For the introverted college freshman who has never had to work to get a professor to learn their name, office hours, where one-on-one small talk with a professor is required, may seem insanely daunting. They are important though and you need to take advantage of them, especially if you are having trouble understanding something or keeping up in class. Office hours are also helpful for building relationships that lead to letters of recommendation for graduate school, study abroad programs, internships or job opportunities. Here’s a few ways to ensure that your shyness doesn’t get in the way of future success or your GPA.
1. Start the first day.
It’s a little late for this one, considering we're nearly halfway through first semester, but better late than never. When January comes around, make sure to introduce yourself on the first day of class. All it takes is a handshake and an exchange of names to create a first impression that you can build upon throughout the course of the class.
2. Remember they want to talk to you.
While it might not seem like it at times, most professors really do want you to succeed. The difference between high school and college, however, is that a professor is not going to put in the effort if you don’t. If you are willing to talk to them, ask questions and have a willingness to improve and work hard in your professor's class.
3. Do your research.
Many professors can be looked up with just a simple internet search. See if they are doing any interesting research, have involvement in any organizations or are a part of programs at your university that you can ask about. These are great conversation starters because everyone likes to talk about themselves, including your professor. It is also a good way to get information on something you might actually be interested in getting involved with.
4. Embrace the awkward silence.
In any conversation there is bound to be awkward silence, which is the most terrifying thing for an introvert, but it's going to happen. Embrace it. If you don’t fill the silence, the professor will.
5. Come up with questions beforehand.
This is probably the most important one on the list, especially if you really don’t understand something or are talking about ways to improve your grade. Write down your questions first so that you know exactly what you are talking about and are not wasting your professor's time. If you are just trying to build a relationship with your professor, introduce an interesting idea or piece of information like an article that relates to their course for you to discuss.
6. Remember your manners.
This applies to all people not just professors, but in a formal, professional situation like this, ensure you are on your best behavior. Be polite, friendly and appropriate. Call the professor by their correct title, for example, if the professor is a doctor use doctor instead of professor and use formal intelligent language. Lay off the slang and the “likes." In other words, treat them how you were taught to treat adults as a kid.
7. It’s never too late to start.
Just because you haven’t gone to any office hours during the past month or two doesn’t mean you can't start going now. A professor is never going to dismiss you or turn you away because you didn’t start talking to them until mid-semester. Start going now.
The process of building a relationship with a professor that will be beneficial in the future is difficult and takes skill. It’s especially hard for freshman who are so used to high school teachers knowing their name and pushing them to succeed daily. College isn’t like that; if you don’t try to excel or achieve more than expected then the professor isn’t going to put in the effort to help you. So start learning how to build those relationships now, before you regret not putting in the work or letting your anxiety get the best of you.
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