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What Your Professor Thinks About You

This Is What Your College Professor Really Thinks About You

Just because you're curious to know what your professor is thinking, doesn't mean you have to turn yourself into the "teacher's pet." Find out what your professor really thinks about you courtesy of Levo League.

You're sitting in class, it's the first day, and even though you've read the syllabus and introduced yourself, you're still left wondering: what exactly is my professor thinking? It's sort of this mystical thing that we couldn't help but look into. Below, study up on what professors notice, and what they don't (so that you can excel in class like a boss):

They DO think about . . . where you sit in class.

You may think where you decide to sit in class doesn't make that much of a difference. After all, it's a huge lecture hall, right? Wrong. Derek Newberry, Ph.D, a lecturer at the Wharton School, said professors will definitely notice if you go out of your way to sit, well, far away. "The only time I think about where a student sits is when they are in the very back, as far away from me as possible," said Newberry. Ben Nordstrom, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth, agrees that where you sit can definitely send a message to your professor. "Compared to the people who sit toward the back, the kind of student who sits in the front row is typically more serious, more engaged, and more concerned with being recognized as such," he said.

They DON'T think about . . . what you're wearing.

Rolling out of bed and into a sweatshirt just sounds so easy, and for some professors, that's totally OK. Newberry said that while some professors care what a student wears, he's not one of them. "It used to be that if you wore a hoodie to class, you were seen as unserious about your studies," he said. "Now that has become standard professional attire at places like Facebook and Google, so who am I to judge? All I care about is whether you are a productive contributor."

If you're still unsure what's appropriate, take a cue from your professors. "Chance are, if they're in a business suit, you should be at least business casual — but if they're in jeans and a nice top, you can feel comfortable wearing jeans to their class," said Amy Simons, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

They DO think about . . . whether or not you come to office hours.

From the very first day of your freshman year, you'll hear how important it is to come to office hours. And it's true, Simons said, professors will take more interest in you if you take responsibility for your own learning. "There's no way I'll know you're doing the work if I don't know who you are, so if it's office hours by appointment only — whatever — make an attempt to get to know your professors," she said.

More incentive: there may come a day when you need to ask your professor for something — like rescheduling a quiz when you're sick — and Nordstrom noted that you'll have better luck if you made an impression early on. "You don't want the first time you have a face-to-face chat with the professor to be when you're asking for a special favor," said Nordstrom. "When I know a student, and I have the sense they are engaged and interested in the class, it's much easier to give them the benefit of the doubt."

They DON'T think about . . . you, if you never speak up.

If you want to demonstrate to your professor that you did the reading, you're interested, you're engaged, and that you're thinking, Nordstrom had two words: speak up. "Being silent is a good way to be overlooked," she said. "That said, it is important for class dialogue that every student try to make thoughtful contributions, without just talking for the sake of being heard."

If you find that you tend to be shy in a classroom, don't let it hold you back. Newberry suggested letting the professor know and asking if she can call on you occasionally. "This signals to me that your silence is about nervousness, not a lack of interest in the class, which makes a big difference," she said.

They DO think about . . . your letter of recommendation.

Most of us need one at some point or another and usually most professors are nice about it. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to write you a glowing letter. "I'll write a letter for any students who asks, but the strength of that letter is going to depend on you," said Simons. And here's exactly what's going through her mind when you ask: "Do you do the minimum amount of work? I'm going to simply state that you took my classes and what you should have learned in that time. Give it your all? Demonstrate a strong work ethic? Are you reliable? Do you work well with others? I'm going to write you a letter that will sing. Either way, you'll get your letter — but your actions determine how strong of a recommendation it will be."

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