Over the years, college professors have gained a reputation as being stuffy, uptight nerds who are too busy, too preoccupied, or just too snobby to interact one-on-one with their students. However, although there are a few bad apples that do their best to prove that this stereotype is true, most college professors are personable professionals who take pride in their ability to connect with and assist their students.
For a wide range of reasons, many college students make the mistake of avoiding their professors like the plague. Some are intimidated, while others think that keeping a low profile will minimize their accountability if they’re absent, unprepared for class, or otherwise MIA. But if the only word you exchange with your instructor all semester is “here” when they say your name during roll call, you’re selling yourself short.
You see, when you (or your parents) sign and send in that tuition check, part of what you’re paying for is access to your professors. Most college instructors have assigned office hours that they’re required to attend in order to fulfill the terms of their employment contracts. If you don’t make use of this resource, you’re not really getting all that you can out of your college experience. Here are some tips to help you get past your professor phobia and start interacting with the faculty at your college.
Follow the guidelines they set forth. At the beginning of the semester, most professors go over the procedures for office hours and student meetings. Make sure that you follow these rules when you need to talk to your instructor. If you’re unsure of their office hours, check your syllabus or call the department secretary. Some professors also post their office hours on their door.
Be polite. Some college students make the mistake of taking an overly informal approach when they’re talking to their professors. Although some younger faculty members may ask you to call them by their first names, assume that you should be polite and formal unless they tell you otherwise. If you are calling a professor or dropping by their office unexpectedly, make sure you ask if they have time to chat before diving in to the conversation.
If you need extra help, schedule a meeting. If you are encountering serious difficulties in class or you need special assistance going over an assignment, ask your professor for a one-on-one meeting, rather than just dropping in during their office hours. That way, they’ll have more time to devote to you without distractions, and you won’t be monopolizing all of their time.
Don’t wait until the last minute, and don’t expect any miracles. Ask most college professors about their pet peeves, and they’ll likely regale you with tales about students who storm in the day before the final exam and demand that their ‘F’ be magically transformed into an ‘A.’ In order to make the most of the help your instructors have to offer, talk to them at the first hint of trouble. Also, try not to be a crybaby – if you have an ‘F’ in the class, you probably earned it the old-fashioned way, and it’s unfair to expect your professor to risk their job by changing it.
Try not to burn any bridges. Even if you didn’t get along with one of your professors, try to be mature about it. Keep the relationship cordial, and thank them sincerely for their time on the last day of class. You never know — you might need to consult with them in the future. If you’re ever tempted to tell your professor exactly what you thought of them after you hand in your final exam, just consider how awkward it will be if, for example, you have to ask them to write a reference letter for you in the future.
Are you friendly with the faculty or professor-phobic? Have you made any mistakes dealing with college instructors in the past? Let us know in the comments.
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