Being at such a huge school can be a challenge sometimes, especially if you’re like me and come from a smaller high school or even a community college, where it’s way easier to get to know your teachers. But don’t worry! There are so many simple ways to make the most of student-professor relationships, and they’re super convenient too! (Because don’t we all strive for the kind of student-teacher relationship that would put Water White and Jesse Pinkman to shame?) Here’s how to make sure your professor knows who you are!
1. Go to Office Hours
I know no one wants to go, but in all honesty, office hours can be pretty amazing if you give them a chance. What better person to address your concerns than the person teaching you the material? Sometimes all it takes is a smaller setting or just one more example for a concept to finally click, which is why I love office hours. Not only will you walk out with all your lingering questions answered thoroughly, but your professor will definitely start to put a face to your name after a few appearances. It’s a win-win!
2. Ask Questions
If your professor pauses to ask if everyone is still keeping up or if anyone has any questions, they genuinely want to help you. This is not an empty offer, so get your question out before it has a chance to confuse you! Don’t let the amount of students in the room intimidate you. Professors love to say this, but it’s true: odds are, other students have your same questions, so don’t think twice about voicing it out loud.
3. Remind Them of Your Name
By far the easiest tip to incorporate into your daily life is to remind your professor who you are when you’re speaking to them. A simple “Hi, I’m ____” will suffice, or you could even say something along the lines of “I’m ____. I was at your office hours last week and we talked about ____.” This type of interaction helps everyone involved because odds are, your professor will be more than happy to have something to remember you by.
4. Ask For Letters of Recommendation
If you’re applying to graduate programs, or if you are pre-med or pre-law, you need a fair number of letters of reccomendation anyway. Do yourself a favor, and facilitate this aspect of the application process by staying on top of it early. If you like a professor, if they seem approachable and willing to help, make an effort to get to know them better. It’ll only serve you positively in the long run when you need an extra letter and your professors have more than general good things to say about your character and academic ability.
5. Sit in the Front
Prior to taking my own advice and utilizing this tip, I only ever sat in the very back of the lecture halls. Consequently, the most acknowledged I ever felt in class was when Dr. Lavelle blessed my (very loud) sneeze in a 300 student chem 14B lecture. But that was a while ago, and I’ve since taken to sitting within the first few rows of every lecture. And let me tell you, I’m so glad I did. Somehow, concepts make so much more sense, the board is way clearer and my professors actually know who I am. More often than not, TAs will try to walk up and down the rows to answer any arising questions, but the professor will hang around the front and ask those students what they think of the material as they go along. This is especially common if your lecture has breaks for peer discussion, like with clicker questions. This summer, I sat in the second row of my life science lecture, and I can’t tell you the number of clicker questions my professor helped me reason through every day.
6. Let them know when they’re doing something right!
Professors are human too, and teaching is their job. As with any job, there is always room for improvement. Most professors want your constructive feedback so that they know which aspects of their teaching style works and which don’t. On the other hand, if a professor is an exceptionally engaging lecturer, has a fantastic mnemonic that saved your life when you were studying or makes learning feel like a rewarding experience for you, let them know! Professors deserve validation, so if you truly feel they’re killing the teaching game, be the one to tell them so. I promise they’ll appreciate it and you. After all, influencing and educating bright learners like yourself is most likely the reason they chose this career path in the first place.
7. Laugh At Their Jokes
This one is so hard, but honestly, fake it until you make it. I’ve heard every bad science joke in the book; I know the drill. But if you learn to laugh at how bad the jokes are, you will 1) get a good laugh in, which is always nice and 2) make your professor feel so much less awkward for trying to be funny at 8am. Professors can tell how engaged a class is in the material by the collective reaction to a lame joke, so it’s always a good idea to remain attentive. What’s really nice is when your professor actually says something you find funny—they’ll be able to spot your genuine laugh in the crowd, especially if you are sitting in the front (see #5).