Now that I’m a senior in college I’d *like* to think that in the past 5 years (hey, it happens) and 3 universities (HEY!, it happens) I’ve learned a lot about how to make the most of my college experience. There are so many things that I now think to myself ‘I wish I had known that!’
One of the biggest regrets that I have is not making the most of my relationships with professors early on in my college career – and I think this played a large role in why it took me so long to find a “home” away from home at school. Approaching your professors can be really intimidating and not necessarily a top priority, especially as a freshman, but developing meaningful professional relationships with your professors can be one of the most rewarding aspects of going to school. Not only do you have a much better chance of doing well in a difficult course when you have an open dialogue with your professor, but they can be FANTASTIC for networking purposes when you start your intern/job hunt.
Some of the perks I’ve experienced:
I’ve had professors nominate me for awards & scholarships, write letters of recommendation, refer me to relevant business colleagues for internships, and extend paper and homework deadlines – all as a result of having an open dialogue.
Here’s how I approach each semester:
1. E-mail your professor the week before classes start. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself before class begins, let them know about who you are and what your schedule is like, and to ask any questions about the text. For classes with expensive text books, I always ask if older editions or used copies are permitted. This way, your professor knows your taking an active interest in their course. Since I’ve always worked about 30 hours a week while being a FT student, I always make sure to let my professors know that I have a significant professional time commitment outside of school. This has helped when I approach my professors about extensions. They are generally more flexible with assignment times because I reached out so early in the semester.
2. Sit close to the front. This is not high school. It is no longer cool to sit in the back of the room with your posse (Is that a real thing or did I just make that up?). I’ve never had a professor that doesn’t appreciate the students who sit front and center, ready to pay attention to what they have to say. And, SURPRISE! Your professors are actually really smart and you can learn a lot if you pay attention instead of fooling around on your cell in the back row. Believe me – they notice.
3. ASK questions. ENGAGE your professors. This can get you very, very far. Actively participating in class reminds your professor that your present and best of all, that you’re smart!
4. Request an informal meeting. This is especially important for when you get to your major requirement courses because these professors often times still work in or have connections in the industry. Usually about halfway through the semester I’ll ask a professor or 2 if they’d be willing to get coffee so that I can pick their brain about their experiences. This is a great opportunity for you to let them know what your plans are post-grad and ask them to keep you in mind if they know of any relevant openings or have any contacts for you.
5. Always send a thank you at the end of the semester. Even if you really didn’t enjoy the course, definitely take the time to tell your professor you appreciated their time and hope that you can stay in touch. You never know – they may have you in mind for a particular internship or scholarship and it’s a good idea to keep your line of communication open even after the course ends.
I hope this helps!
Do you sit in the front row or the back row of class? Are you guilty of texting during lecture? Let me know!