By the end of your college career, you will need to have some professor’s you can email or call upon to write you letters of recommendation to graduate school, or be references for employers, or other post-college employment or volunteer programs. The only problem is, many college students don’t have that mindset when they sit down in a professor’s class, and find themselves without a mentor (or two or three) that can be asked when the time of need arrives. So, before you graduate, here are 5 helpful ways to create and cultivate professional relationships with the keepers of those letters of recommendation.
- Attend Office Hours
Most professors are required to offer office hours to help students or go over work with them- but students rarely utilize this very helpful tool. By utilizing office hours, you can create a personal rapport with a professor that can go a long way to helping you post-graduation (and even during that class). If your professor doesn’t offer office hours when you are available (or at all), email them to set up a time to go over work, introduce yourself, or ask questions.
- Join Clubs they Sponsor
Many professors sponsor clubs for their department, or an outside interest they are passionate about. Joining a club can help create a relationship, while boosting your academic resume. If your school doesn’t offer a club that corresponds with your major, talk to a professor in the department about creating one with them.
- Ask Questions
Asking thoughtful questions during or after class is a great way to set yourself apart in a class and catch the professor’s attention. Instead of skating through a class without making a peep, raise your hand and ask some thought-provoking questions. If you are too shy to ask them in front of a class (or if your class is too big) to ask a question, stay after class and ask, or ask during office hours.
- Research a Professor before Taking Their Class
Make sure your professor and class are going to be a good fit for you, or if they are open to student questions and involvement (not every professor is) by researching your professor before committing to a class. Websites like ratemyprofessor.com are helpful when making informed decisions about your schedule.
- Ask a Professor to be Your Advisor (and then use them)
Most universities require you to have an academic advisor in your given department once you declare a major. Your advisor can be an enormous asset to your post-college life if you use them correctly. Meet with your advisor multiple times a quarter and listen to their advice. Go to them when you are struggling- they can usually talk you through a problem, as they have probably seen it before. They will also know if any other professors (or even themselves) are in need of a student TA and can recommend you to other professors if they feel you are trustworthy.
Don’t be afraid to get to know your professors! It will go a long way to preventing the post-graduation panic.
Mallory Lacoste is a 10th and 11th grade ELA teacher in Central Florida. A former Resident Assistant, Teacher’s Assistant, and Graduate Assistant, she loves to guide students through their college years. She attended Appalachian State University for her bachelor’s degree and Cornell University for her master’s degree. She can be reached through her website.