Does Making Friends with Professors Really Help You?

When you start college, one of the first things that you will hear from former students is that you should really get to know your professors. They'll go on about how important is, and how they know someone who really benefited from it, blah blah blah... But when it comes down to it, some of your professors are super busy. They're hard to get a hold of. You've got better things to do. It's out of your way, so is it really worth your time?

It is absolutely worth your time. You'll probably be in huge lecture classes, especially as an underclassman, and yes, it's probably going to require effort to get your professor to know who you are. But when it comes down to it, your professor can open a lot of doors for you that you may not be able to on your own - academic opportunities, homework help, exam prep - most professors will be jumping through hoops to help you if you would just ask them.

One advantage to this, and probably the most common one, is simply that your professors will know what your personality is like and will understand how you learn. Talking with them about something that you don't understand will help them help you. If they know how you think and what interests you, then they will be a better resource for you and can offer more effective study tips, individualized support, constructive criticism, etc. Going to office hours also lets your professors know that you are serious about the class.

I'm a second semester freshman, and I can't begin to tell you how much it has helped me to take time to get to know my professors. I took Bioanthropology, one of my major requirements, with Michael Muehlenbein, and although I had no trouble in the course, I liked the subject material and made a point to go to his office hours and ask him some questions outside of class - what got you interested in the field, what kind of research do you do, filler questions like that. I really liked his personality and willingness to help students and his teaching style, so I signed up for another class with him this semester. He ended up emailing me a few weeks into the semester and asked if I would be willing to come into his lab as an undergraduate researcher, a position that I would hold until I graduate. (Check out Dr. Muehlenbein's lab here: http://www.indiana.edu/~ecolab/Home.html)

Taking the time to talk to my professor ended up scoring me a multiple-year internship that will help me immensely after graduation and in graduate school. I know that the only way he had any idea who I was resulted from my effort to make sure he was familiar with my name in a 200-student lecture - I had no idea that it would lead to such an amazing opportunity. I know that I'm not the only student that has had an experience like this, and it truly depends on how willing you are to get your name out there. Make sure that your professors know who you are! The only thing that it can do is help you.

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