How You Can Build Rapport with Your Professors

It can be easy to sneak through classes without ever uttering a word directly to your professor. It’s a pretty typical scene. You sit in the back, you never raise your hand, you hide your head in the hopes he or she won’t call on you, and you rush out the door the minute you hear the glorious words, “class dismissed.” There’s nothing wrong with this per se, and if you’re a smart student, you’ll probably do fairly well on exams just by studying hard. But there are a number of benefits to establishing relationships with your professors. Perhaps most importantly is the connections they can provide. Professors are often well-established in their field, so if they’re teaching a class related to the field you want to enter, it can definitely uncover some interesting fields for you to take the time to say hi and maybe mention something about your desired career. More than likely he or she will be willing to provide you with some helpful hints or even give you a number to call. It can be nerve wracking to just waltz right up to a professor who can seem as if they stand ten feet tall that first day of class. Start by simply making a point to speak up in class. Ask questions, and answer them too. If you’re in a particularly quiet class this will be sure to catch your professor’s eye. When you ask a question, if you don’t understand the explanation entirely or had a follow up thought, stop by his or her desk after class. Not only will this solidify the earlier interaction, but it will give you a chance to do something essential to building a rapport – introduce yourself! Especially in larger classes, unless you take the initiative you’ll end the semester as nameless and faceless to the professor as when you walked in. Don’t be afraid to speak up about assignments either. If you have a question about a homework question, book review, or term paper, take the time to discuss your questions with him or her. Utilize those few minutes before and after class starts as well as office hours and email. This can have big payoffs, too. First of all, it will mean you’re getting the help you need and not losing points because you misunderstood what was being asked or took a shot in the dark. But it also means the professor may feel more comfortable asking you questions – about what your answers or explanations meant if they were unclear, for example. Put in the work with one professor and the benefits may even motivate you to take this tact with all of them!

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