A guide to approaching your professor on the first week of class

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Desiree Diaz/Staff

It’s the first week of classes, and that means you’re faced with a tough set of questions. Should you sit in the front row? Should you take advantage of Berkeley time? Are you going to assert yourself on the first day and speak with your professor? While most of these questions can only be answered by you, we at the Clog will happily answer that last one for you. Yes, you will. You should go march up to your professor at the end of the first class, stick out your hand, and proudly announce who you are! Sounds easier said than done? All you have to do is follow these helpful steps and you’ll leave a memorable impression.

1. Don’t freak out.

The first day of class is often fairly laid back. You get the syllabus, read the syllabus, and ask questions about the syllabus. Then, there’s a nice little introduction to the course and probably a few scare tactics. Assuming you’ve managed to stay firm and not run screaming out the door, you have every right to walk up to your professor and let them know who you are. No professor wants a student in their class who doesn’t want to be there. However, your refusal to run away screaming proves that you’re clearly not one of those students, and that already makes you pretty great in the eyes of your professor. Don’t forget to shake your professor’s hand when you introduce yourself — professors love handshakes.

2. Ask a question in class.

After exhaustively reading over the syllabus, chances are your professor will ask if the class has any questions. You may not have a question you personally need answered because you’re an omniscient college student. However, try to think of a question that at least someone in the class would want answered; there’s always one glaringly obvious component of a syllabus that the professor glossed over during his introduction. Don’t be afraid to ask because once you do, your professor will remember you as that wonderfully inquisitive student who helped ease his transition back to teaching. Remember, this is your professor’s first day too — and like spiders, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.

3. Ask a question after class.

If you weren’t able to ask a question in class, now is your time to shine. This is because questions are the key to your professor’s academic soul and, therefore, should always be asked. That being said, don’t go up to your professor whose class is on the English Renaissance and ask him what he thinks about the current tuition hike. Save that question for much later down the road. Keep your questions thoughtful and focused, but make sure they can’t easily be answered by looking at the syllabus. Also, tell your professor right away if you know you are going to be out of town at any point or if you might have a work conflict. Responsibility is always the best policy.

4. Go to office hours.

Everyone has told you to take advantage of office hours. It’s almost like they all know something you don’t. Not to reiterate the obvious, but you should go to your professor’s office hours. Essentially, your professors take the time to sit in their offices for you, and when nobody shows up, they feel like they’ve just been stood up on a blind date. Don’t be that jerk that ghosts on them. Go to their office hours with a question or two prepared, and the conversation will flow quickly like magic. They’ll be so excited you actually came that they might even give you some extra advice on how to succeed in their class.

5. Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything to say.

If you can’t think of a single thing to say, chances are you will eventually have a question to ask, and that leads right back to our previous advice. When that question comes, just ask it. It’s okay to be unsure of yourself and your question because, even though this sounds obvious, professors just want you to be interested in what they teach. You might think they’re intimidating, but they have to stand up in front of a room of students who are more likely to leave a bad review on Rate My Professors instead of a good one. Anyone who has to put up with that, plus the countless excuses students come up with for late assignments or tardiness, is going to welcome you walking toward them with a smile on your face and a question at hand.