How to Build Relationships with Professors and Gain a Real Benefit from It

professor and student relationships

Hey, it’s Michael Carlson! I have a secret to share with you about college success; the professor-student connection can make all the difference. I’ve learned from my own experience that making relationships with professors is key to achieving academic excellence and personal growth. I am a customer service manager and a university graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Management. And I know first-hand the benefits of building strong relationships with professors. Students perceive their interactions with professors as transactional. They are focusing on grades or getting help when needed. Yet, building relationships with professors goes far beyond these limited perceptions. So, let’s dive into why these relationships matter.

Why Building Relationships with Professors Is Important

  • In college, students sometimes see their interactions with professors as merely transactional. But let me tell you, having a strong connection with your professors can make a difference. Professors are more than just teachers. They are valuable resources and mentors who can help you navigate your academic journey. From my experience, building relationships with them opens doors to unique opportunities. It creates a supportive environment that nurtures your academic and professional growth. 
  • Think of professors as your allies in your educational pursuits. They have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. You gain access to their wisdom and experience by building relationships with them. They can offer valuable advice on course selection and provide extra resources for research. And they can help you explore your academic interests more deeply. 
  • Not only can professors guide you academically, but they can also become mentors who offer guidance on your career path. For me, they provided insights into internships, research opportunities, and even job positions. They’ve written strong letters of recommendation for me that carried weight when I was applying for scholarships, graduate programs, or new jobs. 

Building a relationship with your professor ensures that you have trusted advocates who can attest to your abilities and potential. 

  • Also, professors can offer personalized guidance tailored to your strengths and interests. By getting to know you on a deeper level, they can provide advice and suggestions specific to your goals and aspirations. They can help you navigate challenges, offer feedback on your work, and inspire you to reach your full potential. Cultivating relationships with professors allows you to tap into their expertise. It also allows you to receive the individualized support you need to succeed.
  • Another benefit of establishing relationships with professors is the sense of belonging and community it creates. College can sometimes feel overwhelming and impersonal, especially in large classes. By connecting with professors, you forge a connection to the academic community. They become familiar faces in a sea of students, offering a sense of comfort and support. Building relationships with professors can also lead to connections with other students. They can share similar interests, creating opportunities for collaboration and mutual growth.

Common Mistakes of Students Regarding Professors

When it comes to cultivating relationships with professors, unfortunately, many students make mistakes that hinder their progress. Let’s shed light on some common errors to avoid, so you can build strong and meaningful connections with your professors.

  • One common mistake is approaching professors only when you’re in need. It’s important to remember that professors are not just there to answer your questions or help with assignments. They are individuals who appreciate genuine connections. By only reaching out when you need something, you miss out on the opportunity to establish a deeper, more meaningful relationship. Take the time to engage with your professors outside of specific academic requirements. Attend office hours or take part in class discussions to show your genuine interest in the subject matter and your willingness to learn.
  • Another mistake students make is not using opportunities for interaction, such as office hours or campus events. These are chances to have one-on-one conversations with your professors, ask questions, get clarifications, or talk about interesting topics. Suppose you don’t take part in these opportunities; in that case, you miss out on building a relationship that can be helpful in the future.
  • Also, some students don’t realize how important it is to be professional when interacting with their professors. It’s crucial to have a respectful attitude and treat your professors with the courtesy they deserve. Avoid being rude or argumentative, and always communicate in a polite and professional way. Remember that your professors are giving their time and knowledge to help you succeed. I am always showing them respect and gratitude since it is really important.
  • Another common mistake is failing to recognize the value of feedback and constructive criticism. It can be disheartening to receive feedback that points out areas for improvement, but it’s essential to view it as an opportunity to grow and learn. Embrace feedback with an open mind and a willingness to improve. By demonstrating your receptiveness to feedback, you show your professors that you are committed to your academic growth and development.
  • Lastly, some students make the mistake of not maintaining consistency in their interactions with professors. Building strong relationships requires ongoing effort and engagement. Don’t just connect with your professors at the beginning of the semester and then disappear. Stay involved in class discussions, ask questions, and seek guidance throughout the term. By maintaining consistent engagement, you demonstrate your commitment to the subject matter and your willingness to put in the effort required to succeed.

How to Build Strong Relationships with Professors 

Building strong relationships with professors is important for academic success and personal growth. Cultivating relationships with professors fosters a meaningful professor and student connection that can benefit you in your college journey. Here are some practical strategies to help you build and nurture these relationships:

relationship with a professor

  1. Attend classes regularly and actively participate in discussions. Make it a priority to attend all your classes and actively engage in discussions. Demonstrating your genuine interest in the subject matter, listening attentively, and asking questions show your professors that you value their expertise and are committed to your education.
  2. Visit professors during their office hours. Take advantage of professors’ office hours, as they provide an excellent opportunity to connect with them more personally. Use this time to seek clarifications, discuss course material, or share your thoughts and ideas. Engaging in one-on-one conversations shows your professors that you are dedicated to learning and interested in their insights.
  3. Collaborate on projects, research, or volunteering opportunities. Look for opportunities to collaborate with your professors outside of regular class activities. Engaging in joint projects, research endeavours, and volunteering initiatives not only allows you to gain hands-on experience but also helps build stronger relationships. Express your interest in participating and actively seek out these opportunities.
  4. Communicate professionally and respectfully. Whether communicating in person or through email, maintain a professional and respectful tone. Use appropriate language, address your professors respectfully, and be mindful of their time. For example, I promptly respond to their emails or requests for information, demonstrating my reliability and professionalism.
  5. Seek advice and guidance. Professors are valuable resources who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in their fields. Don’t hesitate to seek their advice and guidance on academic matters or career choices. For example, their insights and mentorship can provide invaluable guidance as you navigate your academic and professional journey.
  6. Show appreciation and gratitude. Take the time to express your appreciation and gratitude towards your professors. Acknowledge their efforts, their expertise, and the impact they have on your learning experience. For instance, a simple thank-you note or expressing your gratitude in person can go a long way in building a positive connection.
  7. Stay connected beyond the course. Building relationships with professors extends beyond the duration of a single course. Stay connected after the semester ends by periodically checking in, sharing your progress, or seeking their advice. This ongoing connection can lead to valuable recommendations, mentorship, or future collaborations.

Remember, cultivating relationships with professors is a collaborative effort. Both you and your professors play a role in building and nurturing these relationships. 

By using these strategies and demonstrating genuine interest and respect, you can make strong relationships with professors. And it will enhance your academic experience and create opportunities for growth and success.

Friendship with Professors: For and Against

Friendship with professors can be a topic of debate among students and educators. On one hand, there are concerns that blurring the lines between personal and professional relationships may have drawbacks. This viewpoint suggests that becoming friends with professors might compromise their objectivity. Also, it can compromise their fairness when it comes to grading students. It is important to recognize the importance of maintaining a level playing field. In addition, ensuring that academic decisions are based solely on merit is essential.

Conversely, fostering a friendly connection with professors can create a supportive learning environment. Building relationships between professors and students can lead to a greater sense of trust, open communication, and mutual understanding. When students feel comfortable approaching their professors, they are more likely to seek guidance, share their thoughts, and actively participate in class discussions. This can enhance the overall learning experience and contribute to academic success.

Yet, it is crucial to strike a balance between friendship and professionalism. It’s important to remember that professors have a responsibility to maintain objectivity and fairness in their roles as educators. While developing a friendly relationship with a professor, it is essential to ensure that professionalism is maintained, and that boundaries are respected.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when building relationships with professors:

  1. Maintain professionalism. Treat your professors with respect and adhere to appropriate boundaries. Remember that they are professionals who have dedicated their careers to education.
  2. Understand expectations. Be aware of the professor’s expectations regarding classroom conduct, communication channels, and office hours. Familiarize yourself with any guidelines or policies set by the institution.
  3. Focus on academic growth. While building a rapport with professors, prioritize your academic growth. Seek guidance, ask questions, and actively engage in discussions related to the course material.
  4. Be mindful of favoritism. Professors must treat all students fairly and impartially. Avoid seeking preferential treatment or special privileges that may compromise the integrity of the learning environment.
  5. Respect confidentiality. Be mindful of the confidentiality of personal information shared during conversations with professors. Maintain trust by keeping sensitive matters private.
  6. Seek support, not special treatment. Developing a relationship with a professor should primarily be driven by a desire for mentorship and academic support. Avoid seeking favours or attempting to gain an unfair advantage.
  7. Be aware of institutional policies. Familiarize yourself with any policies or guidelines set by the institution regarding relationships between students and professors. Some institutions may have provisions against professors dating or engaging in romantic relationships with their students.

The decision to pursue a friendship with a professor should be based on mutual respect, professionalism, and a commitment to academic growth. Each individual relationship will vary depending on personalities, interests, and boundaries. 

I think it is essential to find a balance that works for both parties involved, ensuring that the academic environment remains fair, inclusive, and conducive to learning.

Relations with Professors after Graduation – Is There Any Benefit?

After graduation, many students wonder if their relationships with professors hold any long-term benefits. While the dynamic may change, maintaining connections with professors can still be valuable in various ways. The professor and student relationships built during college can continue to offer advantages beyond the classroom.

  • Networking opportunities. Professors often have extensive networks within their respective fields. Staying in touch with professors can provide you with access to a broader professional network, which can be beneficial for job opportunities, internships, or collaborations. For example, one of my professors introduced me to airline industry professionals.
  • Mentorship and guidance. Even after graduation, professors can continue to serve as mentors and provide valuable guidance. They can offer insights into career paths, help you navigate challenges, and offer advice based on their own experiences. Professors who have seen your growth during college can provide valuable perspectives and support as you transition into the professional world.
  • References and recommendations. When applying for jobs or further education, having strong references and recommendations is crucial. Professors who know you well and can speak to your abilities, work ethic, and character can provide powerful endorsements. Maintaining relationships with professors allows you to keep them updated on your progress, making it easier for them to write personalized and impactful recommendation letters when needed.
  • Collaborative opportunities. Even outside the classroom, there may be opportunities to collaborate with professors on research projects, publications, or other academic endeavours. These collaborations can enhance your professional portfolio and contribute to your ongoing learning and growth.
  • Professional development. Professors are experts in their fields, and their expertise continues to be valuable beyond your college years. Staying connected with professors can keep you updated on industry trends, new research, and advancements in your field of interest. They can provide recommendations for relevant conferences, workshops, or other professional development opportunities.
  • Personal growth and lifelong learning. Professors can play a significant role in shaping your intellectual curiosity and love for learning. Continuing to engage with professors allows you to remain connected to an environment that fosters intellectual stimulation and personal growth. They can recommend books, articles, or resources that contribute to your ongoing education and development.

To maintain relationships with professors after graduation, consider the following:

  1. Keep them updated. Share your professional milestones, achievements, or projects with professors. Keeping them informed about your progress allows them to stay connected and offer guidance or support when needed.
  2. Attend alumni events. Many educational institutions organize alumni events or gatherings. I always take advantage of these opportunities to reconnect with professors and network with fellow alumni.
  3. Offer assistance. If you have expertise or resources that could be helpful to professors, offer your assistance. This could include volunteering for guest lectures, sharing relevant industry insights, or collaborating on projects.
  4. Stay connected through social media. Connect with professors on professional platforms such as LinkedIn. Engage with their posts or share content that might be of interest to them. Yet, always maintain professionalism and appropriateness in your online interactions.
  5. Express gratitude. Take the time to express your appreciation for the impact your professors have had on your education and personal growth. A simple thank-you email or note can go a long way in nurturing the relationship.

Concluding Remarks

I am very happy to share my experience with you! Students often underestimate the power of building strong relationships with professors. These relationships go beyond the classroom. They can provide valuable support, guidance, and opportunities. By cultivating relationships with professors, you can gain academic and professional benefits that will set you apart from your peers. Remember, it’s not just about the grades; it’s about the connections you build along the way. So, take the initiative and be proactive! Also, invest in developing meaningful relationships with your professors. It will pay off in ways you never imagined.

Building strong relationships with professors takes effort, but the rewards are worth it. So, go ahead and start cultivating the connections that will shape your future. Good luck on your journey to academic and professional success!

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Michael Carlson
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Michael holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management and works as a Customer Service Supervisor at the proudest Airlines. He’s happy to have been helping people travel for 10 years in a row. And he’s a bigger cat lover than you could ever imagine.