Freshman Year 101: Reaching Out to Your Professor
You’re a little less than halfway through your freshman year of college. Midterms are just around the corner, and if you haven’t already had your first exam or essay, then you will soon.
With these grade-making (or grade-breaking) milestones looming on the horizon, I have some advice for you. It’s not about how to study (or cram, if we’re being honest) or how to memorize everything or how to take a test without spontaneously combusting. It’s much more simple than that.
Reach out to your professor!
Have a question? Not sure what’s going to be on that big test? Don’t know what to write your essay on? Missed a few too many class periods and feeling left behind? Reach out to your professor.
Here at West Virginia Wesleyan, professors love when students take advantage of office hours. Every professor is required to offer so many hours when students can just walk in and ask their questions, no appointment required. And most of the time, the professors just sit there, bored, working on paperwork or grading papers because no one stops by.
Let me be blunt: Take advantage of office hours.
Ask for help.
Actively participate in class.
Professors want to know you are trying, even if you are having difficulty with the material. Since midterms are sneaking up on us, now is the time to speak up and tell your professor if you’re having trouble understanding the material, or if you just don’t know how to write a decent essay. Do it now before you get a bad grade on your midterm and have to fight to bring it up. (Bonus hint: Professors are sometimes more lenient in their grading if they know you made an effort—and you can let them know that you are trying by reaching out and asking them questions.)
Most professors list their office hours on the syllabus (usually at the top with their contact information). If you can’t find their office hours on the syllabus, send your professor an email or ask them in person what their hours are.
Don’t be afraid to ask question in class, too. I know it’s cliché, but it’s also true: If you have a question, chances are someone else has the same question. Be the brave soul that saves the whole class by asking your question.
If you don’t want to ask your questions during class and you can’t make office hours, ask the professor if you can make an appointment to talk with them outside of class. Sometimes making an appointment is better, because then you are guaranteed to have your professor’s undivided attention for the duration of the appointment.
If you want to ask a question after class, but the professor is talking to another student, wait patiently for them to finish. If they are just chatting about life in general, politely interrupt with an “Excuse me, but I have a question about the class/material/homework/assignment/etc.” The professor and student will usually pause long enough for you to get your question answered before they go back to talking.
Here’s my point: If you need help, ask for it now. Don’t wait until you’ve gotten a bad grade, and certainly don’t wait until a week before finals. Professors are resources and assets as well as instructors. Utilize them!