Note: Part 1 of this series – “7 things students wish they could tell their professors, but never do” – can be found here.
1. Impressing us is easier than you think
Here’s how most professors determine if you’re a flash in the pan or the real deal: You consistently handle yourself with ease and grace. You show up to class on time, sit near the front and regularly contribute to the class discussion. You ask thoughtful questions, pay attention and complete assignments.
If a student can master these with a good attitude and mature style, the professor knows he or she is headed for professional success regardless of test scores. Getting ahead in any profession boils down to mastering the ordinary stuff first, long before anyone expects you to be a superstar.
Most professors I know are pretty good at detecting suck-ups. So if you try to butter us up, we’ll likely be more suspicious than impressed. We’re not that easy to fool.
2. It’s an added bonus when you actually like us
While I enjoy my relationships with students a great deal, those friendships are really just an added bonus. I care more about preparing my students for their futures. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that you like me. But it’s my job – through my course and mentoring – to make sure you’ll enjoy your future field.
3. Where’s the love?
The whole relationship dynamic between the two of us looks very different from your point of view. Face it, you’re going to want letters of recommendation from your professors; you’re going to ask them to serve as references when applying for jobs; you may have to ask them to bend the rules and be empathetic to a late paper submission, missed class or unrepresentative test score.
Furthermore, I’m not just familiar with books. I also know people you might like – and for your intended career, ought – to be introduced to. Which means you’ll need to get more comfortable with networking. I can help you with that. But none of these things will happen if you and I essentially are strangers. Sure, I can ensure you get a good education but not much beyond that.
As previously mentioned, I like to be friends with my students. But, no offense, I don’t gain nearly as much from those friendships as you do. So it’s always surprising to me that students will pay so much to go to college but put so little effort into getting as much out of the experience as they can.
4. The grading system isn’t always fair
Unfortunately, the grading system in college is set up to reward final outputs, not necessarily processes. Take, for example, a student who isn’t a top-performer in terms of tangible, quantitative grades but who consistently demonstrates high-quality character. I know that student deserves a higher mark. Unfortunately there’s only so much I can do in these scenarios. But I have a pretty good idea who’s going to thrive down the road and who’s not.
Think of the faulty grading system this way: It’s highly probable that no one will ever ask you – much less even care – what grade you got in my course, or any other professor’s for that matter. They’ll only care that you passed the class, graduated from a good school and were awarded the degree you claim to have. This is hard for many students to understand. But believe me, the higher education system is rigged to make you believe exactly the opposite.
5. I’m willing to help, but you have to let me
For starters, some students avoid speaking to or even making eye contact with the professor they’re seeking help from. Many students never stop to chat after class or come by during office hours to talk. They don’t take me up on offers to grab lunch and talk about careers, networking and the like.
And when students do interact with me, they don’t ask enough questions – let alone the “right” questions. If they did, it would allow me to be completely honest and helpful. Students who are serious about achieving success in the workplace should frequently ask for feedback on style, manners, demeanor, leadership qualities, work habits, speaking abilities, networking – you get the idea.
Many students go out of their way to avoid dealing with their professors. But it’s useless to expect a professor to give valuable advice to an almost-complete stranger.
6. Know what it takes to succeed
More than a few of my students are total drama queens and kings when it comes to getting a high grade. They make it seem as if the grade they receive will make or break their long-term professional success. But thinking like that is really playing small ball.
While I do believe my course can advance a student down a particular career path, it’s just one course among many others in the grand scheme of things. And the grade I assign is not likely to be as pivotal as some students make it seem.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t always hit the top of the grading curve in all the courses I took. A few times I had to meet with my professors and make sure I would at least receive a passing grade. Nonetheless, I never let a challenging course – let alone a less-than-perfect grade – stop me from enrolling in courses for the next semester or applying to the program I found interesting. I never let a few less-than-awesome grades define my personal or professional success.
Your future professional success comes from more important things than the grade you get in my class or that of any other professor. I promise you with complete confidence that if you are a sincere student and study diligently, the Grade Gods will treat you with the exact same generosity they once bestowed upon me.
Keith Murray, PhD is a marketing professor at Bryant University. These ideas are courtesy of his students over the years, his time as a professor and his experience as a life-long student.
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Bryant University, career advice, college student, professor, OPINION, VOICES FROM CAMPUS
Sometimes life gets pretty stressful with assignments on top of other priorities, especially with the last few weeks of the semester creeping up on us. Pulling an all-nighterisn’t healthy, so instead of trying to get things done all at once, maybe it’s best to ask for an extension on an assignment. An extension on an assignment can be beneficial and at times necessary for collegiettes to perform their absolute best. Here are a few tips for when you’re looking to ask for an extension.
When You Should Ask for an Extension
Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to ask for an extension on an assignment. Maybe you’re trying to spice up your project so it’s the best it can be! Shawn Kildea, an assistant professor of communication at Rider University, says that students can ask for an extension if they want to add a few elements to their project to improve it as a whole.
“If a student is working on a project and makes it clear that by having more time they can dramatically improve the piece by adding an element they can't capture in the deadline time frame, I will usually offer an extension,” he says.
It’s also worth asking for an extension on an assignment if you are struggling with unclear directions, or if you do not have the sufficient resources to complete the assignment. This could be affecting the entire class, so expressing your concerns to your professor may be the best way to go.
“I will extend a deadline if I believe that my directions were unclear or if the deadline proves too unrealistic, or if a majority of the class appears to be struggling,” said Jason Method, a journalism instructor at Rider University.
Being studious and hardworking may prove to be an advantage if you need a deadline extension.
“If a student has been doing their homework and doing well on tests or quizzes, then if they ask for an extension and offer a decent reason, I'm inclined to listen,” Method says.
How to Ask for an Extension
One of the biggest things to keep in mind when you’re planning on asking for an extension is that you shouldn’t wait until the very last minute to do so! It will look as if you’ve procrastinated, which won’t leave a good impression on your professors (or one day, on your employers).
“I always tell my students that I almost never grant a last-minute extension request,” says Barry Janes, a communications professor at Rider University. “If they ask earlier, it shows that the assignment is on their minds, and whatever concerns or problems they are having seem more legitimate.”
If you ask early and provide a good reason, you are halfway to your extension.
Generally, you can start your request off with an email to your professor asking for the extension and giving your reason why you need one. Still not sure what to say? Give this a try:
Dear Professor ________,
I’ve been having a little bit of a hard time finding sources for my term paper, and in order for it to be the best it can be, I could really use a little extra time to research and write it. Would it be possible to have an extension for a few days?
Please let me know if you would like for me to meet with you during your office hours to discuss this further.
It’s no fun to burn out and exhaust yourself mentally as you try to get all of your work done at the end of the semester. Asking for an extension may seem scary, but it’s a whole lot better than failing the assignment or the class altogether!
Sometimes asking your professor if he or she can extend a deadline is the best thing to do. The worst that your professor can say is that you can’t have an extension, but it’s worth a try!