How to Make an Impression on Your Professors

Posted on: 20 Sep, 2016

Your interactions with professors can make a significant impact on how smoothly your courses go and how much you get out of the college experience. Creating a good impression is not as difficult as you might think and you don’t have to be outstanding in academics to do it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be outstanding, but it does mean that doing your best really does count for a lot. Here are tips for doing your best and making a good impression on your professors this semester.

Read the Syllabus

Many students give a course’s syllabus only a cursory glance and miss important information that can guide their studies. Professors create the syllabus to benefit you. Syllabi typically cover things such as what to expect from the course, grading policies, what will be covered throughout the semester, test dates, extra credit, absence policies and more. If you ask a question that has already been noted in the syllabus, it will make you seem ill-prepared and lacking motivation and self-direction, which are traits needed for a successful experience in college.

Try to put yourself in your professor’s shoes and ask yourself how you would feel if you took the time to explain important things about the class only to have a student ignore the information you carefully assembled.

Dress Appropriately

Few schools at the university level have anything that could be considered a strict dress code. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to pretend your school does have such a code. This doesn’t mean you need to go to class in business attire, but avoid looking like you just crawled out of bed. Imagine you are a professor and look out onto a sea of students who look like they just woke up or just couldn’t be bothered to put on real clothes for the day.
Clean pants, clean shirt, combed hair and a smile go a long way to making a classroom or lecture hall feel like the place of higher learning it should be.

Take Notes

Pay attention in class and take notes so that if you do have a question, you will know it isn’t something that has already been covered in the lecture. Note taking is its own skill, but you can learn methods that work best for you if you practice it daily. Professors get used to having to repeat information, so it isn’t as if you will be penalized for not remembering every detail in class. However, you will make a better impression by showing that you have been following along. Just by showing you have actually been listening to the lectures will make a big impression.

Treat Class Time with Respect

Taking notes is a way to stay focused and give class time the attention it deserves, but it isn’t the only way to stay on the ball and make a good impression. Remember that your courses, no matter if they are prerequisites to other courses you think you’d prefer, are all stepping stones to a better life. Education is a privilege to which many in the world don’t have access. By keeping this in mind, it will be easier for you to stay respectful of your time in the class.
Arrive on time and don’t leave until the lecture is over. Avoid turning the desk or table into your snack tray, avoid grooming activities you should have performed already before class, avoid chatting with students next to you unless it is necessary, avoid looking at your phone, and avoid any other activity that could be distracting or show a lack of respect.

Engage with Intelligent Purpose

When you have a question, wait for the right time and ask. Engaging in intelligent conversation with professors can benefit other students in the classes as they listen. However, don’t ask a question just to be asking a question or to look smart. Doing so just wastes everyone’s time and won’t earn you any points with a professor. In addition, don’t ramble. Try your best to be precise and leave long personal stories for another time outside of class. Keep the discourse relevant to the material and get to your point as quickly as you can.

This also applies, albeit more loosely, to any conversation you have with professors outside of class. Yes, they are there for you and some might be very open to spending extra time with students, but treat them and their schedule with respect. Many hold office hours and those times are the best times to ask questions related to your grades or how you can improve your studies or receive additional tutoring.

Don’t be Afraid to Admit Ignorance

You will learn the most if you keep in mind that you don’t know everything and that it is okay not to know everything. As a student, you are there to learn and you can assume that, at least in most cases, the professor knows more about the subject matter than you know. Your professors are on to you. Most have many years of experience with students and they have seen the many ways people try to avoid admitting ignorance. Be forthright if you do not understand a concept. Don’t insult a professor’s intelligence by trying to wing it or by coming up with other excuses for not doing well on a test or an essay.

Ask for Help

If you are struggling with class material, don’t stay silent about your struggle. Many students feel ashamed to ask for help or feel intimidated by the professor. If you think you can just slide by without getting help, then at the end of the semester your grades are probably going to reflect this in an unhappy way. Professors can get busy and might not have the time to offer personal help outside of class, but they can direct you to their aides or other resources to help you. Any professor worth their degree would prefer a student to admit to problems with understanding the class than for the student to sit in silence and fail.

It will be easiest to impress your professors if you always keep in mind that they are human beings. They respond to respectful treatment just as most others would. In addition, most professors are passionate about their field of study and therefore, even if you don’t resonate with the particular field, treat the course and knowledge with respect.

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