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Make College Easier: Know Your Professors

By Shreya Prabhakar

October 9, 2018

30,000. That’s the total number of students that attend my university. To put that number into perspective, that’s 150 times the size of my entire ``high school. To say that college was a big jump for me would be a massive understatement.  Everyday I constantly pass by students I’ve never seen before and professors that I’ve only ever heard about. 

College tends to be a place where students are constantly surrounded by the unknown. Whether it’s a big public university or a small liberal arts college, the number of opportunities, services, and experiences at your disposal is infinite. For a lot of students, this can be rather discombobulating, not only socially, but also academically. Wherever you end up, people always emphasize the importance of finding your own niche. This can mean anything from finding your own group of people that share similar interests or finding a major that hones in on your unique skillset. This is crucial. 

College is your time for trial and error. You’re at an age where you’re trying to figure out what you want to pursue from thereon out, while still having access to ample resources readily available to guide you. The task of self-discovery and future planning may seem daunting, but there’s one failproof tip that’s bound to work for anyone – know your professors. 

Every single one of your professors teaches to see their students succeed. Even if they’re tough on the grading, or less lenient towards extensions, they all just want to push you to learn and grow. In your path towards becoming a doctor, lawyer, journalist, meteorologist, or even a performing artist, your professors are by far your most valuable resource. Here’s why:

Better Class Performance

Having a conversation with your professor and establishing a connection with them will motivate you to perform well in their class. When you don’t have that connection, you’re more likely to become complacent and settle with the progress you’re making, or the lack thereof. Speaking with your teachers will also make you more comfortable in reaching out and asking for help. If you have a question on a concept or want to seek advice on how to perform better on the next exam, you’ll be less hesitant in directly asking the professor. After all, they are the ones that write the exam, so what better resource is there? This will guarantee greater progress in the course learning. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have to visit them during their office hours for them to get to know you. Sitting at the front of their classes and participating in class discussion, will automatically help you stand out so that by the time you do get that one-on-one time them, they already remember who you are. 

There is another undeniable perk to allowing the professor to get to know you. Throughout the course, they’ll be able to grasp you’re work ethic and desire to improve, which can help tremendously in the final stretch. In many cases, if you’re at the very cusp of an A- and B+, they may take into consideration your profound effort and round your grade up. Ultimately, being acquainted with the professor means there is someone other than yourself holding you accountable for your work, not to add pressure, but to show you that your effort isn’t going unnoticed. 

Internships and Job Opportunities

Professors are often the most knowledgeable about the jobs and internships available in their respective fields of expertise. Not only that, they’re also well-acquainted with the education and experience needed to pursue those opportunities. So, you can always reach out to them for the most comprehensive breakdown of what to pursue in order to land your dream job. Many of the faculty simultaneously conduct their own research while also teaching, so starting a conversation with them may even open up doors for you to contribute in their studies. 

It’s also important to remember that everyone has a story that’s much more unique and expansive than you’re aware of. You may find things out about your professor that you never expected, which can lead you to many more pleasant surprises. I once emailed a member of the business administration department that was conducting research in the ethics of gender disparity in the corporate world because I was interested in learning about her findings. Upon reading her bio, I found that she oil-painted and conducted her own showcases in her free time, which coincidentally was something I was looking into around that time. So, what was supposed to be a query about her research, turned into an opportunity for me to gain advice in a passionate hobby of mine. You never know where conversations will take you, so don’t miss out on a chance to have them!

A Valuable Connection

Finally, getting to know your professor will allow you to not only create a bond that’ll push you to perform better, but will also help you establish a lifelong connection. This can mean anything from a LinkedIN connection to a valuable letter of recommendation later on. So, once you’ve introduced yourself to faculty, continue to keep in touch with them. They always want to hear how they’ve helped in any individual’s path and some day, you can become an example for their successive students as well. Don’t forget to thank them for their help and acknowledge what you were able to accomplish because of it. 

College doesn’t have to be a never-ending test of what you want to do and whether you have the skillset for it. It doesn’t have to be a journey that you embark on and struggle through on your own. It can be incredibly rewarding and a million times easier if you take that first step and develop a relationship with your professors. They are first and foremost your allies and as long as you show that you’re seeking their guidance, they’ll guarantee a helping had in return. So, don’t wait. The next time you pass by your professor, start with “Hello!”

A native of Greensboro, NC, Shreya Prabhakar is pursuing her undergraduate education in Biology and Economics with a minor in Chemistry as a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, soccer, traveling, and painting. Her dream job is to be the CEO of a hospital.

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