Many students wonder how they can improve their interactions and relationships with their professors and when it’s okay to ask for help. We asked BYU Law professors what they want their students to know about these questions. This is the second post in a three-part series.
Associate Dean Christine Hurt:
Students seek out professors for good and bad reasons, and students stay away from faculty offices for both good and bad reasons. Don’t make an appointment to meet with a professor if the main reason is to check a box: you heard that you should get to know your professors or you heard that if you are unhappy with a grade, you should go talk to your professor about it. These meetings are unhelpful at best and awkward at worst. If you just want to introduce yourself, do that before or after class or run by the professor’s office. If you have a substantive question about class, course selection, or career options, make an appointment.
If you have a question about a topic from class, the best thing to do is ask the question in class. Chances are others have the same question, and it’s best to clear up confusion at that point. If for some reason you think your confusion is idiosyncratic or specific, then go see the professor during office hours or by appointment close in time to when the topic is discussed in class (but not before). Professors are happy to explain subjects from class, which is why they have office hours! However, be respectful of others’ time – a good tip for being a professional. Don’t use the professor’s time to boot up your computer, look for your questions on your computer or within a 100-page outline, or otherwise prepare yourself for the appointment.
Professor Clark Asay:
Students can improve student-professor interactions by better preparing for those interactions. For instance, it’s generally not a good idea to come to a professor’s office hours with questions that suggest you simply didn’t bother looking something up. Especially in today’s world where so much information is readily available (remember, Google is your friend), you should study an issue thoroughly before coming to your professor for help. When you do prepare diligently in this way, it’s likely to impress your professor, which can lead to research, reference, and letter of recommendation opportunities. When you don’t, it can make those opportunities less likely. Furthermore, being fully prepared is the hallmark of a good lawyer, so this same advice is applicable (often with higher stakes) in the real world.
Tips to Remember
- Prepare as much as possible before meeting with a professor. When the time comes for you to meet, you should be ready to delve into subject matter.
- Make an appointment if you have a substantive question about class that you feel is particularly specific. Otherwise, ask the question in class.
- Don’t make an appointment with your professor simply to meet them or to challenge an undesired grade.