College students are encouraged to create healthy, professional relationships with their professors both in and out of the classroom. Professors have access to an entire network of resources that can help advance you academically and professionally. Don’t squander these opportunities by coasting through classes. If you plan your classes right and you’re strategic about the professors you take (these are reasons you talk to your academic advisor) then you can set yourself up to have fruitful relationships with all your professors.
Pick your relationships wisely
With that being said, you don’t have to invest in a relationship with all of your professors. I recommend investing in the relationships you think could be of use to you professionally or professors you genuinely like regardless. That means if you are a Liberal Arts major and you have no interest in pre-health or pre-med, but your biology professor was really awesome and you like handing out with her, you can (and should) invest in that relationship. That also means if you are pre-health or pre-med you want to create relationships with as many professors in the STEM field as possible. Take time to learn about their area of research and ask them about what they spend their time on. Seriously, showing a genuine interest in their area of study will go a long way.
The same advice can apply to any student regardless of discipline. Take a genuine interest in your professors’ area of research. All professors do some sort of research and invest a ton of time in it. You’ll learn something new and they’ll appreciate the interest.
Be actively engaged in class
Another way to build a relationship with your professor is to be actively engaged in class. Do the readings that are assigned and if the readings are not good or just flat out boring then say so and offer something different.
Seriously, offer something else. This will make your classes more lively and other students will appreciate the honesty. I’ve done this in my classes as well. I’ll tell my professor that I think this or that is either irrelevant or boring and give legitimate reasons why. It always goes beyond just not liking something. Being respectful doesn’t mean you’re always a people pleaser.
Use office hours.
If you have a question about your grades, ask.
If you have a question about your own research or you want to delve into a certain topic more, ask.
If you’re concerned about your progression in class, ask.
If you need recommendations as far as coursework and what to study next to advance your academic career, ask.
That’s exactly why they have office hours!
Think about it.
Professors are paid to sit in their office and wait for students to drop in and talk to them. It’s the perfect set up to help you be academically successful. Unfortunately, most students do not take full advantage of this resource. Fortunately, you are not most students. That means you will use this resources wisely.
CAUTION: It’s always a good idea to email your professor ahead of time to let them know that you are coming.
MORE CAUTION: No one likes it when you waste their time. If you must cancel for any reason, give them a heads up. Seriously, it’s the right thing to do and it is courteous.
I get it. Life happens. They get it too. Still, you want to sure not to leave a sour taste in their mouth.
I have benefited personally and professionally from investing in relationships with my professors. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that professors have lives outside academia. In most cases, they had a life before academia as well. When it comes to investing in a relationship with your professor, don’t let the titles or gap in experience trip you up. They’re human too. They probably binge on Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder just like the rest of us. Building a relationship with your professor is just like building a relationship with anyone else. Find common ground and go from there. If you’re genuine in your approach you will surely make headway.
If you’re still a little nervous about the whole ordeal, reach out to me and I can give you a couple extra pointer to help you make the first step. How did you reach out to your professors? Share your experience below!