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Faculty expectations

What do you think?

Before you get started, think about how you would answer the following questions.

  1. When you don’t understand the directions of an assignment, what do you do?
  2. How will you know what your college professors will expect from you?
  3. What are some advantages to developing a good relationship with your professor?
  • Expectations
  • Pet peeves
Get the Flash Player to listen to this audio track, or download the Expectations MP3 file.


Get the Flash Player to listen to this audio track, or download the Pet peeves MP3 file.

Duration: 0:06:09

Getting off to a good start

It can be both exciting and intimidating to take a class from a professor. Many faculty members are inspiring teachers, scholars, researchers, authors, consultants and extremely knowledgeable in their field of expertise. But remember that instructors are people first. They have good days and bad days just like you. Starting off on the right foot can lead to a positive professional relationship and can be helpful down the road, when you may need a letter of recommendation for an internship, a job or for graduate school.

Anticipating expectations

One way to start off on the right foot is to know what your professors will expect from you. Each faculty member will be different but some common things your professors will expect from you include:

  1. Reading the syllabus
    • The majority of college instructors communicate their expectations for students through a course syllabus. A syllabus usually provides an overview of the course, the learning outcomes expected, materials you will need such as textbooks, instructor contact information and a description of assignments and exams.
    • Many instructors open the class with a review of the syllabus. This process offers you a good opportunity to highlight key information, such as due dates, make notes of instructor preferences and ask any questions that you may have about the course set-up. It is also a good idea to place your syllabus in your class notebook and/or make a copy to insert in your textbook as well. You should refer to your syllabus throughout the semester.
  2. Going to class regularly and being on time
    • Attendance and grading policies will usually be explained the first day of class and in the syllabus. However, if attendance is not part of your grade, your instructors still expect to see you in class. You never know when the professor will mention something important about an exam or assignment!
  3. Being an active learner
    • Listen and ask questions in class, take notes manually or through a note taker, and participate in class discussions.
  4. Reading the assigned materials before class
    • When assignments are listed for specific days, this usually means that the assignment is due on that day. For example, class readings for a given day should be read before you go to class.
  5. Asking your professor if you have questions
    • Read the syllabus to find out when your professors have office hours and visit them during these scheduled hours. Be prepared when you go to see them by having specific questions to ask them. Asking them to give their lecture again is not appropriate. However, asking for clarification on a specific point is appropriate.
  6. Turning in assignments on time
    • At the beginning of the semester go through each of your syllabi and find the due dates for your papers, tests, quizzes, etc., and put them into your planner. This step will help remind you of important due dates. Remember to look at your planner often.
    • Check the syllabus for your professor’s late policy. Some professors will not accept late assignments at all while others deduct points for each day the assignment is late. 
    • If you can’t make the deadline, contact your professor ahead of time and find out if you can have an extension. Not all professors will give extensions but some may give extensions based on extenuating circumstances. In addition, if you are a student who regularly attends, turns in assignments on time, is attentive in class and shows a genuine desire to do well, your professor may take these into account when considering an extension.
  7. Being respectful during class.
    • Refrain from talking to neighbors, talking on cell phones, text messaging, sleeping in class, packing up before class has ended and surfing the Web during class.

Getting to know a faculty member

  • After class, go up to the professor, briefly introduce yourself and ask a quick question related to the class lecture or discussion.
  • Stop by during office hours to ask a question about something you read or an assignment.
  • Volunteer to help out (e.g., hand out papers, assist with course evaluations).
  • Participate in class discussions but don’t dominate the conversation.
  • Be professional and respectful when communicating with faculty in person or through e-mail. When talking with them, your conversations should relate to academics and the class. Limit personal conversation and acknowledge the time spent with you. When e-mailing your professors, consider these points:
    • Use your college e-mail when e-mailing professors.
    • Avoid using slang, text message abbreviations and acronyms.
    • Keep your tone positive and professional.
    • Avoid emoticons.
    • Use an appropriate greeting such as “Dr.” or “Professor” and then their name.
    • Include an appropriate subject line.
    • Include your class name and time it meets at the end of your e-mail.
    • Proofread your e-mail before you send it.
    • Use spell and grammar check.