1. People & Relationships

College Success 101

Getting to Know Your College Professors


In college you'll be interacting with brilliant academics, talented researchers and inspiring lecturers on a daily basis. Getting to know your teachers both in and out of the classroom will greatly improve your chances of getting good grades and making connections for your career -- and the rest of your life. Here are a few situations where reaching out to your professors is likely to make a big difference.

1. You're Confused

Don't be shy: If you're wondering why your chemistry lab didn't turn out right or confused by your teacher’s description of the Renaissance, chances are that at least five other students in your class are feeling the same way. So, what can you do?

Think of a smart, specific question about the lesson, raise your hand and fire away if you're called on. Your teacher will remember that you took the initiative, and your classmates may view you as a hero if you pose a question they've been too afraid to ask.

2. You Need Help With an Assignment

Most college professors hold office hours, time set aside each week to meet with students in their office or another location on campus. At the beginning of the semester, make a note of each of your teachers' office hours, and keep them in a safe place such as a student planner.

Office hours are an ideal way to informally ask questions about a paper, or even get some extra help on a difficult math problem. Plus, getting feedback from students -- such as comments and questions on lectures and assignments -- helps professors know what’s working (and what's not) in the classroom.

3. You're Curious About Your Teacher's Research or Interests

Were you fascinated by your professor's lecture on James Joyce? Did your teaching assistant mention that the professor needs assistants for an interesting-sounding research project? Here’s another chance to get to know your teachers better.

Your discussions with professors about topics that interest you help them remember who you are and how you're unique -- something that's particularly important when you ask for recommendation letters for scholarships, internships and jobs.

4. You Need a Reference for a Job

Whether you're thinking about applying for a resident assistant position or applying for a competitive internship, you can't go wrong by getting a professor to speak about your strengths through a letter of recommendation.

If you're thinking about applying for a job, an internship or even a leadership position on campus, send your teacher an email about why you want the position and why you're a great candidate, then ask him or her if he’d be willing to act as a reference. Be sure to have your resume or a short description of your interests and activities ready to help your teacher compose the letter.

5. You Want to Make Connections in Your Field

Having one-on-one conversations with your professors is a great rehearsal for discussions you'll have in the workplace. In addition to writing recommendation letters, your teachers may know about opportunities you haven't heard about -- whether it’s a scholarship program or a research position.

Plus, your future professors, employers or thesis advisers might be hanging around in your current teacher's office. A friend or colleague of your professor might be looking for students to proctor tests, tutor or house-sit. They might even be seeking bright students for specialized courses, seminars and discussion groups.

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