How to impress your professors

(Without actually trying very hard)

In most cases, real objectivity is impossible. This specifically applies to professors and grading, because sometimes, even if you try your darndest on assignments and tests, your professor just won’t like you. This could be a problem for more than just grading; you could lose a possible reference or even earn a bad reputation in the staff room. Face it: Your grades depend on more than what is listed in the syllabus.

1. Approach the first few assignments from an angle that no one else in the class will consider. If you’re asked to make a sculpture of something that is important to you, look around to see what other people are making. Chances are, they’re all trying too hard to impress and pulling out all of the stops. Make something simple and go against the grain. If your professor hasn’t noticed you specifically in the first few class sessions, you don’t have much chance of excelling.

2. Naturally, it doesn’t hurt to know all the right answers. Try to anticipate what the classroom discussion will be about and do a little skimming so you can make some informed contributions. Nothing is worse for a professor than a one-sided discussion devoid of participation from students.

3. Talk to people who have experience with the professor. You can do this online at sites like www.RateMyProfessors.com or just by word of mouth on campus. Learn from them what they wish they knew when the class first started. Ask them if there are any tricks to getting on your professor’s good side.

4. Everything about you should be a positive contribution to the class. Dress to look approachable, look the professor in the eye and don’t ever make negative remarks about the class itself. Negative remarks about issues in class discussions are fine, but never demean or belittle the professor.

5. Even if you know nothing about the subject, try to contribute. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing and embarrassing yourself. Also, don’t worry about asking silly questions. This exposes you to your professor as a sort of blank canvas — a favorite type of student among professors.

6. Especially in large classes, it’s easy to forget that you are interacting with a real human being. Don’t treat your professors like a channel for knowledge or a steppingstone to graduation. Remember that they have lives off campus just like you.

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