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©WFU/Ken Bennett

Build a relationship with professors

One of the greatest things about Wake Forest (and the one the university brags about the most) is the small class sizes. Among other things, these class sizes are great because they help to facilitate student-teacher relationships.

However, it seems that more often than not, people don’t always take advantage of all that a good student-teacher relationship has to offer. Professors can be some of your greatest allies during your four years at Wake Forest, and frequently even beyond that. A good teacher recommendation can be essential, especially if you’re planning on pursuing a post-graduate degree. So here are some tips to help you make a great student-teacher relationship.

Go to Office Hours

You’ll hear this from your professors over and over again during your four years here. And it’s not just lip service — they want to help you! And it’s amazing how much office hours benefit you. Make sure to check the syllabus to see if you can make their scheduled office hours; if not, just email them. Most of them can fit you in. Some teachers might be happy to just sit and chat, but to be on the safe side, make sure that you come prepared with questions, or ideas for the paper you’re going to write. They can help you develop ideas, clarify concepts, and sometimes even give you hints for what will be covered on the next test. Furthermore, if your grade is annoyingly hovering between that B+ and A-, your teachers will be more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to someone they know has put in effort to seek help outside of class. This is particularly helpful in a larger lecture class like those for introductory science classes. Office hours will be the best half hour you’ve ever spent  — your GPA will thank you for it later.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Be One of the Class Leaders

Professors love inquisitive students. Don’t be afraid to answer and ask questions in class. The professor is much more likely to remember the people who participate in class — and they notice who doesn’t. Sometimes your grade can even suffer from it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways you can stand out. But why not put yourself out there? Even if you don’t get the answer right, the professor will appreciate that you tried. Plus, sometimes it can be painful watching a professor trying to coax the class into interacting with him or her — you’ll be putting everyone out of their misery. So be the kid who gets the discussion going! You’ll generate conversation and might even help your classmates feel more comfortable, making the class more enjoyable for you, the professor and your fellow students.

Maintain Your Relationships

Once you’ve made your relationship, make sure to keep in touch. Even something as simple as popping by their office to say hello, or giving them a friendly greeting when you pass them on campus will help you maintain your relationships with professors. If you really liked the professor, you might consider taking another class with him or her. Or, if you’re interested in research (in any subject: arts, sciences, humanities), consider doing research with them over the summer.Teachers rarely, if ever, reject a student who shows interest in their areas of study. Wake Forest offers several summer research grants (applications are typically due early second semester), some of which come with a stipend. You’ll not only get a résumé booster, but also you’ll develop an incredibly strong relationship with a teacher who can speak to your work inside and outside the classroom. Great recommendations are highly useful (and a confidence booster!) in post-graduate studies, and even for job recommendations.

It’s never too early to develop a strong student-teacher relationship. In fact, I met my mentor on accepted students day, before I had even started taking classes at Wake Forest. Our relationship has only gotten stronger since then. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! You’ll gain a mentor (and possibly even a friend) in the process.

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