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How to Build a Good Relationship with Your Professor

Who can help you most in your college career? Your professors, of course! It's a good idea to get to know them a bit. Here's how.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Education
  • Student Tips
How to Build a Good Relationship with Your Professor

Who can help you most in your college career? Your professors, of course! It's a good idea to get to know them a bit. Why? Your professor is a wealth of information, and not just for the content of the course.

Professors know people who want to hire interns and employees. If you have a good professor student relationship, you can ask for a reference and get your career started on the right track.

They are also industry experts. If your professor is in your desired field, do not hesitate to reach out and ask questions. You never know where that connection can lead!

Need some pointers on connecting with professors? You've come to the right place. Here are six ways how to build a good relationship with your professor:

1. Learn about them

Before you do anything, read your professor's online bio. Most universities and colleges post short bios for each professor. In it, you will find out their specialty area, research interests, publications, and maybe some personal information, like where they went to school, or what they enjoy doing in their free time.

Sometimes they'll have links to their websites, too, where you can get a better sense of the kind of work they do. Check it out.

If this information isn't available, you can run a google search to see what they have written.

Don't stalk. Just learn. There's freely available information out there -- get it.

2. Find out how to address them

Professors vary in how they want to be addressed. Some prefer the formality of a title like Dr., or at least a Ms. or Mr.. Others prefer first names.

When in doubt, your default should be "Professor".

Pay attention to how they introduce themselves to students, too. That's usually a good indicator of what they like to be called.

If your professor feels disrespected by the title you call her or him, you are not likely to develop a strong bond.

Always show respect.

3. Be email savvy

Respect applies to email, too.

Email is not like texting. Your initial emails to your professor should be short and concise, and relatively formal. Your subject line should be clear. If you want to contact a professor about a meeting, the subject should read something like this: "English 101: Appointment Request." That way your professor knows what to expect.

Remember: you are not sending a note to a friend. Use a salutation. "Hey there!" doesn't work as well as "Dear Professor Jones." Be professional.

In your email, be courteous and clear about what you need. If you need an appointment, ask politely for one. If you need help with an assignment, be clear about that in your subject line and elaborate in a few sentences in the body of your email.

Always end your message with a thank you and your name.

In the beginning, formal is better. Don't loosen your formality until it's obvious that it's ok. Never be impolite!

4. Ask questions...

...But don't ask them for the sake of asking. Be sincere.

This applies to the lecture hall as much to those wise emails you send.

When the professor asks if anyone has any questions at the end of a lecture, raise your hand and ask something thoughtful. Don't ask what's on the test. Ask about the content of the lecture.

Even better? Show you are interested by connecting something in the lecture to something the professor mentioned in an earlier class. Make connections. Ask questions. Be sincere.

5. Show up at office hours

Most colleges and universities require their professors to hold office hours. Make it a point to stop by a few times, even if the first time is just to say hello and to say that you like their course. If you have specific clarification questions about tests or homework, that's a good time to discuss those, too.

If you are curious about your professor, ask them about their research, why they picked this field, or why they became a professor. But -- unless they bring the conversation around to personal issues -- keep it professional.

6. Stay in touch

For those professors with whom you feel an affinity, stay in touch. You never know who they know, who they want to hire, or if they are looking for students.

If you are genuinely interested in a professor's line of work, don't be shy about dropping them a line, keeping them updated on your work, asking to connect on LinkedIn (although do not expect this be accepted), asking for a reference, or saying hello.

If the relationship is sincere, it's a beautiful thing!