.
- Don’t give your professor a lame or false excuse if you miss class or turn in an assignment late. If you were hung over, golfing or having a BBQ with your roommates, don’t lie and come up with a bad excuse–your professors have heard it all. Just apologize, and try not to be late again.
- Don’t complain about the workload. Instead, ask your professors for advice. Tell them you are having trouble with this reading or that assignment, and ask for their opinion on how to best manage your time or approach the work. They will see you as a responsible, serious student who has taken the initiative to seek help. This will further your relationship with them.
- Don’t be on your phone during class. It’s rude.
- Ask questions during the lecture. Most students do not participate in the lecture. You will stand out to professors if you show that you are engaged and ask questions.
- If you are searching for an internship or job, let your professors know. Most would be thrilled to help their students find a job, or at the very least, offer advice.
- Ask for career or industry advice. If your professor has spent time working in an industry of interest, ask them about it. Professors may love their teaching role, but most of them likely have great tales from their experiences outside of teaching.
- Ask how you can do well in the class. Professors want their students to succeed.
- Get to know them outside of class. If you are really interested, see if your professors are doing any outside research or projects that you could become involved in.
- Maintain contact after the semester. If you have developed a relationship throughout the semester, maintain contact. Send an email or letter with career/life updates once in a while.
Cassie is a May 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag Journalism graduate. She recently unfolded her passion for public relations during her short stint as a PR consultant for a Madison, Wis. area non-profit and is looking to dive into the field professionally. Find Cassie on Twitter, BrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn.