They're human too

Before asking a professor for reference letters or something similar, you first want to make sure that you have a reasonably strong relationship with them — and that the professor has a good opinion of you.

Unless you are in a smaller program, professors are probably not going to be anything like your high school teachers, if for no other reason than that your lectures will be a lot larger. You might never talk to your prof and only see your TA, but professors are still a resource for you to use.

That being said, professors can make or break a class and there are a few ways to make sure you end up on the right side of that equation. Here’s our top three:

“[The best way to get to know your professor is] after class, with meaningful questions. Either office hours or after lectures, but be genuine and honest about your approach. If you simply want to get life advice and experience and don’t genuinely have a question about lecture, be honest and I am sure professors would love to mentor.”

— Varoon Mathur

1. Research your professor beforehand: Although most people would advise against making your course decisions entirely based on Rate My Prof, the website can be handy when you see the same thing come up over and over again in the comments. Even if you have to take the class either way, it is good to know in advance if a professor hates it when students are late, or doesn’t take assignments later than the original deadline.

2. Try to be a good student: There is nothing that professors or other students hate more than when you wander into class 15 minutes late and block half a row of people while trying to get a seat while holding the large latte that made you late in the first place. Go to class, hand in your assignments on time and don’t be the person whose phone goes off every class.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk: If you want your professor to know who you are (and have any chance of getting a good reference one day), don’t be afraid to answer questions and speak up in class. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or if you are just really interested in the subject material and wanted to talk more about it, you can always visit office hours or try to talk to your professors after class. Not only will you probably understand the material better and be able to ask more in-depth questions, but you could also discover you are more interested in the subject than you previously thought.

“I can’t be the only one who stalks their professors online.”

— Daisy Zhang

Pick one