Building Strong Student-Professor Relationships

Inside and Outside of the Classroom

OneClass has put together a nice guide that can help your students build positive relationships with their College Professors. Professors don’t just grade their assignments; they can also provide them with invaluable career support and mentoring that can make a big difference to their career after graduation.

In the Class

Students should always arrive on time and come prepared. After the first class they should approach the professor and introduce themselves, tell them where they are from and why they are interested in taking the class. They should not be afraid to ask questions during class. Many schools allocate a percentage of the grade to class participation. They should ask questions and express opinions and feel free to speak up and chip into any response of a classmate. If they prepare beforehand, they are more likely to have an opinion, comment or question.

Beyond the Classroom

OFFICE HOURS WITH PROFESSORS: We can’t emphasize enough on the importance of office hours. Office hours with professors are designated so that students can get additional support beyond classroom lectures. Many students underestimate the value they can add to their college experience by attending office hours. Many students tend to skip office hours because they aren’t sure about what questions to ask the professor during their interaction. They should visit the professor during office hours at least a couple of times during the semester. It’s a great window to meet their professors and be used as an opportunity to build a more meaningful relationship.

DO YOUR RESEARCH: They should do background research on the professor before visiting. Stuff like – where they went to school, what their areas of expertise are, what activities they support etc. By research, we don’t mean stalking them online but read up on their profiles on the school page or anything that is available publicly.

DON’T FEEL INTIMIDATED: Don’t be unconfident or hesitant due to the professor’s authority. Most professors would like to interact with students and get to know them more. Use this opportunity to establish a trusted channel of communication.

RE-INTRODUCE THEMSELVE IN THEIR FIRST VISIT: Professors teach big classes with hundreds of students. Even if they have introduced themselves previously, they may not be able to recall immediately. They should say their name and the course they belong to and refer to the latest class they attended.

COME PREPARED WITH A SPECIFIC TOPIC TO DISCUSS: Read the material that they want to refer to and have a list of questions ready where they need support. Coming prepared makes the interaction more productive and also lets the professor know that they take their studies seriously

BE POLITE: Be confident and yet polite. Professors get a good impression if the student is confident and they can write a better reference if they know they can vouch for them. Ask and clarify again if they have any doubts.

NON COURSE RELATED GUIDANCE: They can also use office hours for non-lecture associated discussions but something relevant to their college experience. It could be career advice or for example they might want to ask about the how to approach their dissertation, take advice on any class they might want to take in the next semester, what kind of internships to look for or how to start applying. Just ensure that they email the professor with what they would like to discuss beforehand so that they know what to provide them with in that limited amount of time.

BE REGULAR: Don’t wait for the semester end to go to these office hours. It comes across as desperate for attention. Go regularly for the office hours right from the beginning of the semester.

FOLLOW UP ON YOUR DISCUSSION: If they leave the office hours with any action items, make sure to close the loop as discussed or return after completing them. This will establish that they are responsible and take their tasks seriously.

ASK FOR RECOMMENDATIONS: Use this time to ask for additional materials to supplement their class studies. Professors have a vast knowledge of their subjects and can provide them with some great reading lists. Plus adding these additional resources to their study will give their assignments an edge over others and can be extremely helpful in getting them good grades.


LOOK OUT FOR SEMINARS, LECTURES AND WORKSHOPS OUTSIDE THEIR DEPARTMENT: Many of their professors attend speaker events. It’ll give them an excellent chance to hear them discuss topics not directly related to their course, yet exciting stuff that can inspire them.

INFORMAL MEET AND GREETS: If they meet their professors over at a less formal gathering like a meet and greet session after an event, use this time to welcome them and discuss the event – mention what they liked about it, ask them for their opinion. These events are a great platform to interact with their professors beyond the classroom. They give the professor the impression that they are interested in learning and growing as a person and not just cramming for good grades.

ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH TO THEIr COMMUNICATION: It’s a nice gesture to send a card or an email during the Holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving). Keep it simple, without getting too personal. Mention how they are grateful for their support or simply wish them a great holiday.

Career Guidance

College professors can be great mentors and guides. Here‘s how your students can get excellent career guidance from their professors:

Discuss their career goals with them and ask them for advice. They will be surprised by the amount of information they can get from them. Read some of their other works besides their class material. They will need references from their professors while applying for a post-grad or a job. It’s vital that they connect with their professors more than just at the class level. They need to know the student is a curious and hardworking professional who can do a great job in any role.Professors can connect them to relevant people whether it is for a job, internship or any other activity. If they are thinking of building a startup at some point, they will be of great help in connecting them with the right kind of network.

College can be daunting. They should count on their professors to be their mentor in this journey. They should discuss their concerns, and ask for guidance on what clubs to join that’ll help them professionally. Most of them will be more than happy to assist. If they have the option, apply to become a Teaching Assistant. This can be an incredible opportunity. Professors work closely with their TAs, and this can open a big window for them to get to know them intimately, speak to their ability and give them a personalized recommendation. Another option can be getting involved in any research project that a professor is heading. It’s a great pointer to add to their resume and can go a long way in landing that coveted internship.


Knowing right email etiquette is extremely important for many reasons. The way your students write an email to a professor has to be entirely different from the way they would email family or friends. It’s important to know the difference. Most professors can be put off by the typical “millennial language.” An email will probably be the first point of communication and relationship building with them. So they need to ensure that you follow the right guidelines. It’s also important to know what to avoid. Small mistakes can reflect poorly on them when they are trying to build a rapport with someone who doesn’t know them. They would have to be extra cautious when all they have is few interactions with them.


Respect: Their language is a crucial medium of displaying respect for someone who not only teaches them but is also way older in age and experience.

Right Salutation: They may not think it’s a big deal but starting an email with a “Hi” or “Hey” is an absolute blunder. The right salutation sets the tone of they email, displays their mannerisms and their respect for the person. Start with “Dear” or maybe “Hello” if they can’t digest being too formal.

Get The Name Right: It’s a simple thing, and surprisingly so many students get it wrong. Look up the right name, precisely the right last name and use it with “Dear Professor <Last Name>.” Please refrain from using their first name unless they are explicitly instructed.

Introduce Their Self: If it’s their first email (even if they have met him/her in person), introduce themselves. Professors meet hundreds of students, and it’s just unrealistic to expect them to recall them from a brief conversation. It’s never a bad idea to remind them how they know the student. Mention their name, class, and batch if required.

Go Beyond Obvious: Do research, go through notes, syllabus, course guides or search on the internet before asking questions which are pretty obvious.


Fail To Commit To Appointments: Don’t make an appointment for office hours with a professor and fail to show up without any notice. In any of an unavoidable situation, inform them well in advance as soon as they get to know. Avoid using lame excuses though. Be honest and apologize.

Overcommunicate: Professors tend to be approachable and supportive, but they are also crammed with lectures, grading, research, and other work. While they might want to ask them thousands of questions, they should be cautious while bombarding them with emails and problems that can be easily solved with help from friends or elsewhere.

Text Or Whatapp: Unless a professor asks for it, students should refrain from messaging them on their mobile numbers. Sometimes they provide students with their cell number, but that is only to be used in cases of emergency, not as an alternative to emails or formal communication.

Ask Personal Questions: Students should refrain from asking personal questions about their family or own life. It’s acceptable to be curious about their academic background or discuss a hobby if they mention it first. Anything more than that can come across as an intrusion into their personal space and may not be welcome.

Try Lame Excuses: They should never try lame excuses for not attending classes or turning in late assignments. In all probability, their professor has heard of your “innovative” reasons hundred times from other students. Try not to be late on assignments but if you are for some reason, they should be honest about it and apologize. Professors appreciate when students don’t try to fool them assuming that they don’t know.

The complete guide is available for download as a guide here: