Just like students, professors come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. Some are seasoned veterans and others relatively recently arrived from completing their own educations. Some have decades of experience teaching and conducting research at many institutions and others have been at UMBC for their entire careers. Some are chairs of their departments and others are part-time or adjunct professors who may hold prominent, industry positions outside of UMBC and bring a wealth of expertise to our campus.
What all college professors and instructors have in common is their goal to promote your learning. But your full and savvy participation in student-professor interaction is also essential.
Why You Need to Interact with Your Professors
• You learn more!
• You get to know someone who is interesting and well-informed.
• You may learn about opportunities, such as lab placements, internships, or scholarships.
• You will be a real three-dimensional person in the professor’s mind and not just a name on a roster. This can be helpful if your final grade is on a borderline. It is even more helpful when you approach this professor to write a letter of recommendation for you.
• You will have one more resource to consult about choice of major or concentration, potential careers, and courses to take next semester or next year.
• You can learn about key professional associations and societies that professors are members of (that you can join also through deeply discounted student membership rates).
• You can gain keen insights from professors about leading edge graduate school programs that you may want to consider after graduating from UMBC.
Make Sure you are Doing These Things ALL the Time—the Basics
• Attend class and be attentive, ask good questions, and participate in discussions.
• Ask follow up questions after class when they are fresh in your mind.
• Visit your professors during their posted office hours to discuss content, seek clarification.
• If your academic advisor is a professor, use your advising sessions to learn more about them, their field, and opportunities in the department.
• Use brief, well-organized e-mails to clear up factual matters, inform professors about any necessary absences from class, and administrative details.
How to Avoid Driving Professors Crazy
Like all occupational groups, university professors have their quirks, norms, and folkways. Know how to steer clear of the typical student behaviors that drive profs nuts.
The A#1 point about communicating with professors is:
Always be Respectful of Their Time
Professors are busy, have many other students, but they will be happy to talk to you if you:
• Try not to ask questions that are already answered on the course syllabus or elsewhere unless you need clarification. This can demonstrate that you are not paying attention to information already provided.
• Do not expect professors to answer e-mails instantly. Two to three days is a reasonable expectation for a non-urgent question.
• Do not address professors by “Hey you,” by first name, or just leave the salutation blank on your e-mail. Instead, “Dear Professor Taylor” is always courteous. And always identify yourself too—“Jason L., a student in your POLI 200 class” is good.
• Approach them after class, during posted office hours, or make an appointment for a mutually convenient time.
INSIDER TIP: When you see them randomly on campus, in the Commons, on the parking lot, or the rest room, always greet your professors cordially, by name! Greet them when you see them at the grocery store or the mall! They will be pleased to be noticed (seriously) and will return the greeting even if they can’t remember your name! Make them sweat for a few seconds and then give them a little help if they are struggling—“I’m Linda V. from your 11 o’clock Micro class!”
Impress Your Professor: 5 Questions to Ask (and Avoid), posted 1/9/2013 on the Huffpost College blog by Sue Wasiolek, Anne Crossman, and Peter Feaver.
Best Ways to Get to Know Your Professor, posted 7/7/2015 on fastweb! by Elizabeth Hoyt
EXTRA CREDIT FUN POLL
Where do you find your professors to be most accessible and willing to answer questions, talk about course content, or discuss other topics of mutual interest? Pick one.