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5 Easy Ways to Impress a Professor

Updated on January 12, 2021
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Stephanie Bradberry is an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. Her academic career includes teaching, tutoring, writing and editing.

Lecture Hall
Lecture Hall

Just like you would engage in certain activities to obtain a promotion or impress your boss or superior, your professor needs to be impressed as well.  There is the assumption that showing up to class—whether in person or online—and submitting work is sufficient to earn the desired grade. However, grades are made up of more than task completion and attendance.  So, following are five easy ways to impress your professor that can also help boost your grade.

1. Be Punctual

There is nothing more disruptive than someone coming in late and breaking the flow of something already in progress. Of course there are unforeseen events—car problems, child care issues, traffic, et cetera—but do not make the situation worse than it already is.

Worst Thing You Can Do:

The worst thing you can do is add insult to injury. This is done when you draw even more attention to yourself by giving your excuse to the whole class. This, knowingly or not, raises stress levels. If you are stressed then you will not be very focused.

Best Thing You Can Do:

Wait until the end of class and explain your situation. But do not lie, as often professors will check to see if there was a traffic jam or they may ask to see the bill for repairs to your car in case of an accident if you want the tardy to be excused.

Benefit(s) and/or Compromise:

The more adult you handle the situation, the better your chances for having the late excused. Also, if you are consistently on time, it can work towards your favor in the end. If you are a couple of percentage points from the next grade bump, your punctuality can be used as a point to boost your grade. Not every professor does it, but it does not hurt to use this suggestion at the end of the semester. By being on time you also do not miss important announcements or beginning exercises that may impact your grade.

2. Be Engaged

There are many ways to be engaged, but that is beyond the scope of this writing. The point is, do something during class time that shows you are paying attention. Blinking your eyes heavily and a bobbing sleeping head do not count.

Worst Thing You Can Do:

This one is obvious: sleep through class. While your time of catching some rest may not be intentional, no matter the reason, it looks disrespectful. So if you are doing something like taking notes, it can mitigate your urge to sleep.

Best Thing You Can Do:

Be part of the class by asking and answering questions and doing all the activities schedule for that class meeting. Engagement can also take the form of some manual labor. You can help by being the first to rearrange desks and put them back or ask the professor if he or she needs help carrying supplies or papers back to the office. Also, find out what kind of learner you are so you know what will help keep your interested and make things interesting. There are many learning and personality style assessments out there, like Felder and Solomon’s, Abiator’s, and Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

Benefit(s) and/or Compromise:

Well, for one, you will not be falling asleep as much. The professor always takes note of who is actively participating in class. Sometimes there is a place in the course syllabus for grading such activity. If there is not, your extra and expected efforts can also be a bargaining point for added earned points for your grade at the end of the semester. By taking notes and doing activities during class, it helps engrain the material for easier recall later.

3. Be Prepared

We all know this is common sense, but how often do we actually do our part? Being prepared goes beyond completing readings for the day. Many students still forget to bring essentials like paper and something to write with.

Worst Thing You Can Do:

The worth thing you can do is little to none of the work and then be disrespectful about it. Often when students do not care about a course they come unprepared but then are rude by texting, showing clear disinterest, or making off-hand comments. Other people in the class still care. If you or others are not prepared, then it can negatively impact the day’s planned lesson and activities. Unlike high school, the course goes on, and often what is not covered is left up to you to learn.

Best Thing You Can Do:

Clearly, do all the work assigned and bring anything mentioned in the previous class or listed on the syllabus. But also make it clear you are prepared. You should ask questions based on the homework and answer questions as well. Sometimes it helps to come extra prepared. By bringing extra pens and pencils, you can help diminish the awkward phase when everyone is asked to take notes and most look around for something to write on and with.

Benefit(s) and/or Compromise:

Life happens, but how are you going to compensate for it? What I mean is, sometimes an unexpected event occurs that prevents you from being prepared. But you can still benefit in this situation. If you did not do the work, be honest about what you did and did not get to. This way the professor has a good read on what can and should be discussed. Compensate for not being prepared by still making statements—even if they are more general in nature—and asking questions. This shows you care and are responsible in the wake of misfortune.

4. Be Respectful

This one is simple. Follow directions like turning off electronic devices and be courteous and collegial to your classmates and professor.

Worst Thing You Can Do:

The absolute worst thing you can do is act like you own the classroom and do not need the course. Every course shows up on your transcript and you may end up with the same professor and/or classmates in the future. They will remember your attitude and actions. While professors are professional, they are still human.

Best Thing You Can Do:

You will be wise to ignore your impulses. You may disagree with comments, the rules, or something the professor does. But take a breath and think before making any comments or taking any action.

Benefit(s) and/or Compromise:

If there is a pressing concern, talk to your professor before the start of class, during office hours, or during an appointed time. Of course mobile means of contact are a part of many lives now, but it does not mean they are a right in the classroom. If it is not stated in your syllabus, ask the professor if you can keep your device on silent or vibrate. If you are cognizant of the proper way to conduct yourself in higher education, the professor will take the time to make personal recommendations for you and see to other professional requests like filing out honors and scholarship forms.

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5. Be Proactive

While being proactive can apply to many instances in learning, the focus here will be on submission of work that impacts you grade, as it is the most pressing concern for students. So, do not wait for a returned grade to figure out what needs improvement. Odds are it is too late to correct the errors unless you get a rewrite or resubmission. I always tell students to work harder and not smarter. This includes checking to see if you are on the right page before committing hours to writing the whole draft or final version.

Worst Thing You Can Do:

The worst thing to do is create an immediate commotion by voicing disbelief, yelling at the professor, and/or leaving the room in a huff. But this is tied with complaining about the professor to his or her supervisor or dean because you do not agree with the grading. Sure, you may feel vindicated for potentially getting the professor in trouble or on the radar, but what does it say about you? Of course there are times when reporting is necessary; just makes sure you have evidence ready to substantiate your claims.

Best Thing You Can Do:

The best thing to do is meet with your professor during office hours or find a common time to meet. Use this time to go over your outlined approach to your work and get advanced feedback. Visit your tutoring center on campus or use an online service like Smarthinking (often free if your institution has a school account) to get feedback on your work. Finding a peer who excels in the subject matter is also a good option.

Benefit(s) and/or Compromise:

You get to build a better working relationship with your professor or classmate, whomever you seek out for help. The more your professor knows you are dedicated to fostering your education the more they are willing to go to bat for you in the end. Also, it can lead to more personalized letters of recommendation. The more feedback you get, the better you will become and can apply the concepts to other courses and aspects of your learning.

In Sum

While many of the points above may not be new information for you, a refresher on their importance is always good to remind you that there are easy ways to impress your professor and potentially impact your grade for the better.

About the Author

Stephanie Bradberry is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She spent over a decade as a professor of English, Literature, Business and Education and high school English teacher. She is the founder and owner of Stephanie J. Bradberry, LLC and former owner of Crosby Educational Consulting, LLC. Stephanie loves being a freelance writer and editor on the side.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2011 Stephanie Bradberry

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