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New Semester Resolution #1: Get Your Professors to Know You

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

On the first day of class, introduce yourself to your professors.

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.

Follow Through

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.

Author:

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 TwitterBrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. Ready, Set, Go: Maximizing Your Spring Semester
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  3. Keep your New Year Resolution (and other goals)

8 Responses to “New Semester Resolution #1: Get Your Professors to Know You”

  1. avatar Bret Simmons says:

    This is exceptional advice, Cassie. My post on Monday will be about why and how to impress your instructor, but you have covered it all here! What you are describing is someone that has assumed full responsibility for herself, and that is very impressive. The skills you describe and the attitude they represent are also important workplace skills.

    I rarely remember my students by their grades. For me it is their character that sticks with me and makes a lasting impression. You also make a great point about the power of saying “thank you.” So few students do it that if you learn to do this sincerely you will really stand out.

    Great advice!

    Bret

  2. avatar Phil says:

    This is good advice. I am forwarding to my daughter will be starting her second semester in a couple of weeks. I think some (not all) of these points are applicable to high school and even middle school students as well.

  3. Every student could benefit from this advice. Not only will students find a more enjoyable educational experience if they engage themselves in every class, they will get more out of schooling by committing themselves to staying connected and involved.

    Also, constantly engaging with professors will help strengthen communication skills essential to establishing a career after graduation.

    Thanks!
    Kevin

  4. avatar Asta Ratliff says:

    I agree with you, that students should not just complain about the work load. When I was struggling in one of my classes I went and talked to my instructor and she gave me advises how I should prepare for her class, what extra material I should read and what techniques could help me in preparing for the next class. It was very helpful – I was not the first student coming to her with the same worries and she was ready to assist me in any way possible.

  5. @Bret- Thanks for your thoughts! I agree that these ideas can be applied to any workplace setting…our education is about preparing for the work world to come, so its only natural that these skills should translate over. And, glad we are on the same page with our posts– I look forward to reading yours!

  6. @Phil- Thanks for reading and sharing Student Branding with your daughter. And great point–these ideas could be very useful for high school students as wel, such as those hoping for staff letters of recommendation for college admission or scholarships.

  7. @Kevin- Thanks for reading, and ditto to everything you said. My most memorable and enjoyable courses were the ones in which I actively engaged and developed a connection with the professor and the class.

    @Asta- From my experience, most professors are more than willing to give advice to help you succeed in their course. You just have to be willing to ask, and to accept the advice they give. Glad it worked for you, and thanks for reading!

  8. Cassie, thanks for the great advice. Sometimes what seems like a no-brainer is easy for us to skip over.

    I also think that by making yourself stand out in the crowd and engaging your professors you will help yourself in the future. Professors are great people to have in your network when you are looking for that next position to advance your career. It also helps to be in their good books and have them know your name!

    Toby

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