Did you know that your professors are humans, too? They have good days and bad days. They experience worries and emotions just like anyone else.
Professors don’t permanently live in their office. They go home and live lives outside of the university where they parent kids, travel, or get drinks after work. Yeah, they do more than grade papers and exams, imagine that.
Because they are human, they find joy when their work is appreciated, their students are engaged, and they can call some of their classmates their friends.
So, why would you want to be friends with your professor? I bet you’ll be surprised.
Why To Befriend Your Professor
Although it’s uncommon to focus on developing a relationship with your teacher when your goal is college success, here’s why it pays off to befriend your professor:
1. Grading power: To a certain text, your final grade can depend on the decision of your professor. While teachers are supposed to be as objective as possible, in classes where the grading is subjective, like essay exams or written papers, their opinion of you and your effort can make all the difference in your grade.
For example, say a teacher is deciding between giving you a B-, B, or B+ on your final paper. If you’ve participated in class, visited office hours to better learn the material, and are highly engaged throughout the semester, then the teacher will probably give you the benefit of the doubt for a B+ grade.
However, if you’re always missing class, handing in assignments late, and giving the least amount of effort necessary, you’re more likely to receive a B- grade. There is a significant difference between a 3.3 GPA and a 2.7 GPA in a class when you’re looking to get good college grades.
2. Extra benefits: The professor’s word is law when it comes to their decisions to give you grace or hold you to strict deadlines. If you build a relationship with your college teacher, then you create a better chance that they will be lenient when you need it.
Examples of situations where you need a professor’s help could include rescheduling an exam, getting away with no penalty on a late assignment, finding internships, going over upcoming exam material on late notice, and getting crucial information when you miss class.
3. Networking: Professors in your major can help you build your network quicker and better than arguably anyone else. With years spent in an industry, they likely have countless professional contacts and expert knowledge for students.
If you’re looking for career advice, a way in for an internship or full-time job, or anything else, start by first speaking to your professor.
4. More interesting class: The same way a class is more fun if you know friends in it, the class is more fun when you’ve developed a relationship with the college professor. Suddenly, their corny jokes, mannerisms, and way of instructing are considered in a different light.
Also, you will feel good when the instructor goes through headcount and can find your face then say your name without looking at their class roster. Going to class becomes easier when you’re known and not seen as just another student.
5. Recommendation letter: As I talked about in this extremely valuable post on how to request a rec letter, getting a well-written letter of recommendation is a big advantage to your admission chances. If your grades and test scores are even with other applicants, which is likely among the thousands applying, a recommendation letter can decide your grad school future.
When you make friends with your college professor, you can count on your professor to spend significant time to write a personalized and detailed recommendation letter. Many would argue that this is the best advantage for why to befriend your professor.
If you’re now convinced being friends with your college professor will assist your college success, keep reading to find out how to make teachers into friends.
How To Make Friends With Your College Professor
Because most students won’t consider the idea to build a relationship with their professor, when you use some of the strategies below, you will definitely get the fruits of your labor.
1. Participate in class: Everyone knows that awkward silence after a teacher asks a question, and nobody raises their hand to answer. That’s why a great step in building your friendship, and frankly letting the teacher know who you are, is to participate in class. Answer the question or do your best to drive discussion, even if you don’t know the answer, to help your teacher out. He or she will surely notice.
Another smart move is to actively show your interest by asking questions to the professor during class. Many times the other students are wondering the same question but don’t have the guts to speak up.
2. Visit office hours: Office hours is the time where I found the most success in developing friendly relationships with my professors. The teacher is usually less on edge than in the classroom, and open to being more personable than professional.
Their office is the best place to get insider information on the class, a preview of what’s coming next, and industry secrets that only your experienced professor knows. Plus, visiting office hours is an easy avenue for tip #3 below.
3. Get to know your professor outside of class: Showing your interest in their lives can go a long way in building the friendship. Ask what they’re currently working on? How close are they to tenure? Do they want tenure? How’s life outside of school?
Leave the door open for more personal conversations if you want, but don’t be too pushy. And this doesn’t mean you need to ask about their love life, although that could be a fascinating conversation.
4. Show your appreciation: Many times professors go above and beyond their job responsibilities, without students noticing their generosity. If they answer an email at 11pm, stay an hour later into the night than they planned, or do another unselfish act, make sure you genuinely show your appreciation.
A kind thank you letter or comment after class will encourage them that their effort is well spent.
5. Ask for their help: Studies show that people who do favors for people actually grow to like them better because they justify a reason to do the favor for said person. For example, when you ask your professor for help to find you an internship, they will find reasons to help you and then assist your internship search.
Many teachers are passionate about helping students anyway, so this isn’t a hard task to overcome.
6: Email positive course feedback: Most professors actually mean it when they say they want your honest feedback at the end of the course. And you can bet it’s nerve-wracking to receive negative reviews from students who did terrible in the class based on their own effort, but blame the professor.
So, a well-written positive recap of the class can brighten your professor’s day. Mention a specific favorite topic, project, or moment when the professor helped you will maximize the effect of this email.
There you have it: Be friends with your professor to improve your college success. Nice guys and girls don’t finish last in the classroom.
Readers, have you considered this mindset before? Do you find it hard or easy to make friends with your professor? What are your other thoughts on this topic?