Getting to Know Your Professors

Penn students come from all types of high schools—small, large, public, private, American, international—and yet people are always surprised by how easy it is to get in touch with Penn professors. 

I came from a small high school where students and teachers were pretty close. Coming to Penn, I was worried I would get lost in a sea of other students, and the only interactions I would have with professors would be asking questions in lecture halls.

But when I started taking classes my freshman fall semester, I found that classes were so much smaller than they always looked in the movies. In small seminars, professors knew everyone’s names and became familiar with everyone’s personalities and senses of humor. In lectures, professors stuck around at the end of each class to chat with students and answer any lingering questions.

Office hours are one of the main ways students can talk with professors one-on-one. Every professor is required to set aside at least 2 hours a week for students in their classes. During these hours, students can come to the professor’s office to ask questions about the course, about the professor’s research, or simply just get to know the professor. In my experience, professors are always really excited when students come to office hours. Penn professors enjoy their teaching, and they want to become acquainted with the students they teach. On your course’s website, your professor will have his or her office hours listed. They’ll also announce them on the first day of class. 

I certainly didn’t expect to get on first-name basis with as many professors as I did. But through a combination of going to office hours, participating in class, and getting over any anxieties about looking dumb because I was asking questions, I feel comfortable going to a number of different professors with questions relating to careers, study abroad, and college life in general. And when it came time to ask for recommendation letters for internships, I found professors who were more than happy to help me along in the next stages of my career. 

Professors can seem intimidating. At Penn, they’re scholars at the top of their fields. But they are all here because they love what they study, and they love getting new students every year to love what they study too. All you have to do is show up and ask questions.

- Olivia C.