Professors have more value than lecturing you in the classroom and grading your assignments. They devote their lives to educating the next generation. And most faculty members enjoy and appreciate working with students.
During your time at school, it is important to not only appreciate your professors and other faculty, but also cultivate relationships with them so that they can help you succeed academically, personally and professionally.
If you're not sure how to get to know your professors, don't worry. Today's blog teaches you three ways to build rapport and develop professional relationships with them.
Why Getting to Know Your Professors is So Important
Before we discuss specific actions you can take to get to know your professors, let's review why developing relationships with them is so crucial.
- Creating relationships with your professors will make classes more enjoyable and facilitate deeper learning.
The more familiar your professors are with you and see that you are a dedicated, hardworking student, they more invested they'll be in helping you succeed in class and throughout college.
When you need a reference or letter of recommendation for jobs, grad school applications and more, you'll want to ask people who can speak highly of your character, skills and abilities. Your professors--especially those who know you and with whom you've developed strong relationships--can do just that.
How to Build Relationships With Your Professors
1. Attend Office Hours
- Review the class syllabus for your professor’s office hours or email her to schedule a time to meet that works for you both.
- Perhaps even attend office hours on a weekly basis to check-in and ask questions to ensure that you're succeeding in class.
- During office hours, discuss any problems you're having with understanding the course material. Additionally, ask about your professor's research experience and their own journey in academia. Perhaps her past research is similar to the assignment you are working on and she can further assist by providing you with additional resources.
- These conversations should not be one-sided. Share your personal goals and interests so your professor can better accommodate your research and goals.
If you are unsure how to write an email to your professor about scheduling a time to meet, here is a template you can use:
“Dear Professor x….
I hope all is well. I started working on my assignment for xxxx and I have a couple of questions I'd like to ask to make sure that I am on the right track. Are you available to meet xxxx or xxxx? Let me know what works for you.
Tips to Consider when Emailing a Professor
- Include an opening and closing statement in your email to ensure that it is professional.
- Always address them by “Professor," “Dr.” or however they address themselves as to the class.
- When scheduling a time to meet, offer two or three times in case your professor is busy the time you suggested.
2. Go Above and Beyond
- If your professor or teaching assistant for the class is hosting a study session, attend no matter what. Even if you feel comfortable with the material, your professors will take note of who is there and will typically be more willing to bump up your grade, provide extra credit, etc.
- If you did not do as well as you thought on the last exam or assignment, schedule a meeting to see what you can do to improve or if there are any extra credit opportunities. Again, this will demonstrate that you care about your academic performance and that you want to progress.
- If you hear about a recent accomplishment that your professors made, make sure to congratulate them and attend any campus events or celebrations in their honor. For example, if your professor just published a book, congratulate him in person or via email, and attend the book reading if one is scheduled.
3. Stay in Touch
Contact your professors after the semester ends. Send them an email over winter or summer break, tell them how you're spending your time (ex. you have a summer job in their field, you're reading their book, preparing for the next semester, etc.), and ask how they're doing.
Doing this will help you stay present in your professors' minds and motivate them to connect you with resources that can further your goals. For example, maybe your professors know a past student who now works at your dream company and they can connect you. Or maybe you need a letter of recommendation. Maintaining consistent communication will speak highly of your character and ambition, which demonstrates to professors that you're deserving of a good recommendation.
Tips to Consider when asking for a Letter of Recommendation
- Contact your professor at least two months before your reference is due. This is an ideal amount of time for them to write a thorough recommendation.
- Schedule a meeting with your professor to tell her exactly what you are requesting and what you want her to highlight in your recommendation―it will be easier for your professor if they have a “blueprint” to write about.
- Provide a copy of your resume and a cover letter so your professor will have even more background information to write your recommendation.
- If you have not heard from your professor a few weeks before your reference is due, send them a gentle reminder via email―refer to the previous email chain so they can remember.
- It is courteous and professional to send a thank you email once they have sent the recommendation.