Talking To College Professors, Dos And Don’ts

The college years are all about learning and growth. The most obvious place to learn is in class from trained professionals called professors. Building a healthy relationship with these individuals could help keep your GPA up and improve your understanding of course material. Despite popular belief, professors are experts in their field. Treat them as such. Here are a few dos and don’ts on talking to your college professors.

First Few Weeks

First impressions are crucial in any relationship. Showing up to class without the correct textbook, or none at all, on the first day of class is excusable but not ideal. Upon receiving the syllabus, it is a good idea to record the big events for the class and go to the professor early when you see conflicts. Most professors will understand if you have three tests in one day and two papers due, or something like that. Addressing these issues early will insure a congenial outcome. Also address any outside events such as weddings or vacations you know will occur to make you miss class. Giving a professor advance notice on absences tends to make them more lenient on make up work or tests.


Emailing a professor should not be the same as emailing your friends and family. Use calm professional words and sentence structure. Address them as either Professor or Dr. unless they have given you liberty to use their first name. Abstain from profanity, accusatory messages or inflammatory statements. Your professor deserves your respect even through the internet. Lastly, respect your professors emailing habits. To some, the internet is still a strange unknown beast and they do not check email. Most professors will explain early in the semester how to reach them effectively.


Designating meeting times with your professor can be done through email, phone or in person. Most professors are required to have office hours where they are available for students to drop in. Asking for a time slot is courteous because they are also busy. While office hours are a wonderful thing, you may have a class or work that falls on the same time every week. Pull together three or four time slots where you could meet with them and shoot them an email or give them a written note. Your planning makes them more inclined to work with your schedule.

The meeting is set; now you must arrive on time or five minutes early. Respect that this is their time as well and do not waste it. Be prepared with questions and ideas, and then keep to relevant issues. Also, do not show up in your pajamas; instead, make an effort to respect their authority through your speech, dress and manners.

Befriending a professor is not a negative action. It is only part of ensuring your future. They are the ones who will be writing recommendation letters down the road. Putting in the extra work to get to know your professor will show them you are interested in the class. This will not give you leeway to slack off but it will give you wiggle room in emergencies and misunderstandings. They appreciate honesty and hard work because that is what they also put into the class.

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