A Helpful Guide to Talking to Your Professor

By Alicia Geigel on February 1, 2019

At the start of each semester, students get a new round of professors that come with different teaching styles, grading scales, and personalities. Some professors are easy to warm up to and approach, while others can be harder to crack and come off as intimidating. Because all students are different and we all can have specific problems related to learning, talking or confronting a professor is almost unavoidable.

You may be a student that has no trouble going to a professor for advice or to make them aware of your upcoming sick days, but plenty of students experience anxiety when approaching a professor. One student from the Mighty Community, Kristian H., noted that one thing he wished college professors knew about anxiety was, “just going to class causes anxiety because of the fear of having to speak, of having to interact with other students, the pressure to perform. It is all so daunting and totally immobilizes you. So, it would be great if there was that understanding, an awareness of the strength it takes just to sit in that chair.”

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While professors, like any other teacher, can be hard to approach, that doesn’t mean that you as a student have to suffer. Whether or not you are a confident or anxious student, an introverted or extroverted student, there are plenty of ways to confidently approach a teacher and talk to them one-on-one. Are you currently a college student? Having trouble in one of your classes and need to approach your professor? Too afraid of the outcome? This guide to talking to your professor will give you the right techniques on how to effectively talk to your professor and give you the confidence to deal with your problems right away!

1. Humanize Your Professor: A lot of us get caught up into simply seeing a professor as someone who lectures and uses the color red way too much on our test papers and essays. When considering to approach your professor, remember that they are human too, just like you are! Instead of getting wrapped up into their title (which you should still respect, by the way), come to them with an understanding that they are in a position to help you and are willing to listen to you with whatever problems you bring to their attention. They have a heart, even if their grading scale indicates otherwise!

2. Be Proactive: Part of what fuels a great deal of a professor’s frustration is some students’ tendencies to bring specific matters and problems to them at the very last possible minute. Doing so only gives the professor a small window to time to be able to help a student with their problems, which ultimately ends up being frustrating on the both the student’s and professor’s end. Joelle Renstrom of Noodle.com writes, “Asking early demonstrates foresight and shows that you haven’t slacked off or procrastinated. The same goes for absences. If you know you’ll need to miss a class or two, email your professors ahead of time to tell them and to ask about how you can make up the material.”

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3. Be Open: Contrary to popular belief, professors are not mind-readers. Because professors don’t possess this unnatural ability, it is up to you to communicate anything that may be hindering your learning experience in the classroom to them. Perhaps you’re struggling financially to pay your tuition or maybe you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one. All of these circumstances are important to your professor, but they can’t know unless you’re open with them. Additionally, if a professor is aware of certain struggles you’re experiencing, they can offer additional help to make your life easier.

4. Properly Communicate/Be Respectful: When approaching and communicating with your professor, keep in mind that they are indeed your professor and not just your friend from class. There is a certain etiquette to follow when talking to them in person, emailing them, etc. Don’t just type a quick email like, “I missed class today, what were the notes? Thanks.” Instead, when writing an email, take the time to address the professor by name, request what you need, and thank them. It’s just that simple! Joelle Renstrom notes, “You can get in your professor’s (and later, your employer’s) good graces by politely and appropriately writing to that person. “

Sometimes there is nothing more stressful than approaching your college professor with a problem you’re experiencing in class. This problem could be as simple as not connecting with the material or missing multiple days of class. Regardless of what the problem is, if you follow the tips above, like humanizing your professor, being respectful in communication, being proactive, and lastly, being open, there is no problem that you can’t solve with a professor! As always, good luck!

By Alicia Geigel

Uloop Writer
Temple alum | columnist at Uloop News | photographer | food blogger if you want to learn more about me, visit my profile and check out my articles!

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