Especially now that the semester is ending, it is vital to get on your professors’ good sides. No, I don’t mean becoming the ass-kisser who sits in the front row and relentlessly participates for brownie points, making everyone else inwardly (sometimes outwardly) groan. Professors see through fake behavior just as well as other students do; getting on your professor’s good side actually involves trying to know them better outside the classroom.
For some, small talk with professors can be uncomfortable and intimidating. We often forget that the professors who stand in front of us every day for an hour are people, too. From a student’s perspective, it’s easy to only view a professor as the foreboding authority figure with a red pen. In their hands lies the fate of our grades and, sometimes, our futures. This isn’t all there is to your professors, though: Outside the lecture hall, they actually have lives, interests, problems and human characteristics just like us.
Shocking, I know.
In reaching out to professors, office hours are essential. Even if you’re acing the class and don’t need additional help, most professors really appreciate the gesture of visiting during this open-office time. By setting aside time in your schedule to speak with them, you’re acknowledging that the professor has also set aside time in their schedule to help you. This mutual recognition is the basis for a healthy student-professor relationship.
Dragging yourself into office hours is only the beginning, though. It’s a proven fact that this is a step in the right direction, but don’t just use the office hours for tips on how to improve your mediocre essay that you wrote the night before it was due. We all know that junk is beyond saving.
Instead, try to get to know your professor as a fellow person; most of the time, they will appreciate your company and you might even make a new friend. Being friends with a professor might seem a little strange, but it’s completely possible and it happens all the time. If you truly take an interest in a class or you study abroad through a university program, you are almost guaranteed to become closer with at least one professor during your time at USC. In fact, if graduation rolls around and you can honestly say that you haven’t gotten to know at least a handful of professors, I think this would be considered a failure.
Think about it logically: Why wouldn’t you want to get to know your professors better? A professor is someone experienced in the field of study you’ve chosen to pursue, so it only seems fitting that you would seek them out and try to forge a connection.
Aside from possessing a vast knowledge of the coursework, your professor can answer questions you have concerning the careers and opportunities that relate to the subjects you’re studying.
Professors are among the best resources available to students on campus. They provide opportunities for research, connections for obtaining an impressive job and, most importantly, expert advice. It makes sense to talk with your journalism professor about getting published in the real world or discussing the trials and tribulations of med school with the person who instructs your biochemistry class.
Recommendation letters and references are always a plus on resumes, and professors will write glowing reviews about you if you make the effort to interact with them outside classroom hours. Take an interest in the research or projects they’re doing. It feels nice when others ask you about your side projects and personal endeavors, so apply this idea to interacting with your professors. There’s more to learn from them besides the material assigned from a syllabus and, most often, this unassigned material is the most rewarding.
If you’re reading this and forming a counter-argument that none of your classes inspire you to talk with your professor about the subject, then you are definitely creating the wrong schedule. You should at least be able to identify certain aspects of your major or minor that attracted you to them in the first place; once you find these, figure out how to discuss them with your professor.
No matter how obscure your interests or how vague your questions, never hesitate to bring them up with your professor during office hours. They’ve gone through a similar experience — the difficult collegiate path of finding yourself and a successful place in the career world — so take advantage of the advice they can give.
Professors are valuable assets to university students for a multitude of reasons, but the most important one to remember is their ability to provide much-needed guidance. Just like any sort of teacher, professors have the ability to make or break an academic experience. With that in mind, seek out the professors who inspire you and strike up a conversation. You won’t be disappointed.
Nick Cimarusti is a junior majoring in English and Spanish. His column “Get Schooled” runs Mondays.