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8 ways to build a successful student relationship with your professor

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Successful Take Stock college students know how to work well with their class instructors. Remember, your professors not only decide your grade, but also help you understand the subject matter, and can be excellent contacts as you grow in your career.

This may sound daunting, but never fear! Your College Completion Coaches have drafted a list of eight ways you can nurture a productive relationship with your instructors both inside and outside of class:

  1. Visit their office hours

    Check your syllabus for your instructor’s office hours. Ideally, you should visit office hours for each of your professors at least twice a semester. Remember there is one of them, but there are dozens—if not hundreds—of students in every class. By coming to see your teacher outside of class, you distinguish yourself from your other classmates.

    In setting aside time to visit during office hours, you demonstrate that you are serious about the class and dedicated to learning the material. It is good practice to prepare a question or topic so you have a reason for coming in. While you are there, you can tell them a bit about yourself. What your major is, what your career aspirations are, what you are hoping to get out of the class and so on. Try to limit yourself to only 5-10 minutes. You don’t want to wear out your welcome with extended chitchat, and other students may be waiting outside.

  2. Participate in class

    Another great way to impress your instructor is to be an active participant in class. Respond to any questions that are posed to the class or ask your own questions. If this class promotes discussion, you should aim to speak at least once or twice every time the class meets.

    We know that talking in class can be a bit nerve-wracking for some quieter students, but there are some nonverbal ways to demonstrate your participation as well. Take plenty of notes, make eye contact with the professor when they are lecturing, give affirming nods to show you are engaged. If your teacher is handing things out to the class, offer to assist!

    Don’t forget: participation often factors into your grade as well! Check your grade breakdowns on your syllabi, you are likely to find participation makes up 5-10% of your final grade! In fact, College Completion Coach Autumn Huffman and her fellow instructors often said it is very difficult for a student who doesn’t participate in class to earn an A at all.

  3. Practice good email etiquette

    Much of your interactions with your professors will be handled via email, so it is important to know how to write professionally. You should NEVER send an email without a subject. Begin your email with a greeting that uses your instructor’s appropriate title such as “Good Morning Dr. Green.” Again, your teachers likely teach multiple classes or different sections of the same class, so it is important you begin by saying who you are and what class and section you are in. Be sure you describe your question or concern clearly and concisely. Be sure to sign off with a thank you and your full name.

  4. Reach out if you will be absent

    While it is vital that you make every attempt to attend all of your classes each week, sometimes you will fall ill or have an emergency. If you are going to be absent, email your professor immediately; ideally before class begins. Let them know you will not be in class, why you can’t make it, and assure them you will get the notes from another student. Remember, absence is NOT an accepted excuse for late assignments. If something is due, email it in prior to the start of class. Take every possible step to avoid missing tests; your instructor may not allow you to make up the test at a later time. However, if an emergency should arise, be sure to reach out to your instructor at the earliest available moment. Hopefully, if you have a good track record with your teacher, accommodations can be made.

  5. Be familiar with the syllabus

    Nothing will annoy your professor quite so much as asking questions whose answers are readily available on your syllabus. As a general rule of thumb, DO NOT email or approach your professor with a question until you have looked over your syllabus/assignment guidelines. Of course, you are encouraged to ask clarifying questions, but we recommend you make your intentions clear. For example, “I see on the syllabus that we have daily reading quizzes, but I have to miss class on Friday, 09/27 for my sister’s wedding. Would it be possible for me to take a make-up quiz?” By acknowledging you are familiar with the syllabus policies, you demonstrate you are paying attention. Such practices may encourage your professor to be flexible and understanding!

  6. Write your name on everything

    This advice may seem basic, but you have no idea how critical it is. Never turn in anything to your professor without putting your full name, class name, section number and date on it. If you turn in a multiple-page assignment such as a research paper, be sure to both staple it and write your last name next to all your page numbers in case there is an accident.

    Also, be sure to follow the directions on your assignment guidelines. If your assignment says double spaced, Times New Roman, or something else, then you need to make certain you turn in your assignment in the proper font and formatting. Failure to do so shows that you didn’t follow directions before your professor even reads a word of your work! Proper labeling and formatting is considerate and can help avoid the appearance that you neglected to turn something in.

  7. Get involved

    Sometimes your professor will ask students to volunteer to participate in their research studies or to join their clubs. Not only can these opportunities be fun, but they can provide additional chances to get to know your instructors.

  8. Keep in touch after your class is over

    If you establish a good rapport with your professor during your semester in the class, don’t hesitate to keep in touch once class is over. If you really enjoyed their class, ask them what else they are teaching. You might even be able to take your favorite teacher again in a different course. We recommend you apply a particular focus on maintaining relationships with the professors in your major course of study. These individuals will be able to write you letters of recommendation for you down the road and might even become professional references once you begin applying for jobs. 

Don’t forget: your professors are people too. To grow your relationship with an instructor you need to put in the same consideration and time you would with anyone else. Building relationships with your teachers is a good opportunity to develop your professional veneer and soft skills that will be expected of you on the job.

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