Teachers and professors are similar yet different. Imagine two animals with the same genus, but they’re from wildly different species – that’s the best way to describe the difference between these two educational positions. For one, high school teachers (and those from any other grade) have a commitment to personalized education and student treatment. Teachers learn a lot about their students, despite maybe having 200 in a year.
College professors, however, typically have a very impersonal job. There will always be those standout students, the teacher’s aides and favorites, but in general their students are essentially there to listen and leave. This is due both to the way college classes are set up with small semesters with few classes, as well as the high volume of students they receive. Depending on the class, there may be up to 100 students in one class, and most teach more than one in a semester.
This creates a problem for freshmen who are still getting used to the college transition. They’re likely confused about something related to the class, want some advice on homework or just some general class reassurance. This means connecting with and impressing someone who may not even remember their name.
The key to connecting with professors is making a good first impression, and here’s how you do it:
Don’t lose your intensity.
Professors don’t have time for people who take classes to blow them off or not pay attention. Your first day of class, you’re likely wide-eyed if you’re a freshman, and you’ve got all of your ducks in a row. This kind of attitude is something you have to keep up if you want to connect with a professor.
This isn’t to say you have to be an A+ student with no troubles. Keep up your intensity and interest, but you don’t have to be the brightest star in the bunch. Professors like those who try, not those who slack off and fail.
Don’t fall by the wayside.
Many students simply fade into the background, making them unremarkable to professors. This isn’t just because of the high class volume, but also because of their choice. Instead, look to standing out – but do it subtly.
What does this mean? Some students want to be the teacher’s pet, but most professors don’t want to interact with an awkwardly over-zealous student. Don’t get too extreme, but find ways to make your presence known. Speak up once a class if the setting is right, but ask questions that matter or make remarks that are insightful. Many discussions in class are presented to engage with students, so take the bait.
Take advantage of communication methods.
When you want to connect in the real way, make sure that it’s on your professor’s time. Most professors have office hours and other means of communication available, like email addresses or social media. The second you have a question or become worried about class comprehension, talk to your professor.
Communication is something professors appreciate above all else. No professor likes to come in at the end of the semester to find an email inbox full of students asking for extra credit at the last minute or questions that could have been asked weeks earlier. When you communicate early, you get the help you need from them ASAP.
It’s also a good idea to be complimentary of professors. When they help you, tell them so. Not just a thank you, either. “Thank you so much, Professor Jones. Your notes really help me study for the tests you give.” Make things specific and tell them what they’re doing that’s good for you. This makes you memorable, complimentary and forges a connection that can be useful as the semester continues.