Impressing Your Professors

Tips for building purposeful relationships with faculty

College accounting students face many challenges: figuring out their career paths, dealing with tough curricula and new material, and managing their time effectively. And they also must work with multiple professors, who all have different attitudes, personalities, and teaching styles. Don't feel intimidated—your professors can be a valuable resource, guiding you during your college years and helping you pave the way to internships at local firms and companies via recommendations and introductions. 

"It’s particularly important for an accounting student to develop good relationships with their faculty, because placement at the major accounting firms tends to start so early in their careers," said Bobby Waldrup, CPA, Ph.D., associate dean and professor of accounting at Loyola University Maryland, in Baltimore.

Students may think professors won’t notice certain bad behaviors: missing class with no communication, texting or emailing during class, procrastinating, falling asleep at their desks, or simply blending into the pack versus standing out. But instructors do notice, and these actions can negatively impact the student-faculty relationship. 

"They don’t realize the behavior they manifest in the classroom is an indicator of how they will behave when they get out," noted Dan Deines, CPA, Ph.D., a professor of accounting at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. "You can’t just flip the switch."

Waldrup and Deines offered the following tips on how you can demonstrate your dedication to learning, so you in turn get the help and attention you need:

Say hello

While this may seem obvious, it’s important to acknowledge your professor when you enter the classroom. Instructors are human, too, and a greeting is common courtesy. "Make eye contact and say good morning," Deines said, "because it says you are glad to be there."

Shelve electronic devices and be engaged

Unless absolutely necessary, do not open your laptop in class, and turn off your tablet and phone. Don’t risk missing a key point because you’re checking your phone. Listen, take notes, and let the instructor see your face "Students have to be engaged with the professor," Deines said. "If you are disrespectful to a professor in class, asking for help later is a problem."

Only ask a question if you really have one

"The least effective method of learning is to silently observe," Waldrup noted. However, professors are quick to identify students who ask questions to garner attention or to be self-serving. So ask questions only when you truly need clarification—not to make yourself look smart.

Act enthusiastic about your major

Professors welcome students who are excited about their studies and future careers in accounting. Make an extra effort to visit faculty and discuss your professional path. "A student can learn something from each one of them," Waldrup said about professors. "As different as we all might be, the reason we are in this profession is we want them to succeed."

Professors relish much more than good grades and good attendance. They also notice students who are involved with organizations on campus. Deines advises students to join one to three groups both in and outside the accounting realm. "Demonstrate leadership, become an officer, work hard in those organizations, and get a reputation of being a doer," he said.

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