By Gabriella Cirelli
There are countless academic differences between high school and college, like the rigor of your courses and a different scheduling style. But one of the changes that could take the most getting used to is your class size and dynamic, especially at a larger school.
In high school, your classes hovered between 20 and 35 students, but now you find yourself stepping into lecture halls that look more like athletic arenas and sitting in class next to 300 of your peers. The professor might lecture using a podium or microphone, and when you raise your hand to speak, you just get pointed at instead of named. You wonder how you’re ever going to get to know any of your professors, not to mention how you’re going to get to know one well enough to ask for a recommendation from them down the road -- seniors in college, we’re talking to you!
Sound like you? You’re not completely out of luck. One of the big myths of college is that you’ll never get to know your professors in large classes. Though it may require more effort on your part, there are some ways you can get to know your professors, even in a class of hundreds of students, who will write you a killer recommendation down the road. Check out these tips from Desiree Griffin, lecturer in the Department of Psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Don’t rush out the door after class ends
If you’re not in a hurry to make it to another class, those few minutes after your lecture is over are a great time to introduce yourself to your professor or chat with him or her briefly. “It is important for students to take the initiative and introduce themselves to their professor, preferably sooner rather than later,” Griffin says.
The lecture will be fresh in both of your minds, so you could easily ask him or her a question about something you didn’t understand or talk about your opinion on an issue he or she mentioned. This not only puts a face to your name for the professor, but it also shows her that you were actively paying attention to the lecture and that you cared enough about what she taught to talk about it even after class is over. Can someone say, “brownie points?”
“These interactions stood out to me because it demonstrated a genuine interest in what they were learning, which I found refreshing, and I wanted to reciprocate that interest by discussing topics with them before or after class,” Griffin says.
Go to office hours, even if you don’t need help
A common misconception about office hours is that they’re only there for students struggling in the class who need extra help. And while office hours are a great resource for getting your questions and concerns dealt with one-on-one, they’re also a great way to get to know your professor.
“By going to instructors’ office hours, you can take the time to tell them about yourself and your interests and also get the opportunity to get their insights into their respective fields (most instructors like to talk about what they do/study),” Griffin says. “Having this meeting will likely set you apart from most of your classmates and make you more memorable. You will also have established a working relationship with your instructors, which will make it easier to reach out to them during the semester if you are struggling with any of the material.”
Lucy Julian, a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, says she tries to go to office hours at the beginning of each semester to get to know her professors. “At first it seemed weird to go to office hours with no real question or issue, but I realized quickly that my professors really appreciated me just introducing myself, and I usually had awesome conversations with them,” Lucy says. “They were great resources for everything from study abroad program recommendations to recommendations for future courses to take in the department.”