Networking With Professors As An Incoming Freshman
Wondering how to maximize your college degree? Below are four tips for
creating and sustaining a community that can help you succeed.
Many students don’t realize that the connections they make on campus will become instrumental in how they effectively use their degree. With smaller student populations, private colleges are rich in community resources that students may otherwise not have access to at larger Universities. These four tips will help jumpstart network cultivation—propelling you to your degree and beyond.
1.) Identify Faculty, Communicate Early and Often
If you arrive on campus with a degree path in mind, use the summer to spend some time getting acquainted with your universities department webpage. If your department doesn’t have a specific website, spend some time looking at faculty bios and identify Professors whose area of expertise aligns with your own. Reach out to one to two of these Professors via email at the beginning of the semester—even better if you reach out before the semester starts and schedules begin to fill up. In a brief email, introduce yourself and ask the Professor if you can schedule a meeting to discuss prospective mentorship and steps you can take to get the most out of your degree as an incoming freshman. If you don’t hear back, don’t panic! Professors are incredibly busy people. Keep trying! Follow up once every three or so weeks. If a Professor does get back to you but doesn’t have time to meet don’t take it personally. Identify another Professor, that shares your interests, and try again.
2.) Professional Communication
Always remember to use professional communication with college faculty and administrations. All email communication should address faculty and administrators with “Dear” followed by the appropriate title, (Dr., Mrs., Miss., Mr.). Unless you have clear permission to do otherwise, stick with this format. Email subject lines also play an important role in effective correspondence. Avoid cliches like ‘urgent’ to get a professor’s attention. If you’re introducing yourself, consider, “Incoming Student – By Way of Introduction.&rdsquo; Remember, be professional and creative.
As an incoming college student, consider developing an email signature to share more about yourself and your interests. An effective signature includes your name, prospective major and/or minor, and graduation year. If you join any clubs or participate in athletics, add those to your signature as well. Most importantly, demonstrate that you’re reliable by responding to emails promptly. It is important to be diligent about checking your inbox, specifically when connecting with faculty as it is their primary form of communication.
3.) Utilize Office Hours
At the beginning of the semester, you’ll hear Professors talk about office hours. Most Professors have standing office hour times listed at the top of their syllabus. Office hours can serve as important networking opportunities. Take full advantage of them! Office hours are not just there for when you have a question on course content, grades, or test review. Use this time as an opportunity to ask for additional feedback on papers, exchange information, or get to know a professor. Particularly, don’t be afraid to stop by and start a thoughtful conversation or to ask questions about navigating freshman year. Building strong working relationships your freshman year can be helpful for letters of recommendation down the line. Always remember to follow up via email with the Professor to thank them for any additional feedback or advice. Small gestures of appreciation can go a long way!
4.) Show Genuine Interest
You won’t be interested in every course that you take, but for those Professors whom you enjoy learning from and who share your interests, display a high degree of enthusiasm in their work. Show up to class on time and demonstrate learning readiness. Learning readiness includes taking notes, thinking critically, remaining engaged, and asking thoughtful questions. If there’s something in class that you find especially compelling, use that as an opportunity to stop into office hours and discuss it with the Professor. At the end of the semester, send the Professor a note of thanks and continue to keep in touch—via email or by way of office hours. Consistency in communication is paramount for building sustainable mentorship communities on campus.