How to Prepare for Your College Professors

Your college professors are some of the most influential people you are going to meet. Not only will they be instructing you in your coursework, but they will be grading that work as well. Your ability to succeed at school depends largely upon them, so it’s to your advantage to get off on the right foot.

Making a positive impression on your professors is vital to your future success. When a professor really knows you, they can serve as a valuable mentor and advisor to help you down the road. They can connect you with opportunities and people you might not otherwise have met. They may offer you research opportunities, can write persuasive letters of recommendation, and help jumpstart your whole academic career.

In this article, we will talk about six ways to establish a relationship with your professor that can help you be successful throughout college and beyond.

1. Get to Know Your Professors Right Away

You’ve probably heard horror stories already about some of your professors, but don’t be too quick to worry just yet. Please give them the benefit of the doubt because you may need it as well. If you want to know a little more about them before meeting them, sites like Rate My Professors offer a good starting point. There, you can see how previous students have evaluated them. However, don’t rush to judge them based on other people’s opinions, either. Wait and see for yourself.

While you don’t need to rush right up to introduce yourself on the first day, it is crucial that you make your presence known in the first week, at least. While the old adage about making first impressions is a bit cliché’, it still rings true. Class sizes in college are typically much more substantial, and it’s easy to get lost among so many other faces. Make sure you introduce yourself properly, letting your professor know who you are and what you hope to gain from the class.

2. Don’t Be a Wallflower

You can sit quietly in class week after week and diligently study your coursework. You will likely get good grades and do just fine. However, if you want to stand out among your peers, you’ll need to make your presence known by being an active participant.

Sit in the front row and be a part of the overall class energy. Being a part of class discussions shows initiative and enthusiasm. Professors do take note of this. If you aren’t comfortable speaking up in public, now is the time to face that fear head-on. Ask questions when you need clarification, or if you don’t understand something. Remember, you are there to learn all you can, so make the most of each class by making your presence known.

3. Do Your Best

Start every class with as much enthusiasm as if it was the first day. Study the syllabus and dig right into your assignments. Have your textbooks ready and plan on being as productive as you can. Not all students will maintain the same level of interest throughout the class. Many will skip class and start to miss assignments. Don’t be this type of student. Your professors want you to succeed, but they are not going to babysit you, and it’s up to you to commit yourself to your learning.

Turn your work in early whenever possible and go above and beyond what is required of you. Your extra effort will demonstrate that you are committed to your coursework and that you value what your professor has to teach you.

4. Visit During Office Hours

One essential piece of information to know is your professor’s office hours. These hours are set up as free time throughout the week where students can speak with professors one on one. There, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about any material you are having difficulty with, request a makeup exam, or simply talk about what’s happening in class.

Office hours will vary, and sometimes you will need to make an appointment, but you should make sure you visit regularly. Not all students will take the time to do this, and those who do usually stand out. If you need extra help with an upcoming project or exam, this is an excellent time to ask.

You will probably find that in spite of your professor’s demeanor, he or she can be highly approachable and personable. Taking the time to develop this relationship will go a long way in securing help when it is needed later on.

5. Don’t Wait Too Long to Bring up Problems

If you are having challenges related to your coursework, make sure you communicate with your professor early on instead of waiting until the problem is worse. Maybe you are faced with some personal challenges that are making it difficult to turn your work in on time. An honest discussion with your professor about what is really going on is much better than saying nothing and letting the issue compound. After all, your professor has no way of knowing you are having a personal issue and can only assume you don’t want to do the work.

Professors (and people in general) appreciate students who take the time to speak frankly and who also are ready to offer solutions. If you feel there may be a way for you to complete your assignment still, offer suggestions as to how you might accomplish this. Most professors will work with students who show initiative in spite of life’s challenges.

6. Honor the Golden Rule

When in doubt about how to go about maintaining a decent relationship with your professor, use basic common sense. Professors are people too, and they like to be afforded the same proper manners and respect as anyone else would expect.

Show this respect by getting to class on time. Read and re-read any instructions that have been given, so you avoid asking questions that are already expressly answered in the course syllabus.

Don’t interrupt or start a debate in class, and don’t be rude. Make wise use of your time, and don’t be lazy. Avoid making things more difficult for your professor. Instead, turn in every assignment as requested so that grading becomes a simple matter. You will be remembered for the small courtesies you extend, and they will be extended to you in return.