Things to Talk to Your Professor About

Having a Few Topics Planned in Advance Can Help the Conversation

Teacher having meeting with student
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It's no secret: college professors can be intimidating. After all, they're super smart and in charge of your education -- not to mention your grades. That being said, of course, college professors can also be really interesting, really engaging people.

Your professors likely encourage you to come speak with them during office hours. And you may, in fact, have a question or two you'd like to ask. If you'd like a few additional topics to have on hand for your conversation, consider any of the following things to talk to your professor about:

Your Current Class

If you're currently taking a class with a professor, you can easily talk about the class. What do you like about it? What do you find really interesting and engaging? What do the other students like about it? What recently happened in class that you'd like more information on, that you found helpful, or that was just plain funny?

An Upcoming Class

If your professor is teaching a class next semester or next year that you're interested in, you can easily talk about it. You can ask about the reading load, what kinds of topics will be covered, what expectations the professor has for the class and for students taking the class, and even what the syllabus will look like.

A Previous Class You Really Enjoyed

There's nothing wrong with talking to a professor about a previous class you took with him or her that you really enjoyed. You can talk about what specifically you found interesting and ask if your professor can suggest other classes or supplemental reading so that you can pursue your interests further.

Graduate School Options

If you're thinking about graduate school -- even just a tiny bit -- your professors can be great resources for you. They can talk to you about different programs of study, what you're interested in, what graduate schools would be a good match for your interests, and even what life as a graduate student is like.

Employment Ideas

It could be that you absolutely love botany but have no idea what you can do with a botany degree once you graduate. A professor can be a great person to talk to about your options (in addition to the career center, of course). Additionally, they may know of internships, job opportunities, or professional contacts that can help you along the way.

Anything Covered in Class That You Loved

If you recently went over a topic or theory in class that you absolutely loved, mention it to your professor! It will undoubtedly be rewarding for him or her to hear about, and you can find out more about a topic you didn't know you'd love.

Anything You're Struggling With in Class

Your professor can be a great -- if not the best -- resource for getting clarity or more information about something you're struggling with. Additionally, a one-on-one conversation with your professor can provide you with an opportunity to walk through an idea and ask questions in a way that you simply cannot do in a large lecture hall.

Academic Difficulties

If you're facing larger academic struggles, don't be too afraid to mention it to a professor you like. He or she might have some ideas to help you out, might be able to connect you with resources on campus (like tutors or an academic support center), or just might give you a great pep talk that helps your refocus and recharge.

Personal Problems that are Impacting Your Academics

While professors aren't counselors, it's still important for you to let them know about any personal problems you're facing that might be having an effect on your academics. If someone in your family is very sick, for example, or if you're financially struggling because of an unexpected change in financial status, it might be helpful for your professor to know. Additionally, it can be wise to mention these kinds of situations to your professor when they first appear instead of when they become a problem.

How Current Events Connect with the Course Material

Many times, the material(s) covered in class are large theories and concepts that don't always seem like they connect to your day-to-day life. In reality, however, they often do. Feel free to talk with your professor about current events and how they might connect to what you're learning in class.

A Letter of Recommendation

If you're doing well in class and you think your professor likes and respects your work, consider asking your professor for a letter of recommendation if you need one. Letters of recommendation that have been written by professors can be especially helpful when you're applying for certain types of internships or even graduate school or research opportunities.

Study Tips

It can be all too easy to forget that professors were once undergraduate students, too. And just like you, they likely had to learn how to study at the college level. If you're struggling with study skills, talk to your professor about what they'd recommend. This can be an especially helpful and important conversation to have before an important midterm or final, too.

Resources on Campus that Can Help Academically

Even if your professor wants to help you more, he or she might simply not have the time. Consider, then, asking your professor about other academic support resources that you can use, like a specific upper-class or graduate-level student who's a great tutor or a great TA who offers extra study sessions.

Scholarship Opportunities

Your professor undoubtedly receives regular mailings and emails about scholarship opportunities for students interested in certain academic fields. Consequently, checking in with your professors about any scholarship opportunities they know about might easily result in some helpful leads that you might otherwise not find out about.

Jop Opportunities

True, the career center and your own professional network can be your main sources of job leads.

But professors can also be a great resource to tap into. Make an appointment with your professor to talk generally about your job hopes or options as well as what connections your professor might know about. You never know what former students they still keep in touch with, what organizations they volunteer with, or what other connections they may have to offer. Don't let your nervousness about talking with your professors disconnect you from what could be a great future job!