Updated: Mar 5, 2022
When I was a college freshman many, many years ago, one of my friends gave me a piece of advice that I still remember to this day. She told me to schedule a meeting with each professor once per semester “just because.” Even if you don’t need it, she told me, visit your professors’ office and talk to them. Someone had given her this piece of advice and she passed it on to me….and now I’m passing it on to you.
Why is it important for college students to talk with their professors?
Talking to professors let’s them know that you care about your grades and college. Right or wrong, professors like it when students talk to them because it shows initiative. Talking to a professor shows that you care about your grade, your assignment….their class.
Talking to professors lets professors know that you are thinking about their class. When students email a professor with a question it lets the professor know that the student is thinking about the class outside of class time.
Talking to professors helps the professor know a little bit more about the student as a person – who the student is outside of class. I remember talking to one of my sociology professors and learning that he was an introvert in class (like me) and he encouraged me to speak up in class because he thought I was doing well and he wanted me to share what I knew with the rest of the class.
I felt a connection with my professor after our conversation because he understood that I was shy in class, but encouraged me to speak up. He eventually became a professor that I asked for a letter of recommendation when I graduated.
Although there are no “brownie points” in college there are definitely moments when a college professor can be on the fence about a student’s grade. For example, if a student’s grade is a 79% and if the student has talked with the professor throughout the semester, this moment of indecision could lean in the student’s favor. The 79% could become an 80% simply because your student has talked with their professor.
Now you know WHY it’s important to talk with professors. Here are 5 tips to help your student become more comfortable talking to their professor:
1. On the first day of class, approach your professor after class and tell him/her your name and that you’re looking forward to being in their class. That’s it. Start with small conversations in order to build up to big conversations.
2. Tell your student that professors enjoying helping and that answering questions is not an inconvenience. Students perceive their questions as annoying to professors but it’s actually quite the opposite.
3. If face to face conversations are difficult, encourage your student to send emails first. Asking questions via email can be a stepping stone to self-advocacy in person. Some professors who are very busy might even prefer email communication.
4. Be ready for small talk. Be prepared to talk about yourself, your major, your learning style, etc. Understand that your professor might ask you about yourself so be prepared to talk for a few minutes about yourself.
5. It’s up to you to decide if you want to disclose a disability or learning challenge. You can ask your professor a question, but it’s up to you if you want to share a diagnosed learning disability. You don’t have to disclose it to your professor but it may be helpful.
Are you interested in conversation starters or suggestions for how to design a self-advocacy activity with your student(s)?
My new workbook for educators, parents and students is full of over 80 worksheets with activities (just like this one!) to help busy teachers and parents build their students' self-advocacy and college readiness skills.