Academic Resource Guide - Talking to Professors
Are you having trouble in class? Try talking to your professor! Professors are able to help you, seeing as they are the expert on the subject! Find out when your professor’s office hours are so you can stop by for a visit. Do not be afraid to ask for help. The article “How to Talk to a Professor” by Michael Leddy offers several tips for starting the conversation, and also suggests that talking to a professor is one of the smartest things college students can do. Below are the article’s five recommendations for talking to your professor:
- Be mannerly. Check your syllabus for the professor’s office hours, instead of asking. If you are not able to attend your professor’s office hours or if they are not listed on the syllabus, ask your professor when she or he can meet you. When you arrive, knock on the door, even if it is open. Greet your professor and reintroduce yourself.
- Avoid certain phrases. These sentences phrases, “Will this affect my grade?,” “Can I still get a B?,” and “I’m an ‘A’ student.” Every assignment will play a part into your grade, and how much or how little it does depends upon the rest of your work in the course. If you ask a professor if you can still get a B, he or she may believe that you think your GPA is more important than learning.
- Know professors grade based on your performance in their class. Professors know that grade inflation can be widespread, and even if you say you are an ’A’ student, professors may believe that some of those A’s will not be the most accurate evaluation of your work. In addition, professors do not grade based on your reputation.
- Let your professor know when you are struggling. Ask what you can do to improve. Professors can usually offer new ideas that can help you succeed.
- Feel free to talk to professors in other ways too. Most professors will respond well to your visits in which you ask questions that you did not have the opportunity to ask in class, or to share ideas.
- End the conversation smartly. Some professors may keep talking, while some will end the conversation for you. Do not hesitate to end the conversation, especially if you have other commitments.
Adapted from “How to Talk to a Professor,” located at