hello! i am looking for reference letters for graduate school and i was thinking of asking a professor during summer courses. any advice on getting to know my profs this summer when courses are online?
good afternoon to everyone except profs who are still assigning textbooks that cost over a hundred dollars, even during an economic downturn.
grad school! an exciting endeavour.
online summer courses! a mediocre endeavour at best.
< so i took a solid chunk of time and thought this out, because initially it seemed highly unlikely to me that you'd be able to successfully get to know a prof who's teaching remotely. even before this pandemic, i'd taken a few online courses and found that each time without fail, the instructor remained a nameless faceless entity. do online instructors even exist?
i hate feeling useless, though, so here are the suggestions i scraped together for ya:< number one: online office hours
as far as i’m aware, most instructors are still holding office hours using platforms like zoom or whatnot. these office hours are gonna be your best bet to get to know your profs. show up, have good questions, make it clear you’ve engaged with their material so that you make a good impression.
bonus points for knowing what their area of research is and being able to talk to them about it– but only after you’ve spoken to them at least a few times.
number two: engage with your prof via email
it’s a second-rate strat, but if you’re unable for any reason to talk to your prof face to face over some kind of video call, sending them emails will at least let them know you exist. make sure these emails are polite, professional, and make you sound smart without trying too hard lol. respond quickly (which i suck at, rip me) and once again, ask good questions and express an interest in the class material! some form of communication is better than none.
number three: make yourself stand out if you have class discussions
now, i know this isn’t the case for many classes this summer, but some smaller upper-year seminars will still be holding live lectures with a participation or discussion component. if you’re planning to apply to grad school soon, my hope is that you’re an upper year able to take a small advanced class like this. participating is a good way to get noticed by your profs. the ones i’ve had have always appreciated quality participation, and if you do really well they’ll notice you and you won’t even need to try. it’ll then be easier on you when you reach out and want to talk about grad school later down the road.
number four: do well in the class, or make yourself stand out through assignments
it goes without saying that sometimes these things are out of your control.
if we all could do well in our classes we would. but in my experience talking to profs about grad school, they’ve been pretty transparent about how, if you want a solid letter, you should get an A in their course or have something academically noteworthy about you that they can discuss. if you can manage to do really, really well, or turn in a creative or surprising assignment, this will definitely get your profs to notice you as well as hand them material for whatever letters they may write you later on.
hope this was helpful! good luck with your summer courses and grad school applications.