Talk the Talk: Initiating Professional Conversations

Office hours are great places to sit and get to know professors! Special thanks to Laura Sarubbi for this photo.

Talk to your professors. College students are frequently given this age-old advice, which seems to exist as a panacea for low grades, a need for recommendation letters, a desire for intelligent conversation, and the like. However, most students will be quick to inform you that talking to professors is easier said than done. Whether held back by fear of inadequacy, intimidation, or just pure laziness, many students shy away from interacting with their educators. Unfortunately, this fear prevents students from obtaining amazing opportunities, especially ones related to conducting research.

As a learning consultant at Princeton’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, I’ve discussed the difficulty of talking to professors with many of my peers. Most express a strong desire to engage their professors in conversation, but are unsure of what to say, or how to say it. While I’m no expert on perfecting the verbalization skills necessary to score a perfect relationship with professors, I have had some experiences where simply putting myself out there has made a world of difference for my Princeton career.

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