It’s the first week of classes, and you’re feeling overwhelmed. You’re surrounded by new classmates in a new building at a university you only visited once or twice before you moved in. The professor at the front of the room keeps lecturing about her expectations for the course, but you have no idea how you’ll get her to remember your name, let alone pass the class.
You’re not in high school anymore. Gone are the days of study hall and standardized tests. Now, you will be expected to use the skills you learned in high school to build the foundation for the rest of your college education, and professors are a huge part of that.
Don’t let these circumstances intimidate you. Work to get to know your professors by stopping by during their open office hours and asking them a few questions.
FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK PROFESSORS
1. WHAT LED YOU INTO THIS FIELD?
First things first: learn what makes your professors tick. Do they like ancient history because they loved mummies as a child? Are they scientists because they watched the first lunar landing? The more you know about your professor, the easier you’ll be able to carry a conversation with them.
2. WHAT IS YOUR TEACHING STYLE?
This question is as much for them as it is for you. By learning your professor’s teaching style, you could be saving yourself a lot of time and heartache in the long run. This way, you can discuss with your professor what works for you, what doesn’t, and how to potentially fill the gaps in between.
3. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO STUDY/IMPROVE MY WRITING/LEARN IN YOUR CLASS?
Again, this question is a good way to figure out your place in this professor’s class. Be careful to phrase this one correctly: you’re not asking what it takes to get an A. You’re asking how to become a better student.
4. WHAT PAST EXPERIENCE HAVE YOU HAD IN YOUR FIELD?
This lets you understand how many qualifications your professor has. Some may be more experienced than others, but overall, this can also tell you what kind of connections your professor has established over the years. If you do well in their classes, they might connect you to some of those people as well.
5. WHAT OTHER COURSES WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Unless you’re interested in the subject your professor is teaching, this might not be the question for you. Still, it never hurts to ask, and even if your professor recommends something totally outside of your comfort zone, you could always give it “the old college try.”
BONUS: RECOMMENDED READING
This is definitely a question you should only ask if you intend to follow-through, but if you’re interested, go ahead and find out if you can do any further reading on the subject. Professors like to see students who are willing to go the extra mile, and who knows? Maybe what you read will help you pass the class, too!
Getting to know your professors isn’t just a task you can cross off of “how to succeed in college” to-do list. It’s an investment in your future. If you can foster real connections with your professors, then you are one step closer to building the network of professionals that will help you land a job after you graduate.
Plus, you might even discover that professors are people, too.