Get Your Faculty to Know You

Posted on June 2, 2010. Filed under: admissions advice, college admissions, College Advice, college choice, college counseling, college news, education | Tags: , , , , , , |

Our guest blogger today is Lisa Chan, Ph.D, professor and college consultant.  You can read more about her here:

As many of you begin the transition to college or are existing college students, this is valuable advice from a pro!

Students are often told, “Get to know your faculty.” But, I am here to say, “Get your faculty to know you!” Think about it, it’s easy to get to know your faculty. After-all there are probably only a handful of faculty in your department. However, that handful of faculty will come across thousands of students in their career. Soon one student blends into another, and only a few truly stand out. Then again, you may ask “What’s the difference between the two?” It’s a difference in perception, which alone will change the way a conversation is approached.

So, why should you get your faculty to know you? Here are five reasons why and how.

1. How to Use Office hours

“Does my professor really want me to visit during Office Hours? Don’t they want to use that time to grade papers and to work on “other important stuff”? The truth is your professors want you to visit with them! Use this time to further explore a topic related to your course, what you hope to gain from the course or your program of study or to discuss your progress (from the very beginning). This helps your professor gain a better understanding of you outside of your participation in the classroom.  Your professors are human, if they feel a connection with you they will go that extra mile to help you succeed in class, and in your overall development.

“What if I can’t make Office Hours?” Set up a mutual-time to meet with your professor. This lets your professor know that you are serious about your education, as you are willing to make time to meet with him/her

2. Active Participation

“I get really nervous speaking out in class. Can’t I just visit during Office Hours and ask all my questions?” No, you should give your voice in class so that other students can benefit from the dialogue. I realize this may be easier said than done. To help you prepare, do your homework ahead of time, think about how you would want your intellect to be stretched:  How might a certain concept apply in certain situations, where can you read further on a topic (if your professor makes a recommendation, do the reading and discuss your thoughts on the reading with your professor during office hours or if appropriate, during the next class meeting). In group activities, volunteer to be the leader; this will help in your facilitation skills. The more you are able to express yourself, the more opportunity you will have for feedback (from both your peers and your professor). In turn this will further sharpen your thinking.

Don’t ask questions just to say something. Be genuinely interested in what you are about to bring to the table. Active participation gives your faculty insights into: 1) your thinking and interaction within a group setting, where ideas are vulnerable to the opinion of others, and 2) the character in which you receive and give feedback to your peers.

3. Grants and Scholarships

“How did my classmate get awarded the departmental grant?” Often times there are departmental grants or college scholarships that are not publicized. Usually, faculty will meet and nominate a recipient and/or a candidate for the award. The students that tend to get nominated don’t just have good grades, but are ones that faculty (as a group) know on a deeper level. For example, they may know that you volunteer at the soup kitchen on the weekends, that although you may not be the best on the track team – you never quit, they know you from you ability to give your voice in class, and they know you from your visits to them during Office Hours. That is, your faculty has formed an overall picture of you and can feel confident nominating you, because you will have made a positive impression on each of them.

4. Research

“I know my professors do research, but should I really care?” Read up on your professor’s bio to learn about their research interests. This information can usually be found in your department’s website. If their research sparks an interest in you, approach your professor about being a student researcher on their project. There are many benefits to this, such as 1) You gain valuable research skills, 2) A joint publication can come from this work (this will look really good on your resume should you apply for graduate school), 3) This professor will let other professors know of your quality of work and professionalism. This in turn gets other faculty to recognize your name, and to more likely think of you should another research opportunity arise.

5. Letters of Recommendation

“Can you write me a letter of recommendation? I took a class from you four years ago and really enjoyed it.” If your faculty does not know you, but is kind enough to say yes because you took a class with them, you will likely get a generic letter. A generic letter is a letter that all the same students in your situation get. The only significant difference is a change in name on the letter. Do you want this to be you, when you are about to apply for graduate school or a job? Generic letters have no depth, and are easily spotted by an admissions committee or interviewer.

Don’t let this be you. Get your faculty to know you from day one of your first year. It’s called building your social capital and networking. And your professors can be one of your most valuable resources.


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One Response to “Get Your Faculty to Know You”

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Thanks for the interesting and informative post. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to more in the future.

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