- Go to class. You can’t have a relationship with your professor if you’re not there.
It also helps ensure you don’t miss important course material or changes in the syllabus,
such as due dates, meeting times, etc. Professors communicate things in class and
don’t like to cover the same information multiple times to account for those who didn’t
bother to show up.
- Be prepared for class. Bring a notebook, a pen, and other necessary materials. Prepare
for work and discussions by reading and preparing for activities. Turn work in on
- Take advantage of office hours. Professors have this time set aside to meet with students
for help and advising: You aren’t imposing by meeting with them. It’s helpful to introduce
yourself to your professor so you can get to know each other—it never hurts to have
the professor know who you are.
- Develop a relationship with them. Professors can provide tremendous help as a teacher,
mentor, and advisor. They can answer questions about their class, their career field,
graduate school, jobs, research, etc. Many can help you with research or assistantships
that contribute to your academic and professional development. They can also provide
guidance and letters of recommendation for jobs and internships.
- Write professional emails. Start an email with “Dear Dr. Smith,” then identify yourself
and what class you’re in and briefly state your question. Professors teach several
classes and have several students to keep track of; they won’t be able to help if
they don’t know who you are.
- If you need to miss class, tell your professor in advance. Every course varies regarding
absences and attendance, so tell your professor as soon as you can. If an emergency
causes you to miss class, let your professor know in person or via email and asked
what you’ve missed. Despite what you may think, most professors are pretty understanding
about unexpected life events and illness.
- Avoid being late. It is disruptive to enter a lecture late (or leave it early). If
you know in advance you are going to be late, let the professor know. If you must
enter late, do so as unobtrusively as possible, and speak with the professor after
class to make your apology.
- You may need to meet with a professor to get extra help with class material. Before
your meeting, be sure you have a clear question or identifiable area of need. Be on
time—if you’re running late or need to cancel, call them.
- Ask them how they prefer to be addressed. Most will introduce themselves on the first
day of class as “Dr./Mr./Ms. Smith” or tell you to call them by their first name.
If you are writing them, if they have a degree that ends in D (such as Ph.D.), it
usually means that they are referred to as “Dr.” A Master’s Degree (MA or MS) is usually
“Mr./Ms.” but it’s best to ask. If you’re not sure, remember that they’re human and
it’s OK just to ask them, “How do you prefer students address you?”
- Depending on the class, many professors value discussion and dissenting opinions.
Be courteous and polite with questions, and remember to be respectful of professors
and classmates if you are expressing a dissenting opinion.
- If you have a conflict or disagreement with your professor over a grade or course
material, don’t discuss it or fire off an email when you’re angry. Wait until you
are calm and can identify your issue/request. Be specific about your concerns and
questions. Professors may not get upset that you expressed disagreement, but they
may based upon HOW you do.
- Be specific and constructive in giving course feedback. Try not to wait until the
end of the course to express a need or dissatisfaction—if you raise it earlier, your
success or enjoyment of the course may change.
- Don’t lie. Whatever situation you’re in, it’s likely to be made worse by lying. Messages,
emails, and log-ins are usually time/date stamped, and stories are hard to keep track
of. It’s best just to deal with the situation like a professional adult.
- Sit towards the front of the class and pay attention. Your distance from the professor
is usually correlated to your distance from an “A.”
- Avoid personal communication with your professor via texting, social media, etc. Your
professor will likely tell you the best way to reach them. If you’re not sure, just
ask. While many students develop good relationships with professors, it’s important
that a professional boundary remains. If you feel that professional boundaries have
been crossed, information and support is available at the Office of Institutional Equity
Additional Resources Include