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Building Successful Relationships with Professors: 5 Tips for College Students

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It doesn’t matter if you’re starting college this fall or returning for your final year— plan to build successful relationships with as many of your professors as possible, especially if they are instructors within your major.

Professors are More Important than You Realize

Your college professors do much more than teach the classes required to earn your degree—they can act as mentors and provide you with worthwhile advice, too. A successful relationship with a prominent professor may even be your ticket to a great internship or a thriving letter of recommendation.

Even though they’re incredibly intelligent people with advanced degrees, college professors are human, too. They have lives outside of school and many of them have families. Realizing that your professors are people just like you are is a step in the right direction as you attempt to build successful relationships with them. The following five tips can also help you out.

5 Tips for Building Successful Professor / Student Relationships

  1. Make a good first impression. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. That said, be sure to show up on the first day of class. Some professors do nothing more than introduce themselves, provide students with a copy of the course syllabus and let everybody leave early on the first day, but others get the ball rolling quickly and hold a “real” first class. If you’re officially enrolled in the class, show up. You never know what you might miss and getting behind from day one isn’t a good idea.
  1. Behave in class. Behaving in class might sound like unnecessary advice when it comes to college students who are technically adults, but you’d be amazed at the things I’ve seen students do. If your professor has a rule against eating and drinking in the classroom, don’t hit up the campus Starbucks on your way to class. Last summer, a student in one of my classes left the room and returned forty minutes later with a milkshake. (I couldn’t have made that one up if I wanted to.)
  1. Help out and volunteer when you can. There’s nothing wrong with offering assistance in the classroom. If your professor has their hands full moving furniture or setting up equipment for a presentation, lend a hand. You may also want to participate in extracurricular organizations that your professor runs on campus. There’s no need to go crazy, but helping out when you can is a nice gesture.
  1. Follow directions. Following directions is just as important as behaving in class. Some professors are nonchalant about the way you type up your papers, but others are very picky regarding which font and font size to use. I’ve had professors that required printouts and digital versions of assignments to be turned in, and even though the requirement was stressed from day one someone would always show up to class without one or the other. Of course they would act confused and get mad when they were told their grade would suffer for not following directions.
  1. Call professors during “normal” hours. It may sound crazy, but every professor that I’ve ever had provided the students with their phone number. Most full-time professors at colleges and universities have their own offices with their own phone extensions, but even the adjunct professors I’ve dealt with offered their home or cell phone number. Unless you have been told otherwise (as in, “It’s okay to leave a voicemail at any hour because I won’t be in my office to hear the phone ring at 3 AM”) only call professors at reasonable times. One of my graphic design instructors, a man in his early forties with a wife and young daughter, told a story how a student actually called his home phone number at 11:00 PM to ask a question. You may be awake at all hours of the night, but your professors may not be.

These are just a few easy suggestions to keep in mind. You won’t like every professor you ever run into and there will be some that you honestly can’t stand, but there will be others that you respect and admire. Building successful student / teacher relationships with those professors will help you out in the long run!

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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