Thursday, August 11, 2011

School Suggestions: Visit the Profs

When I look over my marks for all my courses last year, I notice a bit of a trend. My lowest mark (a full twelve marks below my next-lowest mark) was with the prof who I didn’t really connect with, the only one that I didn’t spend much time talking to one-on-one. My top three marks were the courses I took with my favourite prof, the one I’ve visited so often I can’t even count the times I’ve been in her office. Now, I’m not suggesting that success in a course is directly proportional to the time spent talking to the prof, but this pattern is worth noting.

There are a couple good reasons to get to know your prof. Firstly, if you’re struggling in the course (or think you might struggle, like if you’re an English major taking a math course) the prof can’t help you if they don’t know. If you slave over an essay and the mark wasn’t what you had hoped for, then it’s perfectly reasonable to meet with the prof and ask them what you can do to improve. It’s always good to wait at least 24 hours before doing this, though, and make sure you’ve read through all their feedback carefully so you’re not wasting their time. Also, don’t do this if you just want a better mark, as that will just annoy the prof. Only ask for help if you’re serious about improving.

Even if you’re not struggling at all, getting to know the prof will make your experience that much better. Going to see them with a draft of an essay, for instance, shows that you’re serious about the assignment. The prof will work harder to help you, giving you good feedback, if they know that you’re trying hard. If you’re taking math, you might want to go ask for help with some sample problems. In English, sometimes it can really help to just talk over the various aspects of a work of literature. If you go to a big university then your profs may not have time for this, but at a smaller institution like UPEI all the profs were willing to spend time with any student who was interested in the subject.

Whether you’re struggling or not, getting to know the prof can enhance your university experience. You can get individual help, talk over any trouble spots and learn more one-on-one. Also, as unfair as this sounds, students that a prof expects to do well may get better marks just because of that. In short, it’s always a good idea, both for your marks and just your enjoyment of the course, to visit the prof at least once. 

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