One of the most important aspects of college is learning how to network early on. Making close ties with your fellow classmates, and lifelong relationship and mentorships with your professors will only increase your chances of staying in school and obtaining a degree that sets you on a path for success.
Professors Are Human
When I first arrived at university, I was instructed by a professor to get close to two professors during my time at school. At first I was perplexed as to why, but now I see the reasoning behind this important piece of advice. First, you must understand that your professors, regardless of their educational attainment and academic abilities, are human beneath that steel-clad Ph.D — don’t be afraid to approach them because of the power dynamic. Benjamin Brody, a student at Trinity University says, “I think you’ve gotta keep in mind that professors are people too, and that means they have passions, desires, good days and bad days.” Keep in mind that at one point in their life, they were just like you — scared, unsure, and frightened about the future ahead of them.
In today’s social media driven society, students are often confused or unaware on how to properly address and email their professors. Dr. Amy Stone, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Trinity University, recommends that students educate themselves on how to properly email a professor prior to pressing the cumbersome “send” button. To avoid gender terms, as well as unknown marital status, defaulting to starting an email off with “Dr.” or “Professor” is highly recommended. The body of your email should be concise and to the point — proper grammar, punctuation, and syntax go a long way. When wrapping up an email, Stone encourages students to sign off appropriately (this means using “Best,” or “Sincerely,” followed by your given name.
Professors are more often than not required to hold a certain amount of office hours in a given period of time. This results in professors setting hours aside to sit in an office, waiting for students to come by and ask for assistance. Rising junior Monty Mckeon says, “Start the semester off strong. Show them the kind of student you are, because they’re more likely to help you later when things get tough and you begin struggling through your first season of finals.” Taking advantage of office hours in the beginning, opening up to your professors and showing them you genuinely care will only aid in your journey through university. However, you should be mindful that your professors are incredibly busy people … Make sure your reason for visiting is worth their time.
Your professors in college have substantial influence on the quality of education you receive. To connect with them appropriately, familiarize yourself with their previous research and future ideas, and you’re more likely to stand out as a student who genuinely cares about their field of study. For example, Jamiless Lopez, a rising sophomore says, “During office hours, a professor of mine mentioned that he had a new book coming out. When I asked what it was about, he lent me a draft of his work and I quickly learned his passions and that he could speak German fluently. Now, he’s a great mentor and is always eager to lend a hand in my studies.” Going out of your way to show interest can create a bond between you and the professor that may aid you later — when you actually need it. If you cannot seem to show genuine interest for a professor’s field of study, then respect is the next best option; appreciate their incredible devotion to a very specific area of study.
Play Hard, Work Harder
If you truly understand and respect a professor and their field, you’ll know that they have dedicated a majority of their life to school, and continue to do what they spent the majority of their undergraduate and graduate years doing — reading and researching. All this isn’t to say that you should neglect your social life: You’re young and want to have fun, but your professors are there to instruct you and see that you grow both intellectually and personally. It’s important to keep in mind that they were once students themselves and should be able to sympathize and relate to what you’re going through on some level. However, students who skim by — doing the bare minimum but still expecting a decent grade — are destined to lose their respect. Hard work, dedication and the ability to seek out help when needed is favored above inherent intellect. A professor would rather work with a determined, average-minded individual over a brilliant, lazy one.