How to Talk to Your Professors
Talking to your professor can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task. Here are a few thoughts and considerations that can help you feel comfortable and confident in approaching your professors:
- Think clearly about your goal. What are you trying to accomplish? What are you asking for from your professor? (Examples: assistance understanding a concept, permission to turn a paper in late; explaining why you have not been in class)
- Think through how to convey your message clearly. Think about what forms of communication you would feel most comfortable using. (For instance, some people find it easier to initially make contact by e-mail)
- Don’t make assumptions about how your professor will react. Sometimes anticipating criticism can get in the way of taking the steps you need to reach your goal.
- Remember that we all tend to react better to requests than demands. Remember, your professor does not owe it to you to meet you request.
- Think ahead and offer to obtain supporting documentation. If you need to be out of town for an event, offer to bring the program back with you.
- Focus on trying to accomplish your goal, rather than how your professor may be evaluating you. Attend to the help you need from your professor in order to move forward, rather than worrying that your professor will be disapproving.
- Don’t fail to act just because you feel nervous or uncomfortable. Find ways to manage your stress and think of this as an opportunity to learn to handle stress.
- Don’t assume if a professor makes an exception for you that you can count on future exceptions. Rather, learn from this experience to handle future demands differently.
- Think of your professor’s office hours as a resource. Utilize office hours early in the semester, even if there is no problem; form relationships with your professors to support your academic goals.