Frequent communication is the key to success with professors

Surviving college professors is easy _ you just have to be very determined to not let them get the better of you.

They’re only professors, after all. They’re no different than you, except they have lots of initials after their names. When you’ve jumped through all required hoops and a few extra besides, then you’ll have all those initials after your name as well.

The main trick is this: communication. You may hate your professors, or you may love them, but no matter what happens, keep in constant contact. It can be by e-mail or by visiting after class or during office hours.

If there’s anything remotely unclear in the syllabus (and there will be), make sure you ask about it. If you don’t, it could come back to haunt you.

If you or a family member is ill and you need an extension, or at least some extra consideration, e-mail your professor. If you ask ahead of deadline, they will usually give you extra time. Just don’t wait till the very last minute and beg for mercy. That says your problem is probably procrastination, which is your own silly fault.

Beyond that, I’ve observed that college professors tend to fall in three general categories:

_ New and seeking tenure

_ Already tenured

_ Waiting for retirement.

Professors who have received tenure are far more likely to be difficult than the other two. They can do pretty much whatever they want, and it’s tough to get them to change or leave. You can go over their heads to the department chair all you want, and rarely does anything happen.

Those who are waiting for retirement are often fairly decent. They are kind, not too strict, and they have an incredible knowledge base that they love to share.

The new ones are tricky. Of those, I’ve met two types. Last spring, I had one of the bad types.

She had only been teaching at this college for a few quarters, and she taught history through her own personal viewpoint, even when other professors told her she needed a more balanced view. All professors do this, of course, but it was far more pronounced with her.

About halfway through the quarter, I committed a cardinal sin: I became disillusioned with the class and essentially dropped out. I continued to attend and take the exams, but I stopped doing the homework and watching the videos. I didn’t bother to discuss the issue with her. I got my first C from that class, and there’s nothing I can do to fix that now. Be forewarned!

The other type of new professor is exactly what all professors are like in that ideal, perfect world that none of us can ever visit. She had just gotten her graduate degree after spending enough time in the work world to know how things REALLY happen.

Her first quarter on campus, she took me under her wing, so to speak. She gave me realistic resume help, assistance on internship applications and help with classes. I soon discovered I was not the only student to benefit from her generous personality. She puts in overtime to help all her students.

Now, almost a year later, this professor and I are still in contact, discussing job issues and university issues, bouncing ideas for improvement off each other and helping each other see those ideas through.

The moral here is that you will, like all of us, make your own mistakes. The other moral is that no two college professors are alike, but one thing they all expect is communication. Some of them will spend only one hour in their office per week and never answer e-mail, but that doesn’t change the fact that you need to talk with them.

This is a tactic that will not only help your grades, but it will help you in the real world as well.