The Importance of Professor and Student Connection

by Ben Kissam

No matter where you are in your college journey, fostering strong professor and student relationships is important for your future.

There are countless benefits to engaging with your professors. For instance, you’re more likely to perform well in classes when you share a connection with the instructor. In addition, for many students, professors wind up becoming lifelong mentors and advocates. However, the advantages don’t stop there.

While getting to know your teachers can be somewhat intimidating at first, the simple truth is that most professors admire when students take initiative. Here’s more on the importance of connecting with professors as well as a few tips for building lasting relationships.

Achieving Academic Success

According to Education Week, students who get to know their teachers are more likely to perform well in school. An analysis of 46 studies found that positive teacher and student relationships enhanced nearly every measurable aspect of academic success. Students were more likely to attend class, get higher grades, and graduate when they knew—and cared about—their professors.

This makes perfect sense when you consider what getting to know your professors can lead to. Scheduling meetings during their office hours quickly becomes less intimidating. It’s easier to ask for individual instruction. It’s also easier for them to provide helpful feedback when they get to know your strengths and weaknesses.

Fostering a Sense of Mentorship and Community

Establishing great professor and student relationships is a big focus at Azusa Pacific University. Members of the campus network are encouraged to connect on a deeper level than grades. After all, building a strong community is one of the four cornerstones of APU.

“Professors are at APU because they want their influence on and support of students to extend beyond the intellectual content of their disciplines and impact student’s spiritual and relational growth as well,” said Jody Wilkinson, MD, a professor in APU's Department of Kinesiology.

Having great friends and a vibrant community is wonderful—so is having positive role models and mentors in your chosen field or discipline. Professors bridge the gap between community and mentorship. They can help you learn from their mistakes, help you make decisions about your career path, and even offer guidance when life gets confusing.

Securing a Great Letter of Recommendation

Students who connect with their professors can enjoy another benefit: their relationship makes them more likely to receive a great letter of recommendation.

An average letter of recommendation speaks to your professional skills. However, a great letter tells universities and potential employers about your strengths, character, and temperament. Whether your goal is to attend graduate school or enter the workforce, a great letter of recommendation from a professor could open a life changing door.

The only way to obtain a great letter like this is to give professors a chance to get to know you. By doing so, they can speak on your behalf about who you are and the type of impact you could make in the future.

It’s never too early to start thinking about letters of recommendation. In fact, it is prudent for first- and second-year students to start laying the groundwork now by being intentional about the relationships they develop during their time in college.

Pursuing Personal and Professional Development

Getting to know your professors is also a great way to develop interpersonal and professional skills. For example, if you’re on the shy side, scheduling a meeting with your professor could help you develop confidence and overcome anxiety. Additionally, contributing in class could help you develop public speaking skills and better internalize theories and concepts related to your major.

Demonstrating your skills and abilities (as a desire to learn and grow) could potentially lead to professional prospects as well. Don’t forget, many professors have real-world experience doing exactly what you hope to do someday. Many work a decade or more in the professional world before entering academia, so they can truly provide a wealth of knowledge.

Networking for Potential Jobs

In today’s digital era, professors don’t just disappear after graduation. They become LinkedIn contacts, social media followers, and advocates for your professional career.

They could even help you land your first job after college. The impression you make on them could lead them to recommend you when professional opportunities arise.

“Many professors I know, including myself, have lots of stories about how God has used them to open important doors for students, whether it’s getting into graduate school or landing a job, or maybe even making it through a difficult time or transition in life,” Wilkinson said.

Suffice it to say, the bonds you forge with your professors can help you in many ways. Taking the time to connect with your teachers can help enhance your time on campus and influence your life after graduation.

Want to read more about tips and tricks for building your professional network? Explore the APU website for additional guidance, such as tips for virtual networking.