By: Jonathan Zobek, CSP Intern, Summer 2020
An important part of college is interacting with professors. Their knowledge, after all, is what college is all about. There can be many benefits to reaching out to your professors, such as a strong professional or personal connection, academic or career development opportunities that extend beyond your college years, and discovering that you love a new subject area. The possibilities are endless. These relationships can form in many ways, whether visiting during their office hours, talking after class, or just raising your hand and participating during class. A lot can take place during in-class discussion! Some professors even sponsor small group discussions about their subject.
Professionally, a professor could be a great career connection, and a letter of recommendation with their name on it could go a long way. Additionally, a professor can help you dive deeper into your subject area and develop your interests. It took years of research and writing for professors to obtain their positions, and they are certainly willing to help the next generation of interested scholars. For example, when I showed interest by going to office hours, a professor in a research methods class was willing to work closely with me to ensure that I found the best research for my proposal. While this professor helped everyone during class, showing interest and putting forth extra effort to attend office hours went a long way.
Additionally, more personal connections can form. Even though professors have advanced degrees, and may be intimidating, they are people who may have similar interests or backgrounds as you. For example, I was able to connect with my Interpersonal Communication professor personally based on a discussion in class about regional differences in communication. As an example, he used New Jersey, the state where my college is located and where most students are from. I found out that this professor grew up in the town right next to mine. This was especially surprising because not many people have heard of my hometown, which is about two square miles. We were both familiar with the area, and this commonality fostered a deeper connection beyond the fact that I was studying the same subject that he taught.
Moreover, meeting with professors can allow you to discover a subject area that you did not know about previously. For example, during my freshman year, I took the introductory Communication Studies course. I frequently attended office hours with the professor who taught the class, and she explained a lot about the area of Communication Studies. She explained what further coursework would consist of, the versatility of a Communication Studies degree, and how many applications it has in the real world. This sparked my interest in the field, and I soon switched majors to Communication Studies.
Going the extra mile and showing interest can also lead to professional and academic opportunities. An example from my own life took place while I was taking an Intro to Media Communication class. The professor who taught it was the director of my college's Office of Instructional Design, and who holds training sessions for the integration of technology in course curricula. After working closely with this professor to ensure accessibility in the classroom, she said she saw a call for a journalistic article about accessibility in the classroom, and she asked if I was interested in co-writing it with her. I gladly accepted, and we wrote the article during the summer, and submitted it for a poster session at an academic conference in Seattle, Washington. Later, the paper was accepted for the conference. Even though the conference itself was cancelled due to COVID-19, we presented the article to students in a Special Education class at my college. Although on a smaller scale, it was still a great way to present the article since we could not do it at the conference.
Overall, there are many benefits to connecting with professors during college. It can lead to long-lasting professional, and possibly even personal, connections. These can later be used for LinkedIn connections, and even letters of recommendation for graduate school or other pursuits later in life. It can also lead to more unexpected opportunities that will allow you to grow professionally and academically. While letters of recommendation and other benefits should not be the only reason for connecting with professors, a little extra effort does go a long way.
Jonathan Zobek graduated from The College of New Jersey with his degree in Communication Studies. He served as an intern for the College Success Program in the summer of 2020.