Improve academic relationships with your professor, TA and RA

Welcome to a new semester of school. A new semester means that you will have new courses and new academic relationships. As you meet friends through your time at school, you will also meet dozens of instructors and advisors that can have a positive impact on your education and even career. When you move to a new dorm, you should try to develop a healthy bond with your resident advisor to gain their respect and good word of mouth. When you begin new classes, work on good relationships with your teaching assistants and professors. Not only are they great resources and potential mentors, but they can be powerful references for when you apply to graduate schools, internships and jobs.

Professor Relationship

An article called “Student-Professor Relationship” provides some tips for establishing a positive relationship with your professor.

  1. Attend class regularly and be on time. If you must be absent, contact your professor and describe your situation. Ask what material will be discussed so that you can be prepared for the next class session.
  2. Participate in class discussions. Relate current issues to course content.
  3. Ask questions and be prepared for class.
  4. Avoid disruptions and negative attention such as talking with other students, receiving phone calls, eating and drinking during class, leaving early, sleeping in class, not reading the syllabus, or making excuses.
  5. Turn in assignments and exams on time.
  6. Sit toward the front and center of the classroom. Sit up straight and obtain direct eye contact with the professor. Make sure your professor knows your name.
  7. Address your professor’s title and pronounce their name correctly.
  8. Be open-minded and respect the opinions of the professor and other students.
  9. Schedule a meeting with your professor. Regular meetings with your professor have many benefits such as getting advice and showing interest.

Teaching Assistant Relationship

College may be the first time some students encounter a teaching assistant (TA). Your instincts may be to go directly to your professor for help, but TAs are equally receptive to students’ questions and eager to give guidance. Additionally, they’ve been in your seat far more recently than your professors have and know where you’re coming from. TAs have great insight on the course requirements and tips to make the class go smoothly for you. In an article called “How to Establish a Good Relationship With Your Teaching Assistant,” teaching assistant, Danielle Lorenz suggests to get along best with your TA, students should follow directions. “Perhaps one of the easiest ways for you to do well in a course is to follow the directions that are given to you. Treat the syllabus you are given at the beginning of the term as a holy text: do not lose it, and read it frequently!”

Lorenz goes on to suggest that students ask questions. “If there is a point that you don’t understand something – course material, your assignment, what you need to know for the exam – ask us. If there are no questions we assume you understand. Always follow the rule of thumb (which I employed as an undergrad and still use in my own classes and told my students to use as well): when in doubt, ask. At the same time, emailing us frantically the night before because you don’t understand something is not a way for us to sympathize with you. In fact, it is highly irritating.”

Resident Advisor Relationship

If it is your first time living away from home, you may be curious why young adults require someone to supervise 24/7, let alone someone so close to your own age. An article from the Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education titled, “On the Front Line: A Conversation with Resident Assistant Dan Oltersdorf” explains that “Approximately 100,000 resident assistants work and live on U.S. college campuses. Since college administrators can’t be everywhere all the time, a resident assistant (RA) can be their eyes and ears when it comes to safety and other student issues.” Most students that have lived in dorms previously can tell you that issues come up that you may not be able to handle on your own, and you’ll be happy you have someone trained in emergency response and crisis management.

For those that think their RA is just out to get them, it’s really not in the RA’s benefit to focus their time on every move you make. In an article called “Build an RA Relationship for an Easier School Year,” author Emily Chapman lets students know how to avoid causing problems for the RA all together. “Your RA doesn’t want to write you up. They don’t. It requires paperwork and yelling and it’s a pain. The best way to avoid being written up? Be quiet. Tell your friends to be quiet.” Staying out of trouble is the best way to stay on your RA’s good side and make both your lives easier.


With all three of these relationships, remember to be careful sharing too much of your personal life. Emily Chapman reminds students to keep their online life protected in particular. “Any half-way savvy reader will know to put their professors, parents, grandparents, and clergy members (it happens) on limited profile. Remember to do this with your RA—they may be obligated to report you if they see that amusing photo of you with a beer in your dorm. Their personal feelings about you will not trump their no-doubt strong desire to not get fired.”

Following this advice isn’t a recipe for becoming teacher’s pet, but should instruct you on how to network early. You may even find yourself with a new college mentor that could help you when applying to graduate school, an internship or your first job out of college.


5 replies
  1. Anonymous says:

    The best answer to, “Who used to be your college mentor?” would be “All of the above”.
    People see in you attributes that you are ill equipped to recognize. You are over-critical or your flaws and over-impressed with other peoples skills. Things tat come naturally to you seem, to you, too easy to be valuable. For example, true leaders lead without knowing it. People who are skilled at organizing complex tasks will think, “Well, anybody could have done that.” The rest of us know they are wrong.
    My professors recognized that my “wrong” answers to some questions revealed more talent than some other people’s “right” answers.

    • Nazo says:

      I think there is a difference between being a friend and being an instructor. I prefer if students not to be friend with their instructors because that may lead to problems affecting both the instructor and the student. let the friend to do what friends do, and the instructor do what other instructors do just teaching and guiding.

  2. JOHN MWINGIRA says:

    i think my college mentor was my professor who used to give me/teach me some thing real,that means from abstract to known.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.