Sometimes, when a teacher is needing to make a decision about a student’s final grade there are things that sway teachers one way or the other.
You should make sure your professor knows you and that you’re a good, impressive student in order to help the cards fall in your favor.
When I started helpfulprofessor.com my goal was to reveal that hidden information that pushes some students ahead of others. One of my main insider tips is this:
You need to get your teacher into the head space where they want to give you marks. To do this, you’re going to need to do some leg work.
There are several things that you can do that can be the difference between the mark you want and the incredible frustration of just missing out.
Most importantly, you want the teacher to feel empathy for you and your goals. Ideally, you’ll have them rooting for you to get that top mark! Then, they’re much more likely to do it.
Over the years, I’ve seen just about every strategy in the books. Students have worked their tails off to get themselves noticed and ensure that I give them the marks they want and deserve.
So below, I have shared the seven best ways students have shown me they’re serious about being a top student. The students who put these tips into action are the ones who impressed me with their hard work and effort in my courses.
1. Email your teacher once every two weeks. Here’s how.
The first thing you’re going to want to do to impress your professor is to keep regular email contact with them. You don’t want to nag them or annoy them with extra work. But you want them to know you’re regularly engaged with the topic.
Once every two weeks is a good time frame where they’re not going to forget your name or your last email, but they won’t get too annoyed at a barrage of emails either.
Ensure that your emails are relevant and important. Some common important email questions I get from students are:
- Seeking clarification. For this one, you’ll need to make sure you’ve searched far and wide for information on something. Your teacher might have already confirmed a piece of information in a lecture or on the course’s website. One thing that works well is seeking clarification on a point where the teacher’s provided two different sets of information. If a teacher told you at one point that the assessment is due on Monday and then later your friends say ‘Oh, I thought they said it was Friday’, email your teacher to check-in: which was it again? It seems some of my friends are confused!
- Looking for additional resources. If your teacher mentioned a book, journal article or website that they thought was really interesting, email them and ask them if they can point you in the right direction.
- Sharing resources you’ve found. You can also share a resource with your teacher. Let them know: I just read this news article that’s relevant to the class. I thought you might like to see it! Contributing to the class conversation like this makes the teacher feel as if you’re engaged and genuinely interested in the content.
- Assessment ideas. If your assessment outline is quite open-ended and you need to put some creative thought into defining your own topic or thesis, pop an email to your teacher to see if they like your idea.
These emails have the primary purpose of putting you on the teacher’s radar. You want the teacher to know your name and know you’re engaged.
The trick here is not to be too pushy. To avoid crossing the line from engaged, impressive and interested to annoying and overbearing, limit these emails to one every two weeks.
2. Come to class with interesting contributions. Here’s how.
There’s nothing worse than a class with nothing to say.
I’ll admit, there’s also nothing worse than that one person who is overbearing and talks all through the whole class.
So how do you be an impressive student in class without being ‘that’ student who controls the whole discussion? How do you be a student who both the teacher and other students are grateful to have in the room?
The best trick is to be a contributor to other people’s ideas.
Allow others to contribute their ideas as much as possible. Then, support their comments with further constructive statements. You want to be the student who continues discussions other people started.
It shows you’re engaged and supportive of others, but also not overpowering everyone else.
Next, if no one has raised their voice and the awkward silence ensues, that’s your chance: speak up. Your teacher and classmates will all be grateful for your contribution.
It’s the teacher’s job to make the class feel comfortable to speak up, but it’s your job to take that opportunity when it arises.
Build on other people’s comments and fill-in the awkward silences. Be a genuine contributor. Your teacher will remember you and, again, be grateful for your interest and engagement.
Here’s some ideas for ways to contribute:
- Link the ideas in the course content to current events. Teachers want students to be actively thinking about the real-world implications of their work. If you can find current events that are relevant to the topic, slip them into your class contributions.
- Mention other students by name. By positively mentioning other students’ names in your comments in class, it shows you’re wanting to be part of a discussion. You’re not just spouting out your own views, but talking with your peers.
- Use the ‘reply’ button on online forums. If you’re a distance learning student, don’t just provide your response to the stimulus questions on forums. Make sure your comments mention other people in the group. Use the ‘reply’ button on other people’s comments to provide constructive statements that build on someone else’s. Agree or disagree with others and state why – all while being polite and professional, of course.
- Mention the readings. Theoretically, everyone in the class should have one thing in common: the weekly readings. If someone makes a comment that you think is relevant to a reading, you could say ‘Hey, [Name’s] idea links to the reading, doesn’t it?’ and explain why. The other students in the class should be able to link back to the readings in their mind, and the teacher will make a mental note that you read the reading. Bonus points will be heading your way.
You want your name to regularly pop up as the engaged, consistently interested student in order to impress your professor. I want to repeat: your name should not be associated with the overbearing student who sucks up all the conversation. You should be seen as engaged, interested and contributing.
Your teacher will take note and see you as a top student based on your in-class contributions.
3. Make sure your teacher knows your Goals. Here’s how.
In a one-to-one conversation with your teacher or via email, casually slip in a statement about what your goal is for their class.
Most of my career I’ve trained future teachers. In the UK, to qualify for entry into a teacher training program called the Postgraduate Certificate in Education, students generally need an honours degree with average overall grade of 2:1 (That’s the top end of a 2nd Class Honours).
Many, many of my students slipped into conversation that they needed a 2:1 from my class to maintain this average and qualify for their target postgraduate degree.
It sticks in my head. When it comes time to mark students’ assignments, I’m well aware that the student needs that 2:1.
When I was learning to drive, my father told me not to look at potholes on the road. If your eyes are on the pothole, you’re more likely to hit it.
The same goes for grades. If a teacher is aware of what grade a student is aiming for, they’re more likely to give you that grade square on the head. It’s hovering around in their mind the whole time they’re marking your work.
Let your teacher know your target grade. It makes a difference and will impress your professor.
If your mark probably could just scrape over that line, the teacher is going to work harder to see if they can justify that grade in their head.
4. Attend Open Office Hours and do This.
Most teachers offer open office hours.
I spend most of my open office hours wishing a student would come by. Otherwise, I’m sitting at my computer doing something far less interesting like grading papers or preparing lectures.
At most universities, students don’t attend open office hours nearly enough.
Open office hours are another chance for you to impress your teacher. It’s their chance to start to see you as one of the ‘good’ and ‘engaged’ students. Again, it makes a difference when they’re teetering on the edge of one grade or another to give you.
A quick word of warning: make sure you attend open office hours with a list of questions or piece of work to look over. I’ve had students turn up at open office hours and have nothing to show for themselves!
What a waste.
I’d recommend bringing both a draft of a paper your working on (it doesn’t matter if it’s not due for 6 weeks – in fact, that’d be great. Show your teacher how you’re well ahead of the class by starting your assessments early). Also bring some questions about the paper or one or two paragraphs that you want them to focus on giving you feedback about.
Other students bring readings they had found that they were considering using in the paper. Bring them along and ask your teacher what they think of them.
Another big perk of open office hours is that you learn a little more about your teacher, too: what are they looking for in the assignment? What is it about your draft that they absolutely hated? Keep notes on your teacher’s thoughts and quirks.
5. Follow-up on Feedback. Here’s how.
Nothing – I mean nothing – infuriates teachers more than students who don’t read feedback. We spent all those hours giving feedback on your first paper and you made the same mistake in the second one! Prepare to lose marks.
Show your teacher that you’ve read their feedback by:
- Message your professor to say thanks. A quick email saying ‘Loved the feedback, I’ll work on that main point for the next one’ can show your teacher you’re paying attention and there to learn.
- Mention previous feedback in future meetings. When you attend open office hours to get the teacher’s feedback on your ideas for your next assignment, mention previous feedback they gave as something you’ve been working on in this current piece.
- Ask for help. After class, approach your teacher and say ‘hey, you gave me this feedback: can you show me exactly where in the paper I can improve on this and, maybe, a couple of tips on how to do it?’
Talking to your teacher about the feedback humanizes you. It shows them that you’ve made an effort and you care about their subject. This will impress your professor and put you in good stead for the next assignment.
We’ve put together a full post on using feedback that you might want to look over for some more detailed tips on this point.
Finally … Here’s the 5 key takeaway points from this article.
To impress your professor and convince them you’re a top student, you need to get your teacher to know you personally. They need to think of you as an engaged student, a contributor to class discussions, and someone who’s interested in how well they do.
If you manage this, then your teacher’s going to name you as a ‘top student’ before they see any of your written work. This primes them into having positive regard for you and your work and puts them in your corner.
The teacher would rather give top marks to the student constantly contributing than the cocky student who doesn’t care, writes their assessment at the last minute, and coasts along with their natural talents.
The trick to impressing your professor is to appear engaged without appearing overbearing. Follow our five tips here and you’ll be well on your way to showing your teacher your credentials as a top students who deserves those top grades:
5 Best Ways to Impress your Professor
- Come to class with interesting questions and comments
- Email your teacher once every two weeks
- Make sure your teacher knows your Goals
- Attend Open Office Hours
- Follow-up on Feedback
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.