Back to School: Get to know your professors

For those of you who are starting school this week, I have one huge tip for you: get to know your professors. I didn’t get to know my professors as well as I should have during university and now I wish I had made more of an effort to do so.

It can take some work to get to know a professor though, so it’s totally ok to not be like BFF’s with every last prof. Some profs are definitely kind of stingey and will straight up refuse to meet students outside of office hours no matter the circumstance, which can be a problem if they have busy office hours and you’re having to wait for a really long time and can only get a few minutes of face time and therefore have to stick to 1 specific course related question (which can often be answered via email) or if their office hours conflict with a job, another course, or other life obligations. So don’t sweat it, some profs might be jerks or maybe they just want to take a hard line on the issue because some students are slackers and they don’t want people thinking that their time is fair game when they end up having not-busy office hours for no good reason so you can try any how if their hours really just don’t work.

Meeting with and getting to know your professors is good because…

  • they might have a lot of contacts in a lot of places if you’re looking for work when you graduate and it’s great to have people in your corner
  • most masters and some post-graduate or other programs require academic references in addition to or instead of professional references.
    • While professors kind of have to write references as part of their job (I don’t think they don’t have to say yes if they are like “I don’t know you well enough” and they might write a bad reference if you were actually a bad student, it’s always helpful when the people writing your references know you well enough that they don’t need to be spoon fed information and are willing to write good things
  • most of all, professors are just often interesting people and are experts in their field and you can have interesting conversations with them

So try to go to office hours even if you just want to talk about the class readings, and try to email your professor about questions or to ask if you can meet with them if their office hours don’t work for your schedule, stay after class to talk to them and so forth.

One thing that I waited for a long time to do was to tell some professors that I wanted to do my masters, in what field, and why. If I went back, I’d start sooner and approach 3 or 4 profs instead of just 1 on a (reasonably) regular basis. Talking to one of my profs about my plans to get a masters also led to many interesting conversations. A lot of professors do care about their students and, given that they have PhD’s, they’ve been there/done that and can be great people to talk to and get a better sense of your research and what to expect from doing your masters. It can be great to have someone in your corner and it is a good excuse to talk to that prof about their research more.

Feel free to go to class and just do your work, that’s totally ok. I’m just saying that knowing your professors can actually be really awesome because they’re interesting and it is always great to have cool people in your corner just because they’re humans or maybe because you’ll need a reference someday. You don’t even necessarily have to do about it the way that I did. Just know it’s a wonderful idea and something that you’ll likely carry positively with yourself for years after you’ve already finished school.

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