Knowing your professor can give you an upper hand

By Jessica Jenks

DeKALB | One thing I wish I did during college was get to know my professors better.

I remember hearing my freshman year orientation leader say something about getting to know your professors. She said to take them out for a drink, and I thought, “Well, I’m only 18, and how awkward would that be anyway?”

Looking back, I should have taken the advice (though I still do not think taking my professors out for a drink is the best way to do that).

Many of my friends in a variety of majors are applying for graduate school. Some are already there. I have looked into it, but decided against it for now. My choice for post-secondary education would be film school anyway. Many students have no idea if they want to continue their education beyond their undergraduate experience. 

That is okay, but you should keep your options open by getting to know your professors, if for no other reason than they can write you letters of recommendation when you need them.

Your grade point average, test scores and application help to determine if you get accepted to grad school, but most also require letters of recommendation.

It is possible to do well in your classes without ever getting to know your professors very well, but it is more beneficial to take the time to get to know the people who are shaping and molding your mind.

Professors have most likely worked in the field their students want to work in after college. Take advantage of this resource. By talking to your teachers, you can make a great contact. They probably also have friends who still work in the field you want to work in.

At best, maybe an internship opportunity will come from a conversation. At worst, the teacher learns your name and notices when you miss a day of class.

Remember you already have something in common with the professor: the class. This is an easy conversation starter. “Hello,” also works. Pop culture references are a helpful go to when trying to find something to talk about. Maybe mention last night’s episode of your favorite TV show, and strike up a conversation about that. Of course, you can always talk about your future plans, and ask the teacher about his or her previous experiences. You do not have to worry about not being old enough to take your teacher out for drinks (I still think that would be very awkward anyway).

Your professors are there to help you. They have been in your shoes. If you take the time to get to know them, when it comes time to ask for letters of recommendation for an internship, grad school, or a job, you should have no problem deciding who to ask.