The Importance of Building a Relationship with Your College Professors

(Image Credit: Tyler Olson)

(Image Credit: Tyler Olson)

In high school, getting better acquainted with your teachers happened without you really having to try. You saw them every day for an hour, sometimes two. They had you in class for a full year and maybe even in a study hall. In college, your professors are a bit different. If you’re in a seminar, chances are you’re just a number on a list of 200 kids. In your smaller classes, your professor will most likely get to know your name, but it’s up to you to get them to remember you once the semester is over. It can definitely be intimidating to try to establish the type of professional relationship with a professor that may have developed easily with your high school teachers, but know that the vast majority of professors out there are eager to get to know their students. To develop a professional relationship with your professor be an active participant in class, actually go to the office hours they constantly talk about and don’t be nervous to have a one-on-one conversation. Here are five reasons you’ll be glad you did!

It Shows You’re Invested

There’s a difference between being a brown nose and a genuinely involved student. Professors are passionate about the subjects they’re teaching and knowing that you’re passionate, or attempting to become passionate about it, makes them happy. Showing up to your professor’s office hours to chat about that day’s lesson is never something they would laugh at or be annoyed with. It shows that you actually care about what they’re trying to teach you and they’ll appreciate the effort you’re putting forth. Going the extra mile will show that you’re someone taking your education seriously. It’s expensive folks, get the most out of it!

You’ll Feel More Comfortable Asking for Help

We’ve all had a moment where we’ve been shy when it comes to asking for help. College is definitely not the place to allow this to grow into a habit. You’ll learn quickly that when you’re stuck with a paper or other assignment, office hours are the best place to seek help. A lot of professors might use TA’s during their office hours, but just as often (especially when it comes to English Majors- represent!) the actual professor will be available and eager to help. They’re an amazing resource and will definitely be able to help you overcome an obstacle you might be facing. If you’re someone who hasn’t realized the benefits of asking for help, college is a good place to figure this out. By getting to know your professors better, you’ll be less likely to feel uncomfortable seeking them out for their advice, making your already chaotic semester a bit less stressful.

Professors Are Some Truly Fascinating People

I feel like this is an unwritten requirement to become a professor; you need to be super fascinating, like Barbara Walter’s Most Fascinating People fascinating. Your professor will probably let little tidbits slip in class about how cool they are, but it’s not until you’re having a one-on-one conversation that you’ll get more of the whole picture. One of my professors literally knows every part of London like the back of his hand, probably better than most people who live in London. And his collection of first edition plays dating back to the 1700s? Amazing. Another professor managed to crash Jimmy Fallon’s birthday party. And another was there when the Berlin Wall came down. See what I mean? The stories you could hear are endless.

 It Strengthens Your Ties to The School 

There are a lot of the ways to get involved in campus. Clubs, fraternities and sororities, intramural sports teams, etc. Really, the opportunities are boundless. What’s another great way to feel a part of campus? You guessed it, getting to better know your professors. Feeling the sense of community amongst your peers is great, but it’s also great to be able to say the same about the people who teach you. If you graduate and don’t feel like you made a solid connection with any of your professors, you truly missed out on something special. There’s something really nice about being able to catch up with a professor after your time in their class is over, it’s very reminiscent of what you may have experienced in high school. You’ll appreciate your college or university all the more if you appreciate the people teaching there.

 You Won’t Feel Lost or Awkward When the Time Comes for a Reference

So eventually after the four glorious years of college come to an end, you may find yourself looking for a job or entry into graduate school. This is a dreaded process for a lot of people. You’ll fill out loads of applications, stress over cover letters and send in countless requests for your transcript. In addition to all of that, you’ll need to find people willing to write you letters of recommendation. And if you don’t think those letters really count, think again. Professors are an amazing source for letters of recommendation. But if you don’t spend the time getting to know your professors in college, you may feel completely weird when it comes to asking one of them to vouch for your character. One of the most important lessons I learned in college came from my technical writing professor. We were working on an assignment focused on job applications and the subject of letters of recommendation came up. “There’s nothing worse,” he said “than a student coming to me for a letter of recommendation and not being able to place who they are. Don’t make that mistake.” Don’t be that person scrambling to find a professor to write you a letter. Develop your connections in school and feel confident when you graduate knowing that you took the time to get to know a few of your professors.

Getting to know your college professors can be a bit intimidating, but don’t be afraid to! All the reasons above are great reasons to try, but most importantly you need to recognize that your professors are people too. And while there will always be the professor who is too high on his own ego to function, the vast majority of your professors will be warm individuals who are excited to get to know you better. If you’re ten years out of college and can still drop a line to one of your old professors, that’s something to feel truly grateful about. Go ahead and drop by that next set of office hours.

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