This is a guest blog post written by, Sarah Greenberg from The Happy College Girl.
Hey, college girl, One of the biggest parts of college is meeting and developing relationships with professors. Yes, we want to connect with professors because they inspire us, teach us new things, and help us discover our dreams. But, real talk: professors can also help us get into grad school, find our next job or internship, and complete major school projects. We know this. They know this.
I needed the help of my professors a lot in college. Aside from assistance with understanding course material, I needed recommendation letters to transfer from community college to a university and then again for acceptance into graduate programs, formal advisement on my Master’s project and help with figuring out my next career move. Sometimes I felt slimy, needy, or not good/smart/hardworking enough to approach my professors about helping me. But as a busy college girl, I couldn’t afford to waste time being anxious when I had college/job/internship applications and big-time school projects hanging over my head. I had to figure out a way to get over my anxiety and ask my professors for what I needed.
Can you relate to feeling nervous or guilty about asking your professors for something-a letter of rec? Feedback on your grad school application essays? Networking opportunities? Professors can and WANT to help you with all of these things. But professors need to know who you are (a confident, happy college girl, that’s who!) and what you want so that they can support you. Here are a few ways to stand out to your professors so that they write you great letters of rec, advise you on major projects, and put you in touch with people in your desired career field:
1. Speak up in their class. The fastest way to make yourself known to your professors is by participating in their class. Make a goal to say at least one thing every class period. Make a comment, ask a question, or volunteer to read a passage from the day’s reading. Consistent participation familiarizes professors with your voice and face, and shows them that you take their class seriously.
2. Say hi/bye/thank you to your professors during class. Manners matter. Also, if you loathe speaking in class, this tip is for you. When you enter the classroom, make a point to look your professor in the eyes and say “Hey Dr/Prof________.” At the end of class, say “Bye/Thanks, Dr./Prof______.” A consistent greeting or farewell forces your professors to know who you are (or at least what you look like). Plus, when they see you or think of you (i.e. when writing a letter of rec, grading your paper), they’ll remember how polite you are.
3. Visit your professors during their office hours. This is a big one, especially if your courses are lectures and too big for you to connect with your professor during class. You need to have one-on-one time with your professors so that they view you as a top student, a student who takes the time to express her curiosity about the course content. Think of a reason to stop by their office or make an appointment with them. Ask them for their opinion on your paper topic. Tell them about a part of their lecture that really interested you and why. Even if you don’t care about the course topic and just want to woo your professor, you need to approach him/her with some kind of authentic interest in the course. Maybe this course relates to/helps you think differently about your other courses; tell your professor that!
4. Email them with links to articles/events they might enjoy. One of my friends did this all the time and it works! When you come across an article, resource, or event that relates to one of your courses, email the link to your professor. Professors love when you think about their course outside of class time. And as humans, it’s nice when someone tells you about something they think you’d like, right? Write a short email (2-3 lines) about the event/article and why you think your professor would be interested in it. Your prof will think you’re hardworking AND thoughtful. Double. Whammy.
5. Remember that professors were in your shoes once. If you find yourself freaking out about asking your professors for something, take comfort in the fact that they were college students too. Just like you, they needed letters of recommendation, advisors for their theses, connections for jobs, etc. In fact, if your professors are PhD’s, then they needed a LOT of help getting to where they are now. Most professors remember how much help they needed…and will be more than willing to help their students in the same way. You’ve got big goals, college girl. Your professors can help you reach them. You don’t have time to be stalled by anxiety about approaching your professors for help. As long as you approach your professors genuinely (using the above tools), you’ll get everything you need so that you can go out and rock the world!
About the author: Sarah Greenberg is a coach and writer dedicated to helping women in college accomplish their academic and personal goals, and feel peaceful while doing it. As the girl behind The Happy College Girl, she helps women in college navigate all of the stress and anxiety of school and life with ease.