You already know the importance of getting to know your professors. For one thing, you may need recommendations later. But getting to know professors also maximizes learning. Students who maintain course-related interactions with professors via email and office hours tend to gain more knowledge and, in some cases, experience greater personal development, according to a study in the March 2005 issue of Research in Higher Education. It may not be realistic to develop relationships with all of your professors, but try to do so with as many as possible, particularly those teaching courses in your major.
Once the semester begins, time passes quickly. Meeting with your professor early on will help you get off to a good start. During the first week of the semester, try to arrive early or stay after one of the classes to introduce yourself to the professor. Unless otherwise instructed, address your professor as Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Professor. Ask for an appointment to meet with her. If she doesn’t have time to schedule an appointment, let her know that you will follow up with an email.
Even if you are able to schedule the appointment in the classroom, you should follow up with an email. Review the course syllabus. Pay close attention to the student-learning objectives and topics that will be covered. In the email, tell your professor why you are taking the course and mention a topic that you are looking forward to learning more about. Think of your email as formal correspondence. Don’t use emoticons. Use correct grammar, as detailed on the Wellesley College Project on Social Computing website.
Review course materials before meeting with your professor. The syllabus is of particular importance. Professors will revise the same course from one semester to the next. Professors also have different policies regarding attendance and other classroom-related issues. These should be explained in the syllabus. Reviewing the syllabus before the meeting will give you an opportunity to ask questions about policies or course requirements during the meeting.
Arrive early. Be sure to ask any questions that you have about policies and course requirements. Let your professor know you are committed to doing well in the course. Ask if there is anything else that might be important for you to know about the course. Be mindful of the professor’s schedule and try to end the meeting within the allotted time. Remember that this is the beginning of building a great professor-student relationship. This should be the first of several meetings that you will schedule with your professor.
Sonya Lott, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, who offers online and in office counseling to individuals struggling with grief, loss or a life transition. She also facilitates mental health workshops for educational, professional, and community groups and maintains a blog on her website www.drsonyalott.com.