With a new year comes a new semester, a clean slate, and a fresh perspective. I usually do not highlight specific goals for myself, rather I try to just be the best that I can be in everything that I do; however, this year I do want to target one aspect of my academic life that I would like to improve upon. When you boil down the college experience and focus on solely its worth, all ranking and status falls away – the true value of university comes from what you make of it. This semester, I hope to take more advantage of the opportunities open to me as a student, especially in making connections with the professors of my classes.

I went to a very small high school, so everyone in my school district knew each other, as well as the teachers knowing all of their students. I was quite close with my teachers, so communicating with them was not an issue. I was able to meet with them outside of class, and began to get to know them personally. However, making these personal connections is much easier when you are in a classroom of at max 25 students, compared to 300.

Once coming to university, like almost everyone, I had an extremely different experience. All of my classes had an obscene amount of students, and my professors were all well respected in their fields of study. Whereas in high school, I might have stayed behind after the bell to joke around with one of my teachers, in college I could not break through the wall of students asking the professor questions after class. My other option was to try to schedule office hours with the professor alone, but this was extremely daunting as well. How would my professors react if I was really struggling with some information? I didn’t want to waste their time.

It is very difficult to get yourself out of your comfort zone to try to interact with professors, but it is of utmost importance. First of all, they are only human, and they want to help you. They would not have chosen to educate our young minds if they didn’t want to do so. If I am having trouble with a certain concept, I constantly find myself googling or searching YouTube, when I have a much more valuable source, one that I am paying good money for, literally right in front of me on most days. I am not trying to discredit online information in any way, actually I think the amount and quality of some of the programs offered for free online is incredible; however, professors know a thing or two as well. In addition to helping you with coursework, professors can offer potential work or internships, along with letters of recommendation, which will be extremely valuable to have early on. Even if you feel you have a perfect understanding of all the material (highly unlikely), you may learn new approaches or interesting viewpoints to problems.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done, as I haven’t taken advantage of this fully myself. For all of the money we are investing in our futures by getting a degree, we should really utilize the benefits of being a student to its fullest. I hope I have convinced you to try to more actively create connections with your professors, and this year, I hope to convince myself as well.