Talking to professors can be tricky. Standing out in a lecture hall full of hundreds of students can be nearly impossible, so it’s important to visit your professors during office hours. But what do you ask once you’re there? Whether you’re hoping to improve your performance in class or simply just trying to get your professor to remember you, I want to help you with a few simple questions to ask your professor to get yourself ahead of the game.
1. What made you want to teach this class?
Try and get to know your professor. Not every teacher wants to just stand in front of a large lecture hall and spew out class notes every single day; some actually want to have a relationship with their students, and asking this question will let your professor know that you’re interested in getting to know him or her on a more personal level. Ashley, a sophomore at Duke University, ended up visiting one of her professors so much that it almost became a daily ritual for her. “I like to make my professors know who I am so they can give me a second look,” she says.
2. What’s the most important thing I can take away from this class?
A student who’s willing to learn is more important to a professor than anything. Not only do your professors want you to do well in the course, but they also want you to be able to leave the class at the end of the semester and try to apply some of what they’ve taught you to real life. Be sure to let your teacher know that you’re thinking about the bigger picture in terms of the class and that you do actually have an interest in the subject, even if it’s not related to your major.
3. How would you ask us about this topic on an exam?
Every course is designed differently. When exams count for a large portion of your final grade, it’s important to know what they’re like and how to prepare for them. Asking this question will give you a better idea of how the tests are organized, what you need to focus on and how often you should study the material.
4. How can I improve my grade?
We all begin new semesters wanting to ace all of our classes. But somewhere along the line, with all the partying and the stress from our extracurricular activities, we tend to let our study habits slip up a little. Not only will this question help you find out how to get an A in the course, but it will also let your professor know that you take the class seriously and you care about doing well.
“I’ll usually ask my teachers to look over my papers just to make sure I’m doing well,” says Amber, a student at Columbia University. “If I can at least make the gesture of asking for help and getting them to know who I am, there’s a better chance they’ll bump my grade up from an 89 to a 90.”
5. I didn’t quite understand X in class. Can you explain it to me again?
Being afraid to ask questions can hurt you more than help you. “I was afraid to ask questions in one of my classes because I felt like everyone understood the material except for me,” says Brittany, a student at the University of Georgia. “A few days before our first exam, I barely even understood what we were doing in class.”
Your professors are there for a reason! It’s important to take advantage of their time and ask all the questions that you can before it’s too late. A one-on-one meeting is a great place for you to ask a professor to explain a complicated concept in detail.
Remember, your professors are required to hold office hours, so make sure you’re taking advantage of this by visiting them and asking the right questions!