Back in high school, there were roughly 30 students in every class, so getting to know my teachers was nearly an automatic experience. But once I started college at a public university, where my lectures had anywhere between 30 to 500 other students, that task became a lot more difficult.
It was hard to get a professor to even notice me without making an effort. Not only that, it was intimidating to approach the professor when so many of them were world-renowned leaders in their respective fields. So here is what I learned about developing a student-professor relationship and perhaps it will help make the experience a bit less daunting for you!
The easiest technique that I learned to do was sit in the first few rows of the lecture hall or classroom. When you sit in the back, there are all sorts of distractions that can pull your mind away from the material at hand. Students will be shopping, on Netflix, or working on other course material. But when I sat in the front, I found that I was more motivated to stay focused, take diligent notes, and have better eye contact with the professor. Another perk of sitting in the front is that you can easily volunteer for any demonstrations that the professor needs extra hands for. This is especially true in chemistry or physics classes! In the same way, you can answer questions more easily when the professor can see you raising your hand in the front row.
In fact, that’s another tip. Ask and answer questions! It’s impossible for professors to check on each and every student when the class is 300 students total. So it’s on you to make the effort. Raise your hand in class, offer your thoughts when the professor poses a question to the group, and ask for clarification after class.
The absolute best way to develop a relationship with your professors is by going to office hours. These are blocked hours during their schedule when students are invited to ask their questions either 1:1 or in a group setting. The facetime you can get from office hours is exactly why it is the key to doing well in the class. And that commitment to learning is something I know professors appreciate seeing. You can talk to them about the homework, ask for clarification on an example from the lectures, or even ask about their career paths. Many of your professors will be willing to mentor you or offer advice about your career aspirations. You just have to actively seek it!
Hopefully these tips can help guide you in the right direction! It can be intimidating at first but trust me when I say that getting to know your professors will MAKE your academic experience. I gained so many mentors and received invaluable advice that I can now carry throughout my life. And you can too!
Navya is a consultant on the Study Hall Consulting team. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2021 with a double major in Molecular Cell Biology and Public Health. She is currently working as a medical assistant and applying to medical school. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.