You just finished your first week of classes, and you ask yourself “Do I have a good professor?” It is a reasonable question, but have you ever wondered what the professor is asking himself (or herself)? He walks out of the class asking, “Do I have a class of good students?” Are you a good student? I am sure you are, but did you make it noticeable to the professor that you were a good student? And is being a good student necessary to being perceived as a good student? In the following column, the Nerd will discuss methods that you can use to build a solid rapport with a professor and they don’t necessarily involve being a straight-A student. Grades are important, but many students will go through the course and get a good grade – you need to be different. Opening and maintaining relationships with professors is essential since these connections are the key to accessibility to research, scholarships, internships, grad school, and future careers (some professors even have some pretty interesting jobs outside of the classroom… see below).
Professors are Human
Just because someone has his or her Ph.D. does not mean that that person is no longer like “the rest of us.” They are still human, and they probably still like to be treated like a human. For example, we all like to be noticed, recognized, and cared about, but have you shown your professors that you care about them? How do you show that you care?
Showing that You Care
The life of a professor is filled with a few primary things: teaching, research, some more research, publishing books and research, and some more research. So as soon as you get the chance, maybe during the first day of class or directly after class, ask the professor, “What research are you currently working on?” If it is a younger professor, ask, “What was your graduate studies focused on?” Then if you really want to make your professor feel appreciated, you read their book or other publications. Later, go to their office to talk to them about their research or their book. Ask them questions. Questions they know the answer to and maybe questions they have yet to discover. Offer your opinion.
If you are planning on going to graduate school, by doing the above scenario you will have opened up one of the most important doors – undergraduate research. After talking to the professor about his or her area of study, they then should realize that you are also interested in the research. Next thing you know they are asking you if you would like to work on research with them over the summer.
Having problems speaking to your professor?
Perhaps it is halfway through the semester, and you have yet to build a relationship with the professor. Now you avoid speaking to the professor because you are worried it will be awkward. What is the solution? Just go talk to them. Even if you just have a five-minute conversation with the professor, it is enough to break the awkwardness. After that you can go talk to the professor at any time.
Things To Discuss with Your Professor
– News regarding the class
– An even you attended
– A movie you watched and how it related to the course
– Research that you have been doing
– Questions about the course material
– Books that you are reading
Goal for you this Semester
Each of you is should choose one professor and dedicate your efforts to building a mutually beneficial relationship with them. What’s the first step? A simple five-minute conversation after class. Once you establish a connection to the professor, you will be very satisfied you did. College will seem a lot easier for you, knowing that you have a professor you can always go to for any academic or personal issues. If you really want to seal the deal, talk about their research over a few cans of Nerd Energy drink and show them just how focused you are on their work. Keep reading the Nerd’s Word as next week’s article will offer up advice on how to survive a particularly demanding class.