For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Sep 03 2016
by Nicole Sun

5 Ways to Stand Out to Your College Professor

By Nicole Sun - Sep 03 2016
One of the most daunting challenges for incoming college freshmen is learning how to adapt to dramatic increases in class sizes while getting seemingly inaccessible professors to remember we exist. We can’t reasonably expect professors to do that on their own accord; it is now on us to actively seek out their attention so that they can assign a face to a grade.

Standing out to your professor is not as hard as you might think. Many students don’t make an effort, beyond simply showing up to lectures, to differentiate themselves from their peers. So, take advantage of the following tips and you’re already ahead of the game.

1. Show up early.

Exactly how early will depend on the class. Ideally, if your schedule allows, you’ll want to arrive when your classroom or lecture hall is no more than a third full. Not only will showing up early give you a chance to snag a seat in the professor’s line of vision and show him/her that you take his/her course seriously, but he/she will also be more likely to see and remember you in this smaller pool of classmates. 

2. Be consistent in your choice of seating.

In the same vein, you need to stay constant to be memorable. Despite popular belief, sitting in the very front isn't as important as sitting where the professor's gaze tends to stay. A helpful rule of thumb is to steer clear of the far sides, as well as, sit in the same general area.

3. Ask the right questions.

Do not ask questions for the sake of asking questions, and definitely do not go overboard. It’s obvious and irritating to everyone — not just the professor — when you do.

Professors often reserve time in between discussions or after lectures for questions. Those moments are perfect opportunities for you to prove that you’ve been paying attention. Ask about concepts on which you want further clarification. Ask about purpose and about specific terminology. Ask “why” questions. Even better, relate what you are learning to prior experiences, current events or pertinent articles. Your professor teaches the subject he/she does because he/she is passionate about it, so you should show that you appreciate the relevance of the subject to everyday life.

4. Adjust your body language to look engaged.

You will stick out from the crowd if, when the professor’s gaze sweeps across the room, you are making eye contact. Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t stare him/her down the entire time, as you also need to take notes and not look creepy, but you should definitely remember to look up periodically. When you can, nod your head when he/she emphasizes a main point in order to appear an active listener.

5. Stay for a couple minutes after class or show up to office hours.

If you’re a naturally reserved person and often have trouble speaking up more than once or twice in class, focus on this step. Let the professor know that you struggle to participate not because you’re uninterested in discussion, and they’ll likely be more sympathetic.

You can use the end of class to ask unanswered questions, strike up a follow-up conversation about an idea introduced during class or simply introduce yourself. If you especially enjoyed a lecture, make sure to let him/her know, but never force a compliment if you don’t mean it.

Now that you know that standing out goes beyond merely showing up to class, passively sitting through a lecture, and then leaving, you can work on becoming the memorable student your professor will delight in teaching.

Just remember, don’t go overboard. You still want to have friends your age.

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay

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Nicole Sun - The University of Texas at Austin

Nicole has a humor blog,, which her friends repeatedly assure her is funny. She spends her free time writing, avoiding responsibility, and wondering if her cat actually loves her. Her twitter: @nicolesundays

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