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1. You might need adviceCollege professors are an impeccable resource for both professional and academic advice. You might soon need tips for job hunting and writing cover letters, or suggestions about which graduate programs you should apply to. Your professor can give you valuable, first-hand advice about work and education, because he or she already has experience in these realms. A professor with whom you establish trust might be willing to give you more candid information about college and life after college. Professors are at the forefront of innovative research and education, so they may have new, inside knowledge about a field. In addition, a professor who knows your strengths, weaknesses, and academic history can more effectively help you assess your chances of getting into a higher degree program.
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2. You might need a letter of recommendationUndergraduate students are now choosing to continue to graduate school in record numbers. For nearly all master’s degree and doctorate programs in the United States, you will likely be required to submit between two and four letters of recommendation. Schools often ask for recommendations from former professors (rather than employers), because professors can best attest to a student’s academic abilities. Not surprisingly, a professor would agree to write you a letter of recommendation only if he or she felt qualified to discuss your academic skills and interests. A professor whom you rarely spoke to, and who knows little about you, would likely be hesitant to provide a recommendation on your behalf. Avoid getting turned down for a recommendation because a professor does not remember you—embarrassing! Instead, take small steps now to ensure your professor learns your name and face, and then build up the relationship from there.
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3. You might need a boostHas your final grade ever teetered on the fine line between a B+ and an A-? If so, you may have wondered how you could get that little boost to send your grade into the A range. Or, you may have already realized that your professor is the only individual, besides you, who has a bearing on your grade. A professor who observes that a student has been working diligently all semester might be more likely to help the student along by adding .3 point to that final grade. Also, a professor who knows and respects you might be inclined to offer you an extra credit opportunity that was not made available to the rest of the class. If you make an effort to go to your professor’s office hours, he or she may clue you in on which topics could appear on the next exam. With the student-professor relationship, trust, courtesy, and integrity are essential. If you go out of your way to be kind to or assist a professor, whether it is with a smile or help setting up the projector, the professor may be more likely to support you. This support may come in the form of career advice, a job reference, or guidance before a test, so approach your professor with the utmost politeness and sincerity.
Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.