How to Build A Strong Relationship With Your Professor
May 05, 2020
Professors are able to provide their students with many avenues to success, so don't overlook opportunities to get to know them!
It should go without saying that your college professors are human too, and as trite as that may sound, sometimes it may be easy to forget that they’re not just there because their job commands them to be. Professors are wellsprings of knowledge that equip you with the instruments for achieving academic success, but more importantly, they’re also people who have reservoirs of experience that you might be able to glean paramount insight from. Moreover, if you’re applying to internships, job opportunities, or even graduate school, a recommendation letter from a source that is both academic and professional will go a long way for your chances of admission. Here are a few ideas that you can employ to get to know your professor better:
“Research" your professor
Search on your college website’s staff page and see if they have a bio or a LinkedIn profile. These are great places to begin because they are popular places professors share their research interests - or just some fun, offhand facts about themselves that could serve as a common ground of interest. If you want to, and if applicable, look into the works that the professor has published - this allows for you to build a deeper connection with your professor more naturally. It’s demonstrated interest in what you are looking into studying, and it conveys to them that you have a good sense of initiative.
Introduce yourself to them after the first class
Professors have a lot of students, and even if you’ve been in their class for an entire semester, they definitely won’t remember you if you don’t make the effort to be remembered. The best way to do this is to personally introduce yourself to them after the first class. It’s a pleasant gesture that will help them begin associating your face with your name in class, which is always the first step to connecting with new people.
Participate, participate, participate!
Your professor likely won’t remember you just from a single introduction even if it was sincere and in person, so you’ll want to participate moderately in class to help them do so. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you must sit in the front row or raise your hand every time s/he asks a question - as long as you participate at a reasonable frequency, you’re already on track to being a more memorable student. Besides, you should be engaged during class time anyway if you want to perform well.
Make sure they understand your professional goals
Take a moment to talk to your professor about what extracurricular opportunities you are hoping to partake in and see if they have any advice on where to begin. Most of the time they’ll have a vast wealth of knowledge about what student opportunities are appropriate for your career interests, and which institutions could use your service. For instance, a political science professor might have a friend who works in the courthouse that is looking for an intern, a paralegal professor may recommend you to a firm, and one who teaches chemistry could probably point you to a plethora of undergraduate research opportunities over the summer. Be clear in what you’re interested in and you just might be directed to exactly what you’re looking for.
Be courteous and keep in touch
Professors aren’t some unfeeling communal utility, so remember that your interactions with them shouldn’t solely be based on what they have to offer you. Don’t just badger them for opportunities to fill the gaps on your resume - talk to them about anything else, and get to know them! In the end, you’ll learn many things from your professor, and will almost always find them to be incredibly interesting people who can connect with you on many more levels than you’d expected. So, don’t just move on from them after you’ve graduated - stay in touch! Maintaining contact with your professors could put you in contact with employers who consult professors for their networks of students, so it’s possible for you to land a job this way right out of school. But more importantly, it’s also possible that you can make a new friend for life!
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