We all know it is important to be intentional about building friendships for support and connection in university, but it is easy to overlook one of the most important relationships – the one you build with your professors. Watching my four children navigate university life, I have seen firsthand the benefits that come from making the effort to know and become known to your professors.
Why do I need to get to know my professors?
1. Professors will provide additional help
Professors will go out of their way to help students who genuinely want to learn. My kids have had professors give feedback on draft copies of assignments, schedule extra tutoring sessions, drop in on their study group, help with challenging problems, and provide hints and tips to be prepared for their finals that were not mentioned in class.
2. Professors will extend greater empathy and understanding
Professors who know you personally are more likely to consider any exceptional circumstances in light of that relationship instead of simply applying a policy. When my daughter’s surgery was scheduled for the week of final exams, every one of her professors made some allowance that was better than the policy, from providing take-home exams and early write options, to eliminating the final exam altogether.
3. Professors will advocate for you
The benefits of establishing a good reputation with a professor extend way beyond the classroom. When a serious issue came up in a course, my daughter was part of a small group of students who found themselves sitting before the department chair and his advisors, asking for help. One of those advisors was a professor they had a great rapport with. When he walked into the room, he made the comment, “Oh, I know all of these guys!” Not only were they more at ease with a friendly face across the table, but they also had an instant advocate for their position who helped them get the help they were hoping for.
4. Professors will offer the power of their reference
Your professors are well-connected, and their reference holds a lot of weight with other academic institutions and potential employers. My kids have used professors on their applications to gain entrance to degree programs and to secure scholarships, teaching assistant positions, and employment. Here at Kingswood, we are frequently contacted by pastors and employers looking to hire. They want to talk to our faculty to get their recommendations for graduating students who are gifted in specific areas. Building good relationships now will pay dividends for the future.
How do I get to know my professors?
It may seem intimidating to make connections with professors, but it doesn’t need to be. These are a few simple ways to start building those relationships:
1. Fully engage in class
Professors take note of students who take an interest in the course content and show up to class ready and willing to learn. When you go to class, sit closer to the front, demonstrate you are paying attention with eye contact and note-taking, eliminate distractions like texting or online activity, and ask and answer questions that show you are learning.
2. Take advantage of the after-class transition to connect
The few minutes after class are a great time to make a quick connection with your professor. Rather than bolt for the door when class is dismissed, stop to ask a question, make a casual comment about that day’s class, or take two minutes to listen in on a question another student is asking.
3. Seek them out during their office hours
Stop by their office or arrange a time to meet if you have questions about course material, upcoming assignments, or even general questions related to their field. Remember, your professors are teaching courses that are in their sweet spot of knowledge and expertise, and they have far more to offer than what they can share in a class session.
4. Use chance opportunities to make a connection
Connections outside of the classroom go a long way in building rapport with professors. Offer a greeting when you meet crossing campus, poke your head into their office for a quick “hi” when you’re passing through their department, and be sure to acknowledge them when you see them around town or on campus in social settings.
At the end of the day, your professors are just ordinary people who love what they do and are working hard to invest in their students. They genuinely care about you and your success. Reap the benefits of having them on your side as you pursue your degree and head out into the world to make your mark.
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