One of the most common pieces of advice for college students is to talk to your professor. That may seem intimidating, but it really is an important thing to do in your college classes.
So why should you get to know your professors? Well, if you’re confused by a particular topic or lesson, professors can help explain something further.
Second, professors are highly educated, well-connected individuals — and who doesn’t want to know a few of those? College is a time to build up your professional profile, so networking is very important. Your professors can help you get in contact with people in your field, connect you with the right resources, assist you in starting a research project or investigation — whatever you can imagine. They’ll be impressed that you know to leverage your professional relationship.
So, now that you know you should talk to your professors, how do you do it? Here are a few tips:
1. Utilize office hours
Every professor has designated times during the week set aside specifically for meeting with students. These are called “office hours” and will be clearly defined and consistent throughout the semester. You can find them on the syllabus that your professor will distribute on the first day of class. Office hours do not require an appointment, so if you want to ask a question, clarify a lesson, discuss the subject further or even just chat, all you have to do is drop by — although you may want to mention that you’re thinking of stopping by, just to be sure.
2. …Or set up an appointment
If your professor’s office hours don’t fit with your schedule, you can always ask to set up an appointment. Quickly introduce yourself at the end of class, and then follow up via email to see when they’re available to meet.
3. Be respectful
Remember to keep a polite and professional demeanor when speaking with your professors. Be patient in receiving a response to your emails, and always remember to thank them for their time, too!
4. Prepare questions ahead of time
Organize your thoughts and questions before you head into your professor’s office. Your professor will appreciate that you’ve come prepared with your questions or discussion points, and you won’t waste their time.
5. …And make sure they’re good questions
To get the most out of your time with your professor, ensure that your questions are specific and aren’t already answered in class resources such as the syllabus. For example, instead of saying, “I didn’t understand what we talked about last class,” describe a specific topic that you had an issue with or a specific step in a process that confused you. Avoid vague questions like “What’s on the exam?” and instead ask something like, “What material will be most emphasized going forward in class?”
6. Share your interests
Professors love to see students excited about the subject. If you are really interested in a specific unit, or particularly enjoyed learning about a certain topic, let your professor know! They appreciate hearing your feedback, and they’ll have you in mind when they encounter an opportunity that aligns with your interests.