Wednesday, September 4, 2013

College Firsts: What to do on your first meeting with a professor

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One of the worst mistakes students make is not meeting with their professors until they get a bad grade.

To make the most of your first semester in college, you should meet with your professors right away. 

Professors know your college campus better than anyone, have great academic advice, and can write you recommendation letters (when they know you well) that can get you into your top-choice transfer universities and win you thousands of dollars in scholarships. 

One of the greatest benefits of going to community college is the direct access you have to your professors. Take advantage of it right away by doing the following:

1) Make a note of the office hours and e-mail addresses for each professor.

2) Pay attention to what your professors say in the first week of class about their preference in how you can best reach them.

3) If they don't specify, ask the professor in person whether he or she prefers you to send an email to set up an appointment or to just walk in during office hours.

4) Using the specifications, meet with each professor as soon as possible.

5) In your request, tell the professor this is your first semester in college and you would like to ask for their advice.

6) Read the professor's syllabus thoroughly and then write down 3-5 questions you want to ask the professor about the class, upcoming projects, and - most important - about college itself. 

Don't be afraid to be vulnerable and share some of your story - remember most professors are in this work because they want to help students succeed.

Some sample questions:
  • This is my first semester in college and I'm feeling a little scared and unsure; could you give me some advice when it comes to stepping outside of my comfort zone?
  • What student organizations do you think are the best to get involved with on campus?
  • What was your first semester of college like and how did you make the most of the experience/ 
  • [For professors who teach a subject you're thinking about majoring in, ask what they liked about the major to find out more if it's a good fit for you.]
  • [If you're unsure about your major, tell the professor your confusion and ask for advice.]
  • [If you're unsure about where to transfer after community college, ask the professor for advice on the best schools.]
  • I really want to do well in your class and am looking forward to [insert an assignment or two that you're excited about that you read in the syllabus]. Do you have any advice on how to do well in your class based on students who have succeeded in the past?

7) Come to the office armed with your questions. All you have to do is listen. It's really not that hard and takes a lot of the pressure off. 

8) Send a follow up e-mail thanking the professor for his or her time.

9) Take some time to consider which professor you clicked with the most and really felt comfortable with. Continue to meet with that professor and ask for advice. 

10) Remember the best way to have a mentor is to take that persons advice and then tell that person how much that advice helped you. People are very generous with their time as long as they know you're really taking the advice seriously.

In short, professors make a difference. The best professors go above and beyond teaching in the classroom to instill what students need most - hope. 

See some amazing stories of how professors are changing lives in the One Professor campaign - and be sure to honor a professor who's impacted your life.  

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