Self Help-Professor

How to Get Along with your College Professor

  1. Go to class! Regular attendance is important not only for good relations with the professor, but also for ensuring that you don’t miss anything. Professors may say they don’t care about class attendance. Don’t believe it! They notice who’s there and who’s not.


  2. If emergencies arise that cause you to miss class, be sure to get notes from someone in the class whose work you respect. At the next class meeting after your absence, tell the professor you’ve gotten the notes, but that you want to double-check to make sure you didn’t miss announcements of upcoming tests, etc. Don’t dwell on the reason for your absence. The professor has probably heard it before!


  3. Don’t be late! The first few minutes of class are often used for vital announcements of upcoming tests, due dates for assignments, etc.


  4. "Better late than never" is usually a good rule of thumb, but not always. Note the professor’s reaction when other students are late, then guide your own actions accordingly. If he/she ignores students walking in late, that doesn’t mean it’s okay, but it’s better than missing class entirely. If the reaction to student tardiness is somewhat stormy, it may be better to miss class than to call attention to yourself in an unfavorable light.


  5. Professors usually announce office hours at the first class meeting each semester. It is to your advantage to know your professors and for them to know you. Make an appointment to see each of your professors no later than the fifth class meeting. Appointments may be made before or after class or over the telephone. If for some reason you must cancel, be sure to call! Remember, teaching is not your professor’s only responsibility. Don’t expect that he/she will always be available at your convenience.


  6. The purpose of meeting with a professor, regardless of your level of interest in the course, is to enhance your understanding of what is going on in class. Before your appointment, be sure you have done the following:


    • Previewed your text to familiarize yourself with topics for the remainder of the course.
    • Reviewed your notes up to that point and identified topics or issues that you don’t understand.
    • Written down at least three or four good questions about the course, such as potential topics for papers or projects, questions about the most effective ways to study the material, etc.
    • Located the professor’s office so that you won’t be late for the appointment due to wandering around the halls at the last minute. (See the TAMU electronic phonebook and campus map .)
    • Make sure you know the professor’s title (Dr., Mr., Ms.) and how to pronounce his/her name.


  7. Getting to know professors can have other benefits as well. Most of them are interesting people, knowledgeable about many topics beyond their own discipline. You may discover that you have common interests that can be the basis for a good relationship long after you have finished the course. You may also find that a particular field is much more interesting to you than you previously thought. It is not unusual for decisions about college majors to originate with a good student-professor relationship. Finally, professors may have information about special opportunities that you may find useful. Summer internships, competitive awards, graduate programs, etc., are usually posted on cluttered bulletin boards and are sometimes hard to spot. A professor who knows you may be the key to your becoming aware of these special opportunities. A single office visit won’t change your life, but it could lead eventually to many "fringe" benefits that wouldn’t have come your way if you hadn’t gotten to know your professors.


  8. Get assignments in on time! Earthquake, fire, flood, and catastrophic illness are the only excuses for turning assignments in late. You’ve got 24 hours in your day just like everyone else. You want the professor to know who you are for the right reasons! There is a definite relationship between students who do poorly on tests, receive low final grades, or fail courses, and those who turn assignments in late.


  9. Being courteous in class doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything that’s being said. When asking questions, don’t be hostile or demanding and don’t back the professor into a corner. When you disagree or don’t understand a point, be positive. Preface your question with leads like "Could you clarify the relationship between . . . ?" or "Could you elaborate on . . . ?" Avoid negative leads like "I don’t see how . . ." or "Don’t you think . . . ?"


  10. Grades are another area in which professors and students sometimes disagree. Never discuss a grade when you are angry. A test may have seemed unfair to you, but don’t label it as such when you’re discussing it with the professor. Be specific but courteous when making your points. Remember, regardless of how skillful your arguments are, the odds are that your grade won’t be changed on that particular test. But, if you make your points well, the next test may be much better constructed and may seem to you to be a fairer measure of your knowledge of the material.


  11. Most professors are experts in their fields. Many of them are not experts in psychometrics or applied learning. Realizing that very few of them have had formal training in test construction or in how to teach may help you to understand their occasional shortcomings in these areas. Most good professors have gotten that way by trial and error. Improved teaching often depends on the kind of feedback they receive from students. Avoid being negative in your comments. Specific, positive, constructive feedback can really improve the learning situation.


  12. Sit toward the front of the class and act like you’re paying attention. There is a strange but definite relationship between your distance from the professor and your distance from an "A". Regardless of how dry a lecture might be, there is always something communicated that you will be responsible for.


  13. Always bring a notebook and textbook to class. This communicates preparedness and interest, even if neither of these qualities applies to you.


Adapted from materials used at the University of North Texas.