I'll never forget the advice my youth sponsor Matt gave me when I was in junior high: "When you get to college, make friends with your professors." My friends and I laughed. The idea seemed as far from our teenage world of boys, clothes and acne control as the day we would actually be in college. A friendship with our teachers?
It wasn't that I didn't like the idea. In fact, I got along well with many of my teachers throughout junior high and high school. After I finished my first year at college, though, I realized Matt was right about profs. And I'm not the only college student to have discovered this. I talked to other students about their own experiences. They talked about why it's good to make friends with profs and offered advice on how to make the most of these types of friendships.
Nathan heard that his relationships with his college professors would be more personal than they had been with his high school teachers. But when he arrived on campus at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, he felt a bit intimidated by his professors' titles and degrees. Then, Nathan's adviser, Dr. Howard Thomas, put him at ease. As time went on, Nathan began to see him as a friend and mentor. Nathan shared his questions about majors and careers with Dr. Thomas.
"Dr. Thomas became a guiding light for my future," says Nathan, now a senior majoring in physics.
"Dr. Thomas has been through all of the choices I'm making, so he's got all that experience," says Nathan. "It's nice to be able to talk to him about any questions or fears I have."
Stephanie Bromm had a similar experience when she transferred to Alaska Bible College (ABC) in Glennallen, Alaska, One of the reasons Stephanie came to ABC was to grow in her understanding of the Bible. Her expectations were soon met when she started attending Bible classes taught by Kevin Newman. But she wasn't only impressed by Dr. Newman's knowledge of the Bible. She appreciated his down-to-earth personality, too.
"I came expecting that the profs would tell us the basics," Stephanie says. "I didn't expect to get to know them personally. I didn't have that at the college I'd attended before coming to ABC.
"He has a doctorate, but insists on us calling him by his first name. He hangs out and plays pingpong with us."
During Stephanie's year in ABC's Bible Certificate Program, her conversations with Dr. Newman developed into a friendship with him and his family. She joined them for dinner at their home, accompanied them to church, and babysat for Dr. Newman's kids.
Why Be Friends?
What does all this mean for the freshman who's swept up in the frenzy of the college scene—trying to figure out your roommate's snoring pattern, making friends, and juggling your increased homework load and social life?
Befriending your professors may seem like it belongs on the bottom of your to-do list. But there are so many good reasons to build these relationships. Here are four:
1) Guidance and mentoring. "Students are always looking for role models," says Kimberly Budd, a professor and department chair at Judson College in Elgin, Illinois. "A professor is someone older and wiser who has gone through what you're going through."
"You can really learn from the example they present through how they live their lives," says Mary, a student at Philadelphia Biblical University's Wisconsin Wilderness Campus (WWC) in Cable, Wisconsin.
"I was greatly influenced by my professors," says Mark Wells, an assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. "They became my mentors. With my own students, I want to give back some of what I received from my professors."