College is better if you get to know your professors
October 3, 2013 12:00 PM
Carlow associate professor Cory Maloney teaches about open source computer programming.
By Amir Vera Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's that first week of classes. You're a freshman. Walking into your first lecture can be intimidating, especially if you're used to small classes in high school like I was.
Things are different in college; you may be one of about 300 students in a class. The question now becomes how to develop a relationship with your professors in this sea of students.
The first way to do this is to sit obviously in the front. Don't fall into the high school trap and try to be one of the cool kids sitting in the back. For one, you won't have a good view of the lecture. And two, you're not as focused if you sit in the back. In the front, the professor gets to know your face and will begin to recognize you outside of class.
I usually try to sit somewhere in the first three to five rows. There were times I sat in the back, with the sleepers and Facebookers, but for the most part I tried to sit toward the front.
Don't be afraid to ask questions before, during or after the lecture. This was hard for me when I first got into college. I don't know what it is, but walking up to a professor (especially one who isn't afraid of calling students out) is intimidating. But they're just regular people like you and me, and they are willing to help.
So if you're in class taking notes and something confuses you, circle it and see the professor when the lecture's over. It'll show that you paid attention. Professors notice the little things and will be much more willing to help you if you show initiative.
This leads to office hours. If you really want to build a good reputation with your professor, go to his or her office hours. You get better, in-depth help because it's one-on-one, and it illustrates your ambition to learn.
I usually try to go to my professors' office hours for one of three reasons: a missed class, an upcoming essay and preparation for an exam.
If I miss class, I go to catch up on what I missed because I don't like trying to decipher other people's notes.
I'll go for help on an essay, especially because different professors look for different things.
Lastly, I go to office hours before exams. If you're taking a very challenging class -- for me, it was Media Law -- going to office hours before an exam adds an extra dimension to studying.
If you're going through your notes and PowerPoints and see something that doesn't make sense, going to your professor will alleviate some of that confusion.
Getting out of the classroom and being involved in clubs and organizations will help you to actually know your professor. A lot of professors are advisers, leaders or founders of organizations on campus, especially in their field of study.
As a journalism major, I have a lot of professors who are heads of the Student Media Center, Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Advisory Board. I'm a member of all of these organizations, which allows me to see my professors in a professional light.
By having them know me as a person, I'm able to get good references for the future. I'm not saying you should join organizations for the sole purpose of getting a reference, but it's an added bonus.
If your schedule is too busy for you to go to the meetings, go to the office hours and express your interest. Maybe your professor will be able to tell you a way you can be involved on your own.
In short, you don't have to suck up to professors for them to notice you. Just start slow, begin by asking questions in class and going to their office hours. Then as you progress in your college career, join organizations and student groups.
From building these relationships with your professors, you learn basic people skills and networking, which definitely help in the long run.
Amir Vera, who was a summer intern at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University where he majors in print/online journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM