Two-way communication yields better results in studies

When making the transition from high school to university education, students are often hyper-aware that they are studying towards a major which could have a huge impact on their future . Combining this awareness with the fact that you may be studying with professors who are already successful in your chosen field, and with a student-educator dynamic that differs radically from high school, perhaps it’s not surprising that some students feel uncertain about navigating certain discussions with their professors. In fact, just as with any relationship in your life, open and honest communication should be the key to getting the most out of your time at university.

Three tips for effective communication

Firstly, remember that we want you to succeed as much as you do, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification! You won’t be able to do an assignment to the best of your ability without understanding what the expectations are, so follow up with questions in class, via email or during office hours. Many professors put a lot of time and effort into providing detailed instructions and examples as e-learning resources, so check this first. However, if you still feel confused, then ask. Your instructor will likely be glad that you are taking the time to put your best foot forward, and you may even help your classmates by identifying instructions that seem ambiguous or open to interpretation.

Secondly, we do understand that you may not always make it to class, but a little communication and planning will go a long way. Emailing your professors ahead of time (where possible) shows courtesy and consideration. Let them know that you will check e-learning for any assignments, obtain notes from a classmate and check back with them if you have any queries. This shows that you can take responsibility for your own education, and may put you in a better position should something crop up later that seriously impacts your work (for example, a family emergency which means you need to ask for an extension). Do remember that the onus is on you as the student to check whether homework has been assigned – turning up the next week with this completed in spite of missing class is a clear signal that you are putting in the effort.

Thirdly, although these conversations may feel the most intimidating, try to be honest about procrastination. You must have at some point received an extremely late message reply from a friend saying “Sorry - just saw this!”? Did you believe them? Teachers often have a sixth sense for when students are not being honest about delays with work, and this can be damaging to the student-teacher relationship. Remember that we are also human beings who may have had to overcome our own struggles with procrastination during education and now work in a sector which requires a high level of organization (planning, grading, coordinating classes, academic year deadlines and so on). Being forthcoming about your issues in this area may deepen your instructor’s respect for you, and they may be able to suggest a number of organizational and motivational techniques to help you manage your workload.

So, the next time you are feeling out of your depth about any such issues and you are unsure how to proceed – remember, it’s good to talk, and your instructors may have far more willing ears than you realize.

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