5 Tips on How To Talk to Your Professors

January 1, 1970

When you first start college, figuring out how to talk to your professors can be daunting. For some people, it’s easy to wave and say hello, but tough to hold a conversation. For others, it can be difficult to even utter a word. I get that. These are very intelligent people, many of whom have PhDs. You don’t want to sound stupid in front of them. But for all of you who are new to the college scene, I’ll tell you a secret: it’s not that hard to talk to your professors, especially at Houghton.

Here are my top five tips for getting over that hurdle and connecting with your profs:

1. Talk to Your Professors Like You Would a Friend

Don’t be intimidated. Houghton’s professors are here to help you get the most out your time here. They want to see you thrive, both in your classes and as a well-rounded person. I can almost guarantee you that they will welcome you like you would welcome a friend into your house—so if you talk to them like that, you’ll be fine.

2. Find Common Interests

I have a great relationship with one of the professors here, even though I have never taken any of his classes. We are friends because we found a common interest, comic books. The first time we met, over two hours went by until I exited his office, because we had such a good time talking with each other. You’d be surprised to find out how much you have in common with the faculty here at Houghton. I bet there is a huge chance that you encounter a professor here that is passionate about something that you love.

3. Set Up a Meeting

If you find it difficult to strike up a conversation with a professor, set up a meeting with them to just chat. This way, you are in a controlled environment—it is just the two of you, in a situation where a conversation is inevitable. Professors have office hours for this very purpose, and even if those times don’t work for you, professors are usually more than happy to make a special appointment. You’ll be surprised how much you can talk to your professors about, once you get into a situation where you have to talk with them 1v1.

4. Answer Questions in Class

A great way to break the ice with a professor is to answer a question they pose during class. Unless you have very talkative classmates, chances are, you won’t have a hard time getting an answer or two in. And even if your answer is wrong, or not entirely what they were looking for, that professor will remember your effort and participation in a class that they worked hard on to deliver to their students. There is also a good chance that the professor will acknowledge to you how much they appreciated your participation in class, which is a great way to start off a conversation or get to know that professor on a more personal level.

5. Take Your Time

Rome was not built in a day, and neither will a relationship with a professor. Just like with any relationship, you don’t have to hit it off immediately; you just have to make a move. Start slow. Say hello and comment on our fantastic Houghton weather. You don’t have to do or say anything special. Just be you, and that’s enough.

I hope that this list helps you as you start off your college career and your walk with many of our talented professors here at Houghton. Just remember to keep it simple, be yourself, and put on a smile, and everything will go great.