I am currently a 2nd year student at Uoft and I know that I want to pursue graduate studies in the future hence, I want to start building relationships with profs. But the problem is that I am a terribly shy person and I never speak up in class. I am also really afraid to go to office hours as I don’t really know what to speak to professors about (i usually don’t have much questions to ask them). Do you have any tips on how to overcome my shyness around profs? And how much do you think profs will need to know u in order to write a good letter of recommendation?
as someone who self identifies as a “talkative keener” i have a lot of experience talking to (and buttering up) profs. let me pass down my wisdom to you.
participating in class and going to office hours is the best way for profs to know/ remember you, but i totally understand how difficult and intimidating that can be. i personally find that it’s a lot easier to speak up and make a personal connection with a prof if the class is a lot smaller. smaller classes are usually a lot more discussion heavy, which (personally!) pushes me to participate more and talk to the prof directly. plus, it’s not a faux pas to participate in a smaller class, it’s actually an expectation! while it is a lot easier in some programs to find and take seminar classes (for example, i’m in the humanities and i’ve been in small classes since first year), i think that seeking out small classes about things that you’re interested in and profs that you like can be a good way to get profs to know you.
going to office hours can be absolutely terrifying, i always feel like i’m in trouble and i’m to going to the principal’s office or something, but it’s a great way to develop a relationship with a prof. even if you’re not having issues with the class or there isn’t much of a reason to go, attending office hours just to talk about something that you found interesting about the course material or to chat up the prof about their research will really help them to remember who you are. also, it really butters ’em up.
another way to get over shyness around profs is to work with them directly. seeking out research opportunities is a good way to get to really know a prof/ have a prof really know you. plus, research experience looks great on a CV, especially if you have grad school aspirations.
these are my suggestions, based on my own personal experiences. you aren’t me (unless there’s a serious glitch in the simulation) so these things may not work for you. stepping outside of your comfort zone can be scary and it’s easy for me from my anonymous student blogger pedestal to tell you what to do. hopefully these tips help you out and you get a great reference out of one of your profs.