In college, it may not seem important to get to know your professors. It may seem especially pointless when you’re in a lecture class with more students than you can learn by name in a semester. There’s no way the professor is going to know you from Joe Schmoe, so why bother getting to know him or her? What you may not realize is that it’s that very large number of students that each professor encounters in a course or throughout the day that makes it so important to get to know your college professor and for him or her to get to know you. Not only are you making sure that you’re no longer just a last name with a score, but you’re also improving the likelihood that you’ll get a good grade by getting to know what your professor expects and how they grade. But just how do you go about getting to know your professor. After all, you can’t approach him or her and propose a dinner to get to know each other better like you may with a roommate.
Consider the following five methods and use what suits you best.
1. Show up to class and participate
If you’re thinking about skipping class, think again. You’ll be robbing yourself of the opportunity to get to know your professor and may potentially lose participation points. But showing up isn’t enough. Be an active participant in class. This means, sit in the “T-zone” (the front rows and center columns) and make eye contact. And if you know the answer or have a thought to contribute, raise your hand. Even if you don’t have the answer and need to ask a question, raise your hand. There are no stupid questions and asking shows that you’re paying attention and trying to learn.
2. Arrive early and/or stay after class
If you’re looking for a little bit of focused attention from your professor, utilize the couple minutes before or after class to speak with your professor. Use it to ask questions from the previous class or to just have a casual conversation as you pack up your books. Those small exchanges can add up. The idea is to value your professor; they’ll value you for it.
3. Attend study sessions
Study sessions are a great way to prepare for a test. If you’re lucky, the session will be lead by your professor which will get you some more face time with him/her. If it’s lead by a TA (Teaching Assistant), don’t be discouraged. They’re preparing you for the exam, giving you a glimpse into the professor’s head and guiding you towards the material that the professor wants you to know.
4. Utilize office hours
Most professors offer some sort of office hours or time that they’re available for phone calls or appointments. It’s important to take advantage of that time when you can. If you have a large assignment coming up, make an appointment to clarify any ambiguous points or get some affirmation in your plans for tackling the project. If you feel you aren’t doing well in a course, use that time to have a conversation with the professor and explain that you’re struggling. Ask them if they could give you suggestions on how to do better in the course. Maybe there are make up assignments or bonus materials you could use for extra credit. Perhaps there is additional reading that could clarify things for you. Maybe your professor can give you suggestions on how to tackle papers the way he/she really wants them (Professors do have preferences). As long as you show a genuine desire to improve, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help.
5. Take advantage of email and other online communication established by your school/professor
This is probably the last resort to get to know your professor, but if you don’t have the time to take advantage of office hours or study sessions and can’t arrive early or leave late because of your class schedule, this is one way to extend learning beyond the classroom. Coupled with some of the other methods, electronic communication can be effective in filling in the gaps between class or appointment times.
Finding creative ways to get to know your professors are great, but these standard methods are tried and true and based on some fundamental expectations of your professors. They offer you class time, study sessions, and office hours. The fact that you take advantage of what they’re offering will be appreciated.