Getting to know your professor is a great way to distinguish yourself among the crowd and demonstrate that you are keen and interested in his or her class. While the prospect of introducing yourself to a professor might seem uncomfortable at first, the academic relationship you build with your instructor will help you to adjust to university and ultimately feel more comfortable throughout your degree.
An easy way to catch your professor alone is to show up during their office hours. This time is scheduled for the purpose of meeting with students – take the opportunity! If you are nervous, simply prepare some questions beforehand. Your professor will likely offer some valuable advice on how you can improve your work or research techniques.
Go to class
If you have introduced yourself to your professor in office hours, he or she will be able to recognize you, and it’s usually a good thing if your professor can put a face to the name of the student whose paper he or she is marking. Attending and participating in class demonstrates that you are invested in the course. It’s best to establish your reputation with a professor early on – sit near the front and be attentive, and in classes where participation is encouraged, try to contribute to the discussion at hand.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Approaching a professor for help is nothing to be ashamed of. They tend to enjoy discussing class material and will notice that you are making the effort to understand, even if you are convinced that your question is stupid or obvious. If you performed poorly on a test or assignment, taking the time to consult the person who grades your work shows initiative, and can help you to improve the next time. If you have fallen behind in class, need extra time for an assignment, missed out on lectures, or feel overwhelmed, it is always better to be honest and proactive about it. Set up an appointment with the professor to discuss your options, the earlier the better. When the alternative is to cross your fingers and sail into your final by the seat of your pants, you’ll find that asking for help is far more effective.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
If you are considering graduate school in the professor’s area of expertise, you may benefit from the advice of someone who works in the academic field. You might want to ask the professor for a letter of recommendation in the future – something that would undoubtedly be easier to obtain if you have already established a positive relationship with your professor.
Ultimately, getting to know your professors can help you to stay motivated in your work and dispel any fears about approaching them with a problem too late in the semester. Taking advantage of office hours allows you not only to discuss course matters but also to learn more about each other as individuals – the academic interests you might share, your future career plans – and give you valuable advice and support during your semester.