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Making the Most of Your College Experience: Meet Your Professors



“It doesn’t matter so much where you go to college but what you make of the experience.”—Kate Zernike, “The Harvard Guide to Happiness,” The New York Times, April 8, 2001.


Results of Decisions You Make


You have chosen to begin your exploration into higher education not at Harvard but Southwestern College. You have chosen the courses in which you are now enrolled.

Questions arise out of these decisions:

What you are going to do to make your college experience positive, productive, and beneficial? How do you make the most of your college experience?

What can you do to start on the path toward academic success?


Harvard Study on Student Success


A study done at Harvard and 24 other academic institutions revealed a whole range of concrete ways students could improve their college experiences. Visit this link for the entire article and list of recommendations: The Harvard Guide to Happiness .

Some of the suggestions are often simple, such as the first one: Meet the faculty. This will be the focus of this handout.

Meet the faculty.

Reading this, you may suddenly be filled with short tapes starting to play in your head:

“Going to see the teacher means I’ve screwed up.”

“That’s kissing up, and I sure don’t want to be looked at as some kind of nerd.”

“Go see the professor in his/her office? You’re crazy! I’m scared enough as it is when I’m in class!”

“What good does that do? The teacher doesn’t really care who I am.”

Time to Reprogram

If any of these messages sound familiar, now is the time to reprogram. Why? Because it works.

Professor Richard J. Light, the guy who did the study at Harvard, had a hard time believing this result of his research too! It’s not just you. Teachers have to rethink their own tapes as well.

So when Professor Light saw this as one of the keys to why some students have a great experience in college while others did not, he decided to do something to make sure it happened. He told his students, “Your job is to get to know one faculty member reasonably well and get that faculty member to know you reasonably well. If you do nothing else, do that.”

What's the Payoff?


Well, you’ll certainly end up with professors to write recommendations for jobs or to get into a four-year college or university.

But more importantly, you will feel more connected to SWC. And that is what makes the difference. Connected students succeed!


What Do You Talk About?

OK, so you’ll try it and see what happens. But what do you talk about with your instructor?

The Harvard study revealed that the most satisfied students asked for detailed feedback and asked specific questions of professors, such as, “Point out the paragraphs in this essay where I got off track” instead of “Why didn’t I get a better grade?”

Another thing: successful students didn’t try to hide their academic problems. The Harvard study documented that students who asked for help improved their grades while those who did not “spiraled downward, isolated, failing and unhappy.”


Where Are You Headed?


Are you headed for Harvard? Who knows? For now, why not take a tip from their research? You may be surprised to see the results of this first one.

If you want to know the other six suggestions, see The Harvard Guide to Happiness. After all, the more you know about how to succeed in college, the better prepared you will be in the journey to reach your academic goals.




This article by Barbara J. Speidel was originally published as "Stop by and visit your professors—you may be surprised by what happens," in the Southwester Sun, Volume 45, Issue 8: March 8-21, 2002.

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This site was created and is maintained by Barbara J. Speidel, SWC Academic Success Center Coordinator. @ Barbara J. Speidel

The ASC logo was created by Andrew C. Rempt. @ Andrew C. Rempt
Southwestern College