| By Nora Fogarty |
If you’re like me, you probably prefer to sit towards the back of a classroom or lecture hall, and you participate with some frequency, but not that much. You’d probably rather watch the discussion take shape, and form your own opinions while you listen, and then let your work do the talking instead. I’ve long since accepted that as a student, I’m not particularly vocal. Now that I’m a senior, though, and approaching graduation at what feels like breakneck speed, the time to be something other than a wallflower in class has arrived, and I’m just going to have to accept it.
There’s a lot of information out there about how to connect with your professors in college. By all accounts, these connections are extremely important; a lecturer or instructor who knows you is a valuable asset, whether you’re looking for simple test help, advice on your term paper, or someone to write that oh-so-crucial job or graduate school recommendation letter.
The thing is, it can be difficult to connect with a particular professor or faculty member at the eleventh hour of your senior year. In fact, it’s a little inconsiderate, when you consider the amount of work those professors are probably tackling then, from grading papers to writing letters to every other item on their respective to-do lists. For this reason, it’s a great idea to start forming these connections early!
Do you have a favorite class, one in which the topic of the day never fails to excite or interest you? Or is there a course that you find impossibly hard, but feel rewarded more than others when you excel or understand the material? The instructors in these classes may be just who you should be connecting with. And if you’re staring the end of your college time in the face, don’t panic just yet. There are a lot of ways to become more involved and form those connections.
If you aren’t sure how to begin forming the great connections you’ve always wanted, here’s a start. Go to your professor’s office hours. A lot of faculty members really enjoy meeting with students, especially since they’ve set aside those times to meet with their classes to talk about the material. Even if you aren’t struggling in a class, going to office hours to develop a deeper understanding of what you’ve learned that week shows initiative and can lead to a really great conversation with your professor, one that you’ll both enjoy. And if you are having difficulty, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You have an expert on the subject at your disposal!
Another tip for connecting with your instructors? Don’t make every conversation you have solely about your grade. They understand that your GPA is important, and that you want the best possible outcome in every class. But if you only talk to the instructor (or anyone, really) when there’s a problem, that relationship might not be as strong as it would if you showed interest in their subject and the learning process itself, rather than the bare bones requirements. A productive educational relationship is not built in a day or on one short chat about that pop quiz you bombed last week.
Above all else, just make the effort. Regardless of how you feel about participating in class, or whether you’re the strongest student in that section or not, building a solid foundation with your professors can only be beneficial, and you might just find that you really enjoy talking to them! As I slog through the process of applying to graduate school and debate whether or not to take a gap year, start work right away, or just become a reclusive cat lady for the rest of my life, I’ve been very glad to have a great relationship with a few select faculty members, who I know are qualified and happy to give me advice or share their own experiences. Reach out – it’s absolutely worth it.