n times like these, it is difficult enough to see your family and friends, let alone your professors. If you’re an upperclassman, you’re used to seeing them in office hours and around campus. If you’re an incoming freshman, you’re most likely accustomed to seeing your teachers before, during, or after a typical school day. But in the age of a pandemic, it’s much harder to build a strong rapport with your professors. If you’re big on eye contact and body language, you may feel awkward meeting with them for the first time online. If this sounds like you, here are a few pieces of advice for getting back on track and establishing great relationships with your professors this semester.
Go to Zoom office hours!
Most people overlook Zoom office hours, as they do not have any questions to ask, or they want to avoid the awkward one-on-one interaction. But the best method of communication is face to face, so this is the next best thing. Come in prepared with some questions—you can always think of something, even if it is just reviewing a concept or a definition. Even if the call lasts five minutes, it shows your professor that you put in the extra effort to understand the course material.
Do a little background research.
A little extra digging never hurt anyone. If you want to show genuine interest in your professor and their professional background, look into what topics they specialize in, or where they have focused their research. After you do some research, email your professor and ask if they have some time to talk about these topics. More often than not, they will admire the fact that a student of theirs is interested in their life. Think about it this way—if you put all this time and energy into a subject you are passionate about, wouldn’t you want to share that information with others?
Be an active participant in your classes.
Raise your hand, real or virtual. Speak up in your breakout rooms and volunteer to speak on the behalf of the group one you return to the main session. Ask questions. This shows professors that you are eager to engage with the material and that you appreciate their course. If you get too anxious speaking on camera, talk to your professor, and ask them if there are any other ways you can show active participation in their class. They will value the fact that you would like to partake in the discussion somehow, rather than just sit back and be silent.
Communicate in advance. Tell them if you will be missing class, or if you are struggling in general.
Professors always appreciate a student who can communicate in advance. Of course, life throws curveballs at us, and most professors understand that. If you’re experiencing an unexpected life event, make sure you email your professor as early as possible. Emails are the best method of communication for this, as they will create a record of when and why you may be missing an assignment or a class. If you are struggling in a class more generally, it is best to have a live conversation with your professor. This shows them that you are actively trying to succeed, and it makes it easier to go over any information that is difficult to grasp. Just remember that professors are here to see you do well, but they can’t read your mind if you don’t say anything.
Ask for a letter of recommendation after the class.
This is the icing on top of the cake. If you really had a strong connection with your professor and were successful in the class, asking them for a letter of recommendation will show them that you value their input. It will also benefit you—whether it be for an internship, job, or graduate school, having a letter of recommendation on hand can only help you in the long run.
Graphic Courtesy of Allyson Mozeliak / Heights Editor