Many people attending college these days are so focused on the goal of laying hands on a diploma that they forget to make the most out of the university experience. One very large aspect of going to college is getting acquainted with professors that you respect and can relate to in your field. This process is technically referred to as academic mentoring and it can make a huge difference in the understanding, opportunities, and enjoyment that stem from higher education. A quality mentor relationship is the product of careful consideration and commitment. The following steps can help you figure out which professors to choose as mentors and how to best nurture those relationships.
1. Latch on to the right professor. You don’t have time to have a deep and meaningful relationship with every college professor, so you will need to limit your prospects based on some practical considerations. The most obvious one is a willing professor. Many college teachers are bogged down with classes and research and find themselves too busy to take the extra time required to become a mentor. Others are only on campus to collect a paycheck and not willing to go the extra mile. There are some professors who are very passionate about their area of expertise and cherish the chance to pass on what they know to devoted pupils. Choose a professor who specializes in something that really fires you up, hopefully something to do with your major. It also helps to understand the temperament of a particular professor. A quirky, demanding type A professor may clash with your laid back approach to life and vice versa.
2. Be flexible about meeting times. The advantages of being mentored by a professor will cost you some extra time and you will need to be able to work yourself in to the professor’s schedule. At your first meeting you may want to convey to the professor what you have in mind for meeting so you can clear up any unreasonable expectations. Don’t expect to get more than about a half hour a week with a given professor unless you take on an internship or project with them. Allow them to suggest the most convenient place to meet, be it at a coffee house or their office or the classroom before class. The professor is doing you a favor by making extra time to help you advance academically so always be gracious and grateful in return.
3. Come prepared to every meeting with questions or topics you hope to discuss. Mentoring is not hanging out and discussing the highlights of the big game, though you may develop a friendship with a professor that transcends the scholarly realm eventually. A professor will be annoyed with you if you don’t have a lot to say or ask them about, so jot down a list of topics to talk about that is in line with the reasons you wanted a mentor in the first place. Take notes about any books or reference material the teacher recommends to you and take the time to peruse these things on your own.
4. Communicate your academic goals with your mentor. Chances are they will know ways to send you closer to your aspirations or have connections in areas that could really help you out. A good professor who loves what he teaches and loves to see others with a similar passion succeed will have no shortage of sage advice for a student with an earnest desire to listen and learn. Be sure to express interest in your mentor’s personal projects as well because respect is mutual in this type of relationship.
Making it through all four years of college without going deeper into a mentoring relationship with a professor is one regret you don’t need to have about your time in college. This semester is the perfect time to begin investing in the quality of your education by involving yourself more in the life of a helpful and knowledgeable professor.