Back to School Success: University Etiquette Edition

Back to School Success: University Etiquette Edition

4 Methods to Build Professional Rapport to Achieve Success

With the influx of information, time limits, and hundreds of courses, it may seem like you are alone in the arduous university process. However, there’s someone to help you achieve academic success– that’s right, your professors. Knowing how to effectively communicate with your professors benefits your academic career. With the right methods to build professional rapport with your professor, you can achieve success.

1. Know How to Address Your Professors This may seem obvious, but many students are not certain what to call the professor. Some students enrolling right after high school think “Mr., Mrs., and Ms.” are appropriate, while those transitioning from the workforce may default to first-names. Because professors have PhDs in their respective subjects, the most appropriate title is Dr. or Professor. Using these proper titles shows thoughtfulness about the subject and respect for the professor.

2. Asking Questions: The Power of Office Hours Asking a question in a lecture hall full of 300 students can be daunting, especially if it’s twofold or threefold. With questions about the class, content, or subject matter, go to office hours. Take full advantage of posted hours because the professor is a student’s greatest ally. Go to the office prepared with specific questions and notes. By showing genuine interest in the course content, students receive the professor’s sincere help with specific resources, tips on how to improve grades, and a corresponding confidence in the class. Once rapport and a relationship are established, going to office hours to have a quick chat about arbitrary topics is a good idea. Establishing trust may come in handy for future recommendations or academic research.

3. Email Etiquette: Being Professional in the Workplace A daily component of university and student etiquette is composing a professional email. Many students struggle with selecting an appropriate greeting and a proper subject line. First, address professors the way you do in person and use the proper salutation. Second, make a comment about the class or weather like, “I enjoyed your example about the Spanish armada” or “I hope these 70 degree days last forever.” Next, get into the nitty-gritty. Introduce yourself, reference the class you are taking, and give some background to the question you have.

For example:

Hello Professor ______,

I hope you are having a great day! My name is _______ and I am in your Introduction to Economics class section ____, this Fall. I am currently studying the textbook content on PPC curves and wanted to clarify some particular pieces of information with you in person.

I have class during your office hours, so would it be possible to schedule an individual appointment? Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your consideration.

           Best regards,

Always remember to proofread before sending!

4. Networking: How Connections Matter College is the ideal time to begin obtaining academic and intern recommendations. Tap into connections within the university to build a professional resumé. Build rapport with your professors by: inquiring about their personal research opportunities; study abroad possibilities; or work-study within your major. Seek out internships to help build experience and real-world knowledge.

Brush up on tips for networking to prepare for internships and career fairs to maximize get your education and job experience. Get to know your superiors and coworkers; the more professional references you acquire while in college the better.

Challenge yourself to incorporate these 4 tips to get back into the groove this semester. Expand your knowledge and polish your professionalism while pursuing your degree. It all starts with the professor, so take advantage of the opportunity!


Sharon Schweitzer and Sophia Syed co-worte this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture (formerly Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide). In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Sophia Syed was a 2017 cross-cultural communication intern with Access to Culture. As a third-culture kid who has lived abroad in countries including Dubai, Jamaica, and Singapore, she has interacted with many different nationalities in both a professional and personal setting. She was a Dubai student representative for the Global Issues Network Conference in Luxembourg in the Spring of 2015, where she discussed economical, environmental and human rights issues with representatives of 70 countries. She currently attends the University of Texas at Austin as a double major in Corporate Communication and Communication Sciences. Her most recent project is working with the Room to Read organization, which raises funds for children’s literacy efforts and girls’ education in Asia and Africa. 

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