The Tuesday Q&A: Approaching Your Professors

MBA FAQ, MBA frequently asked questions, bschool questions, mba questionsQuestion:

How do I approach my professors?

Answer:

You know, it’s funny how drastically the teacher-student relationship can change between high school and college. Some people never see this coming, and some people see it coming but don’t understand WHY it’s coming.

Before college, you’re coming from a situation where you see your teachers five days a week in a classroom of probably fewer than 40 students per class. Even at the back of the class, you’re probably no more than fifty feet away from the teacher, so it’s only logical to think that you’d have built SOME sort of a personal relationship with your high school teachers.

Now you’re heading off to college with thousands of other students to see teachers maybe two or three times a week with sometimes 300 other students in a gigantic seminar hall. If you’re sitting in the back, you may only be able to see the professor on a big-screen projection on the wall. Eek! So, how do you begin to start talking to your prof?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will help you out throughout your college career… not just with your professors, but with everything you do while you’re at school. The most important thing to remember is that you’re PAYING to be there. You’re a student, of course, but you’re also a customer. Now, if you were shopping for a car, would you be nervous about approaching the car salesman to learn more about the car you want to buy? Of course not.

The teacher-student relationship is OBVIOUSLY much more meaningful and long-term than the salesman-customer relationship, but always remember that the professors are there for YOU. They’re dealing with TONS of students, so be sure to approach them considerately and respectfully. Call or email to schedule a time to speak with them, taking their schedule into account. That said, never be embarrassed to approach them with questions. They’re just PEOPLE, and want to help you out… that’s what they’re there for, after all.

— Jon Frank

Science Degree: Not Just for Doctors and Scientists Anymore