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The Art of Becoming a Likeable Student

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Most students believe doing the following will make a good impression on their instructor:

1. Attend class regularly (attend at least 90% of class)

2. Do well in the class (nothing less than a B, as a general rule of thumb)

3. Go to office hours (attend at least 80% of open office hours)

4. Sit towards the front of the class/discussion section (typically in the first three rows of a hall)

Well, they are right! These four actions are absolutely critical for any student looking to get a decent recommendation from a professor.

However, in order to receive an outstanding recommendation, you must adopt a different mindset. This mindset is not focused on a tangible result (i.e. getting a letter of recommendation), but rather on developing an outstanding relationship with the instructor of your choice.

You will need to develop this skill over time using your instincts and good judgement, but here are some useful reminders:

A)Be comfortable in your own skin:

Don't be intimidated by your professors! Yes, they are wise and experienced, but they are also understanding individuals who were once in our shoes. Assume they are open to letting you get to know them!

B)Ask questions:

To build friendships, you need to ask many quality questions and put your focus on the other person. You will need to go beyond asking the professor standard questions regarding coursework/lecture, although this is usually a good place to start. Ask for your instructor's advice/opinions, and if they are comfortable, get to know their hobbies/interests/life stories! Most people love to share.

Easy topics to facilitate great conversation:

  • Ask about your professor's career and education.

  • Ask how your professor's weekend/summer break/holiday went. What did they do? Did they spend it with family? Who is in their family?

  • Ask about what your professor's hobbies are. 

  • Ask them for their perspective on maintaining a good balance between their professional and personal life.

  • Ask what he/she enjoy most about teaching.

  • Ask what he/she is looking forward to most in the upcoming week/month/quarter/semester/year.

  • Ask them for advice on how to become a better student.

There are infinitely many questions such as the ones shown above.

Pay attention to who your professor is and you will have no trouble with producing quality questions to ask.

C)Be pleasant:

Keep a positive vibe during your interactions with your professor and classmates. Assume the best intentions from everyone at school and don't be afraid to laugh at yourself or your mistakes. Volunteer your time to help the instructor if an opportunity rises.

D)Show gratitude:

Purchase/design a thank-you card for your instructor once the course comes to an end. Write a heartfelt note about what you learned in the class, how you will apply this knowledge, and why the professor made a positive difference in your life. Sign it (bonus: get some classmates to sign it as well).


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