As a high school student, you may have rarely, if ever spoken to your teachers about an academic challenge you were experiencing. If you were a strong student, this type of exchange is a conversation that you probably didn’t have to navigate. If you were an average student, you also may not have had this conversation. The idea of doing it as a college student may sound strange until you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure about a concept or find you are having difficulty keeping up. What then?
Here’s the thing . . . your instructors really do enjoy when you come by their office. Well, most instructors, anyway. Aaaaand, only when you come to ask for help with content, not at the end of the semester when you ask for the opportunity to do all the work you didn’t submit before. We don’t like that. Getting assistance with a specific set of questions. We LOVE that!
Talking to your professors can actually be a positive experience. The secret is knowing how to approach your instructor and what to say while you’re in their office. Just like anything new, it may feel a bit awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, it gets easier and more effortless.
When meeting your instructor at the beginning of the semester, you have a chance to introduce yourself before the material gets too heavy or you experience difficulty. This is a great time to say something to the effect of:
Hi Dr. Smith, my name is Dedra and I’m a freshman electrical engineering major. I’ve taken calculus before, but I want to make sure I’m successful in this course. Do you have any suggestions for studying differently as a college student?
Or perhaps, this is you . . .
Hi, Dr. Smith, my name is Dedra and I’m a freshman. This is a new course for me and I really want to be successful. Do you have any suggestions for how I can best approach studying for this class?
Either way, go see your instructors early and see them often. Being a college student is uncharted territory (you will hear me say this frequently) and you will need help navigating this new environment. Not only am I here to help you do that, so are the people on campus who will eventually become your support system. Your instructors are among those people. You won’t connect with every single person who teaches you and become their mentee, but for the time you are in their class, you can definitely establish a relationship where you feel comfortable asking questions and getting clarity on content.
It may not be second nature, but trust me when I tell you from experience that it can make all the difference. Go meet your instructors, whether you are having difficulty or not. Get to know the people who will assign homework, grade your quizzes and tests, and perhaps even write letters of recommendation for you in the future. At the very least, you will have a better understanding of your course. At most, you will have someone in your corner who can speak well of you and provide guidance well beyond your college years. Try it. You’ll thank me later.