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Winning via communicating effectively with your college professor

Winning within the academic arena with effective communications

If your goal is to academically succeed, communicating effectively with your professors is crucial. Learning techniques that will advance your standing within any class is mandatory, beginning with step ONE: Master 'Communicating effectively with your Professors 101'.

FOR INSTANCE, CORY is an 18 year old recent high school graduate, entering his freshmen year of college with a most impressive 3.8 GPA (majoring in Pre Med). Most College Professors (if not all) would agree that Cory, as promising as he may appear to be, is not off to a very good start, and might, in fact, be headed for a GPA nose dive...unless he goes about the business of making effective communications, within his current academic arena, a priority.

At 4:45 pm, Cory rushed to get to Professor Wilson’s office to request his required signature to “overload” Chemistry 220 before the college’s Registration Office closed at 5 pm. He tells Professor Wilson, upon entering his office: “Mr. Wilson, your class is the only class available that will coincide with my work schedule. Would you sign this?
Reluctantly, Professor Wilson signed Cory’s “overload” request form. As Cory turned to run to the Registration building before it closed, Professor Wilson heard a faint sound of what he thought to be a ‘thanks.”
After securing official placement in Professor Wilson’s class, Cory decided to drop back by, just for a quick chat. Professor Wilson was putting on his coat and scarf, preparing to go home (as his 2 pm to 6 pm “office hours” were now officially over). Cory enters and sits in a chair (uninvited) next to Professor Wilson’s desk:
“By the way, Mr. Wilson, I know class starts next week but me and a few dudes from high school, already bought tickets for Kid Rock’s concert in New York next week. This means of course I will be missing Mon and Wednesday’s class sessions. So what I want to know is: Will we be doing anything important?
And can you give me the upcoming assignments I am bound to miss, now, and tell me the requirements?
“Oh I forgot to tell you, Sir, my girlfriend, Piper is enrolled in your class too and she needs the same information.” Cory chuckles as he concluded “This way, you can explain to two...for one.” Professor Wilson said nothing. He simply turned to leave his office and then the building, got inside of his car, and proceeded to go home.

Upon reaching home, Cory remembers he left his Detroit Tiger baseball cap on Professor Wilson’s desk. No big deal, Cory thought to himself, I’ll just email Professor Wilson so he’ll be on the lookout for my hat. I can also ask him to leave a syllabus in his office door.

Cory sits at his computer desk and begins to write:

To: SWilson111@USA
Hey Mr. Wilson,
This is Cory here. Remember me? I’m in your class ?. I left my baseball cap in your office. I need you to hold on to it until I see you in a couple weeks. Or you can take it to the Ford Building’s Lost & Found (it’s in room 638),
Oh by the way, my sister, Berry, has a class on campus in the morning, so remember (since I won’t be in class, but rather in New York) to leave a course syllabus in your office door box.
PS I’m going to send you the coolest Post card from NY!!!!
Your Homie,


1. Note that Cory asked “Would you sign this?” What happened to the appropriate use of the word “please?” “Would you please sign this?” Even though our increasing fast-paced high tech, often crazy busy and seemingly quite impersonal world, your remembering to say the simple power words: “please” and “thank you,” will enable you to forever stand out from the professional and academic competition, as well as escalate your overall perceived level of professionalism.
Cory’s inaudible “thanks” to Dr. Wilson for his signature was weak (if in fact, he said thanks at all). It is hardly mandatory for any Professor to open his or her already filled, and thereby, closed class. Dr. Wilson signed Cory’s overload registration form as an academic courtesy. Therefore, certainly, appreciation should be communicated to Dr. Wilson, as per our American tradition of audibly verbalizing the words “thank you” whenever one shares a nicity.

Writer Eli Amdur, in her online article “Hello, Welcome, Please and Thank You” (North Jersey online publications – Friday, May 29th 2011), reflects about an owner of a small jewelry store who proved how effective simple courtesies can be.
According to Amdur’s written anecdote, the jewelry store owner used an experimental design and divided customers into three groups. Group one received a simple “thank you” telephone call; while group two received a “thank you, we have a special sale” telephone call; and group three, write Amdur, received no telephone call at all. “What were the results?” Amdur asked her readers to guess. “Overall, Sales increased 27 percent over the previous year.”

Amdur explains that 70 percent of the increase in sales came from the “thank you” only group one, 30 percent came from group two and there was no change in group three. “One major precipitating factor leading to the decline in civility happens to be the very force of the Internet,” writes Amdur, while simultaneously crediting the Internet “with facilitating countless benefits for human kind.” It is indeed, because of the Internet, Amdur believes, that has made communications too easy; automatic and impersonal – in other words, less civil.
“And so there are many who have no expectation of civility. To them it doesn’t matter. But there are plenty of people” concludes Amdur “to who civility is still a big deal. …And those people likely will include the next guy who interviews you.”

2. Cory addressed Mr. Wilson not as Dr. (or Professor), but rather as “Mr.”
While there seems to be an increasing number of faculty, who hold earned Doctorates, and ask students to call them by their first names, such Professors appear to be in the minority. Most University and College Professors do not encourage or appreciate such impersonal and informal interactions with their students.

Within any given accredited University or College, one will find many faculty, to hold Dortorate degrees (Ph.Ds), earned after many (many) years of study. Students should research and then decide if a Professor should be addressed as “Mr.” or perhaps addressed more appropriately (specifically within the academic arena) as “Dr.” If in doubt, one should simply address the Professor as “Professor.” In fact, “Professor” is appreciated and respected, regardless of whether your Professor is a “Mr.”, “Ms.” or “Dr.”

3. To say to a Professor whose class you want to “overload” that the reason you would like to be a member of the class is “because your class is the ONLY one available” is like a high school senior asking for a prom date and saying “because you are the ONLY one still not taken.”

Often, Professors enjoy knowing that a student’s sister, brother or friend has taken their class previously, and very much like the style of lecture and how the Professor pass on knowledge pedagogically. Conduct some research and learn a bit about the Professor – something that might genuinely make him/her in all actuality, your first choice, regardless of any perceived current or upcoming schedule conflict. If researching a Professor’s teaching style (or opinions of his/her overall personality for that matter) comes up empty … or oriented toward the negative, a student might even therefore, want to Re-think wanting to be a member of the Professor’s class…ever.

4. Cory made his second visit to Dr. Wilson’s office for the purpose of asking a series of questions, without requesting an appointment, or best, without researching Dr. Wilson’s official office hours (Usually posted outside of a Professor’s office door, in addition to being printed on the course syllabus’ first page). Respect your Professor’s Office Hours – Office Hours are dedicated to YOU.

5. Asking your Professor to fill you in on upcoming assignments is like asking your professor to customize and deliver a personal one to one lecture…just for you. Unless your Professor agrees to repeat a lecture ( and most won’t) due to an absolute life threatening emergency ( then and only then is when most will). One should never request (or expect) repeat lectures. Go to class or if an emergency arises, ask a reliable and responsible student (4.0 oriented would be great) to take lecture notes for you. Remember the power of “please,” and “thank you.”

6. Informing your Professor that you can’t come to class because of a pre-planned vacation is NOT a good thing to do. Surely, the Professor will wonder why one would schedule an academic college class that one knew – ahead of class start – that they would be missing. Actually, such a student is really saying I choose fun over commitment to the college course which I’ve enrolled into and paid tuition for.

7. Are we doing anything important?” is a question (I PROMISE you!!!) that will place you in a whole different category with your Professor, which will not even come close to you being on the “My favorite students” list. The truth of the matter is, Professors are required to make each class session highly productive (and thereby “important”). In fact, much planning outside of the classroom, is carried out so that each class session is meaningful to the course, in core skills and specific performance objectives.

8. When Cory sat to write and send an email to Dr. Wilson, he never reflected once on the communicative message that his email address would send to his Professor ('') , and perhaps too, to any future employer. Any young professional (or old professional, for that matter) with plans of reaching any level of success within their academic and profession career, should seriously ponder individual email addresses, before hitting the send button for the purpose of communicating any academic or professional endeavor.

In fact, if the goal is to reach a high level of effectiveness while communicating with one’s Professor, one should avoid all forms of computerized slang (including innocent and popular LOL (Laugh out loud), and drawing inappropriate smiley and frown faces. Likewise, the decision to text communications to one's Professor should also not be considered an option.

In her article “How to Communicate Effectively With Your Professor,” as published online by New Social Worker, Karen Zgoda, a PhD candidate at (as well as teaches within) the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College, suggested that in terms of communicating effectively with your Professor, one should remember unspoken “rules” which she refers to as qualifiable for the “Thou shalt NOT” list. For instance, Zgoda writes “Do NOT” (IF effective communications with your Professor is in fact the goal) “write and email you Professor when seething with anger…it’s best to calm down and possibly reevaluate the situation…take a deep breath.. to avoid the possibility of saying something you might regret when not angry.”

Zgoda also advises (strongly) against utilizing text messages as a communicative instrument to connect with your Professor… "Your Professor may not want to use text messages (or pay for them)", says Zgoda. "I’m guessing texting 'hey my hw eta asap kthybye!' may not be helpful anyway.

9. Cory did not state his last name or which class he was enrolled. Is it Dr. Wilson’s Monday and Wednesday 2 pm class or his Friday 2 pm class??? And is it the 103 class.. or the 302 class… or the graduate 415 class?? Because Dr. Wilson has several students with the name of “Cory”, he might not have a clue of which Cory he will be returning the email to. Most important, Dr. Wilson must now go through the time consuming search within his academic class lists for each class, to find a 'Cory' (and hoping when seeing the name Cory that it is the right Cory).

In writing your Professor, you should state your full name (ID number as well if your college requires it), and state which exact class, day, and time you are enrolled… which will greatly reduce confusion and save valuable time.

10. Cory’s signing off Dr. Wilson’s e-note as 'homeboy' is inappropriate. He is communicating with his Professor – not his best buddy.

P.S. When writing to your Professor – always—spell check. You’re in college. You represent the intellect.

DO follow the pjct (Professor JuJuan C. Taylor) formula.

1. Remember to utilize the power words of “please” and “thank you” with your Professor… and with everyone. You are, in fact, in training to be the ultimate professional who will one day be earning professional salary.

2. Address your Professor appropriately (when in doubt of academic credentials, simply use the name “Professor”).

3. Remember that your Professor is not your best bud, and should not be spoken to as if he/she were.

4. Avoid prioritizing mere fun over academic commitment to achieve and succeed.

5. Respect your Professor’s scheduled Office Hours and get motivated to visit during these hours, for further assignment clarification, unanswered questions, to gain tips for academic success, to share achievements, as well as share life’s highlights, or to simply sit and chat to get to know your Professor better.

6. Avoid asking your Professor to repeat an entire lecture as to be customized just for you. Best yet, be in class to hear the lecture first hand.

7. Under all circumstances, AVOID the question, “Are we going to be doing anything important?” Every class session is important. Assure a responsible note taker and take full responsibility for securing notes as a result of missed lectures. Best yet, arrive on time, bring 1000% effort, and participate in every class session.

8. Select an appropriate email address; spell check all written communication from you, to your Professor, and avoid any temptation to text.

9. Always command the same respect you kindly grant to your Professors, from future colleagues, employees, clients, or even perhaps your very own future students.

10. Enjoy being a student (an international 'future leader'), for as former U.S. first lady, Mrs. Barbara Bush said while addressing the 1990 graduating class at Wellesley College, “Enjoy life…it is supposed to by fun!! (1000% true)

11. Avoid excuses…earn the degree!

12. Attempt to always communicate with your Professors professionally and effectively.

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