Friend Your Professor (but not on Facebook)

I know it is hard to imagine your professor as more than just someone who assigns papers and gives stressful mid-terms, but taking the time to get to know your professor is more valuable than you may realize. Students may be intimidated or nervous to talk to their professor, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Why is having a relationship with professors important?
If you are willing to put in a little time and effort, professors can become a valuable source throughout your academic career. Professors can provide guidance as well as academic support. Chances are you will need a recommendation letter for a future job or graduate school application. It will be easier for a professor to write a sincere and personalized letter when they know more about you than the letter grade you received in their classroom. Professors are usually extremely well connected in their field and might even be able to help you find an internship. Lastly, your professors can become mentors in your field of study. As you can see, they are a priceless resource that you should take advantage of ASAP.

How can students get to know their professors?
Here are five easy steps to forming beneficial relationships with professors:
1. Make a good first impression. Stay after the first class of the semester and introduce yourself to the professor. It’s also important to arrive on time and don’t leave early. I know that snooze button looks tempting but make an extra effort to get to class on time and maybe even a little early! Also, leaving class early can reflect poorly on you. If you have an extenuating circumstance, get to class extra early to let the professor know why you are leaving so your early exit doesn’t seem rude or disrespectful.
2. Sit in the front of the classroom. No, seriously, do it. You are more likely to pay attention and participate in class discussions. The sleepers and Internet surfers are always in the back so try to avoid that area. It is easier to get distracted by Twitter and Yik Yak if you think you aren’t visible to the teacher.
3. Participate in class discussions. Contributing your two cents to a lecture or discussion shows that you want to learn the material and that you are focused. You don’t have to give a Shakespeare-worthy answer, but try to give your opinion or respond to a question about class material. Your professor will be extremely grateful for your participation.
4. Utilize office hours. A majority of students ignore office hours until right before a big test or midterm. Believe it or not, professors actually enjoy when students come to their office hours. Go to your professor’s office hours in the beginning of the semester. They can match a name with a face and personality, plus it shows that you are making an extra effort. Even if you just drop by their office to say hi and introduce yourself, you will stand out in their minds. They have office hours for a reason so take advantage of them!
5. Tell the truth! This is not your professor’s first rodeo. They have heard every excuse in the book. If you miss a class or forget to turn in an assignment, the best thing to do is just be honest. Professors tend to take any excuse with a grain of salt because every professor has been lied to a handful of times.
If you absolutely must lie, make sure to include zombies and dinosaurs in your story so they can share the best excuse of all time in their next faculty meeting (kidding of course).

It’s easy to build valuable relationships if you just follow these easy tips. Just remember that you never get a second chance at a first impression so have your best foot forward during the first week of classes!


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