Classes, Connections, General, How-to, People, Profs

How to Approach Professors like a Pro

Confession time: I used to be deathly afraid of my professors (and teachers). What?

I also used to be one of those kids that thought teachers lived at school all the time and didn’t do anything else. What a shock it was when 6-year-old me saw a teacher outside of school for the first time and realized that teachers are human beings just like me.

School picture of Liana at age six

6-year-old me, completely unaware of how awesome teachers and professors can be!

Professors always looked incredibly intimidating to me that even if I were to go to office hours or send them an e-mail, what would I say or ask? But here’s the shocking surprise: Professors are humans just like us! They are here to bestow us with their knowledge, help us figure out our career paths, and be guiders in our journeys at U of T. Through my own embarrassing mistakes, I’ve learned some tips about how to interact with profs. The two most important ways are through office hours and e-mail.

Office Hours:

  • Do come prepared with at least one question. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I like to be prepared, especially in a formal setting. Office hours are offered by professors to give students time to ask about concepts they don’t understand or concerns about the course.
  • Research your professor, if you’d like to know more about their career path. If you’re interested in learning more about higher education or academic career paths, professors can definitely discuss that with you! Also, if you learn more about your professor’s career beforehand, your professor will recognize that you’re genuinely interested in them and the subject matter you’re discussing.

E-mail:

  • ALWAYS proofread your e-mails. I can’t stress this enough, just like you would proofread your essays and research reports, always make sure to read over what you’ve written. Check for spelling, grammatical errors, and slang (plz do not $end ur prof a msg like this). Trust me, it can be super embarrassing to send an e-mail with a spelling message.
  • Do keep your e-mail brief. Please don’t send your professor a three paragraph long e-mail. E-mailing your professor should be for brief inquiries like, “Could you please clarify what the marking scheme for this assignment is?” or “Will you be offering additional office hours as the midterm approaches?” If you do have a question that would probably require a longer response, for instance if you didn’t understand several concepts discussed during lecture, then attending your professor’s office hours is probably your best bet.
Draft e-mail that says, "Dear Professor, Please help me with concepts. I don't understand. From, Liana" written with slang and grammatical errors.

Please don’t send this to your profs.

U of T, be brave. Remember that profs are people too and most students don’t take advantage of office hours! Just think of your lonely prof, staring longingly at the door, wishing that a student would come in and ask them about the upcoming essay. If you haven’t worked your way up to attending office hours, try e-mailing your professor first! Student Life offers an awesome resource on how to talk to your profs, so definitely check that out for more pointers. Remember that professors are there for your benefit and be strong, I believe in all of you.