The best way to reach out to your professors

A professor meeting with her student in a classroom.

By: Fernie Colin, a junior majoring in secondary education and English, an Adulting Ambassador and First-Year Success coach

During my first year of college, I remember sitting down in a huge classroom and feeling lost in a lecture I didn’t fully understand. I kept thinking, “How am I ever going to get this?” My professor seemed so far away in the middle of the classroom, teaching his material confidently,  Reaching out to him seemed intimidating, to say the least.

I’m now a junior, so I’ve learned a few things about talking to professors. As it turns out, there are several situations in which reaching out to your professor can be of great help — like if an assignment is unclear or you’re having a personal issue that’s affecting your development in class.  And luckily, asking for help is not as scary as I thought

For some advice on reaching out to your professors and instructors, I decided to reach out to one of mine! I spoke to instructor Nicole Trombley from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College about her advice on dos and don’ts for students: 

Do … be yourself. Trombley wanted to remind every Sun Devil that there’s “no need to be nervous, as we are all human.”

Don’t … come unprepared. Before reaching out, identify what you’d like to discuss. If you’re asking a question about an assignment, check Canvas, your syllabus and any other resources provided in class before asking your professor. 

Do … give them time to respond. If you send your professor an email, don’t expect an answer immediately, especially if it’s the night before a test or a few minutes before an assignment is due. 

Don’t … be afraid to approach them. Whether you’re taking classes remotely through ASU Sync or you’re taking classes in person, there’s usually some time before or after class when you could reach out to your professor. Use that time to set up an appointment for office hours or just to check in and say hello. And if you have an interest in their research or other work, let them know! Everyone loves to talk about work they’re passionate about.

Finally, remember that your professors are human beings just like you who care about your success. By reaching out to my instructors, like Trombley, I have been able to get help with questions and challenges I’ve had in each class. I now have a great connection with someone in my field of interest. In the future, I can ask for career help or a letter of recommendation when I eventually apply for internships, jobs, or graduate school. 

Creating connections with your professors is something that will help you throughout your entire college experience. Need more tips? Click here to get advice from other students on the benefits of meeting with your instructors and how to do it effectively.

Adulting 101

Sun Devils turn to ASU Adulting 101 to learn (some of) the things not taught in class. Not sure about how to do something? Need to connect with an expert? We got you.


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