Working with Faculty/In the Classroom | University of Portland

Working with Faculty/In the Classroom

How do you get the best grades and then walk away having learned the most you possibly can from your college classes? Watch our #UPHOWTO series and follow these tips to find out!

#UPHOWTO...(learn from current UP students)

Address Your Professor

Gain Academic Capital By Being On Time

Email Your Professor


  • Sit in the front of the classroom. You'll get more attention from the instructor, it's easier to get help during an exam, and it's easier to pay attention to lectures because there are fewer classroom distractions.
  • Do not miss the first and last minutes of class. You usually receive vital information from the instructor at these times. This is the time when work is assigned and reminders are given out.
  • Zero absences mean better grades. Professor Claude Olney of Arizona State University, a study skills guru, surveyed students and found that "A" students missed an average of .5 days of class a term while "C" students missed an average of 4.5 days.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions of the faculty. Visit a professor during office hours if you need extra help or need something explained. Office hours are a good way to meet your instructor and help your advisor match your name with your face.
  • If your instructor offers an extra credit project, do it. Make the extra credit mandatory. It could mean the difference between an "A" or a "B."
  • Start the assigned reading early in the semester. You might get burned with all the reading that's required in your classes during a semester. If you get sick or simply tired, it might be hard to keep up or you might find that all the other pressures make keeping up difficult. Get a head start early.
  • Take good notes on your assigned readings. You'll be prepared in advance for tests, and if your instructor follows the book for lectures, you can follow along in your notes instead of trying to write everything down as he or she talks.

Want to make a good impression on your professors? Former UP Biology professor Becky Houck, who was known as an outstanding freshman advocate, gives these tips:

  • When in doubt, call your professor "Doctor." In high school, you addressed most of your teachers as Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones. In college, most professors hold a doctorate in their discipline, and this requires that you address them as "Dr. Smith" or "Dr. Jones." If they don't hold a doctorate, you should address them as "Professor Smith" or "Professor Jones." Not sure if they have a doctorate? Call them "Doctor" and they'll correct you if they prefer to be addressed differently.
  • Go to each and every class. Attendance is rarely taken in college classes, so some freshmen make the serious mistake of assuming that attendance is not required. In a recent study of college GPAs, attendance was found to be the single most important factor that led to success in college classes. Although most faculty don't take formal roll, professors do have eyes and notice who attends class on a regular basis, even in large lecture classes. In classes in which discussion contributes to your grade, it is impossible to discuss when you are absent. Based on 20 years of observing student success (or lack thereof) in biology classes, I've come up with this rule: if you miss more than three lectures in a class that meets three time per week or one to two sessions in a class that meets less frequently, you might consider withdrawing from that class; you probably have little chance of passing the course.
  • Visit your professor during office hours. Dropping in to see a professor outside of his or her office hours will not help in your quest to get to know your professor and try to improve your grades. Professors want to get to know you and want to help you, but it's best to see them at times scheduled just for that purpose.
  • Read all the material in the textbook. Your professor wouldn't assign it if he or she didn't think it was important.
  • Exams and test won't be rescheduled except in serious circumstances. If there is a death or serious injury or issue in your immediate family, faculty are very willing to work with you to reschedule exams or assignments. If you have documentation that shows you have a highly contagious disease that poses risks to other students in the class, faculty are very willing to work with you to reschedule. If an asteroid hits the earth and lands on your dormitory, you will be excused from taking the exam that day. Otherwise, you are expected to take exams and turn in papers on the assigned date.