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What’s Your Professor’s Favorite Book?

House meetings, club fairs, rendezvous with roommates,

Lab group, block parties, movies on the quad…

Start a class, switch a class, signing up for rush-week,

Showing up for tryouts with the intramural squad…

Whoa!  The first month of college can feel like a whirlwind of things to do and people to meet!  

As a new freshman on campus, you’re probably going to be pulled in all kinds of exciting new directions, which can sometimes distract from the fundamental reason you’re there: academics.

In college, your primary focus should be on unlocking your academic potential, and one of the best ways to do that is to get in the habit of meeting with your professors outside of class. So, as your schedule starts to fill up in those first few weeks on campus, be sure to budget some time to stop by your new professors’ office hours to say hello.

Fresh from high school, it might feel strange—even a little intimidating at first—to take the initiative to cultivate good relationships with your college professors and TAs (Teaching Assistants) outside of class.  But, as you’ll quickly realize, their expectations of you will likely be quite different than what you’re used to. You’re an adult now, and most college professors and TAs will treat you like one. They’ll expect you to behave more like a professional colleague than a child who needs to be supervised. Accordingly, they will rely on you to step up and communicate with them about your experience and expectations in their class.

Confused about an assignment? Worried about your first grade? Interested in learning more about that 18th century chemist for a potential term paper topic? Go to office hours and ask!  Taking this simple action within the first month of starting classes will go a long way toward helping your professors and TAs get to know you, in addition to helping you learn how to get the most out of their course.

Meeting with your professors outside of class is not only a great way for them to get to know you better and for you to get the most out of their course, it’s also a great opportunity for you to learn more about them. Why did they become a professor? What are their research interests? What other courses do they teach? Keep your questions professional, but don’t be afraid to inquire about their career beyond the course you happen to be taking.

One of the best questions you could ask is also one of the simplest: “what’s your favorite book?”  This question often provokes a rich and reciprocal conversation about your respective intellectual interests that can help establish a foundation of mutual respect and understanding. Who knows… in a few years you might join forces with your professor through a research internship, or you might even ask them for a letter of recommendation for graduate school or a job.  Knowing your professor’s favorite book, among other things, will jumpstart your rapport with them and help ensure that you’re getting the most out of your educational opportunities in college and beyond!