Five techy tips to cope with university professors

Academics are often misunderstood and do not think on the most part like the rest of society. But these problems can be solved. Here are five techy tips to deal with common professor-problems.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Professors can be difficult people to deal with. Their often strong personality can easily trickle down to associate lecturers, professional colleagues and postgraduate students who often pick up the slack on their behalf.

As Sir Ken Robinson says, famous for his TED talks on creativity in education and schools, academics and professors often live in their heads. Their bodies are merely a transportation device to get their heads and brains from one place to another.

But there is a psychology to master. To know the professor is the key to understanding how the professor thinks. Here are five tips to deal with college and university professors, as well as their subordinate lackeys.


1. Keep to their official lines of communication

Students and teachers, of any age, regardless of whether they are at school, college or university, should never, under any circumstances, converse regarding academic work through Facebook or text messaging.

It's always best to speak to them after the class or lecture if they have time. Equally, email works well as you can refer back to conversations at a later date when essays are due in. If they have an office extension number on the university directory or their email signature, then that is carte blanche to use it.

As I've said before, it isn't uncommon for college and university students and teachers to bump into each other on a night out in the pub. Sometimes you'll wake up next to them.

I know; it's a strange 'protocol' to live by - that you can drink with and sleep with your lecturers but can't Facebook them, but it is just the unwritten rule of the college quad.

2. Keep emails quick, to the point, and sign off politely (but not in a cringey way)

Emails do not need to be full of the hyperbole that social messages often contain. Nor should they, on any circumstances, even if you are engaging in extra curricular activities with the aforementioned professor or lecturer, contain kisses appended to the end.

If the university find out, and they can and therefore do - you will both be in trouble.

Just simply say what you want to say, take a step back, rethink your message and see if you can condense it down to one or two sentences for something brief.

If your school, college or university enables you to instant message your academic staff, check their online presence. If they're 'away' or 'busy', they probably are. If they are online and appear available, always ask first if they have a moment to talk. Don't just jump in there bombarding them with messages.

3. Do not follow or add your professor on social networks. It's just plain weird.

Adding one of your lecturers on a social network is highly unprofessional and will create awkwardness - as they probably won't accept your friend request. Even sending them a poke in a drunk fit of madness will be enough. It breaks down professional boundaries and your working relationship with your professor is paramount over anything else.

Academic departments often have their own Twitter feed, as do entire universities. It is a great way of publicising a message in an emergency, for example, without having to potentially infringe the privacy of its students. Following these accounts are fine, but one should always judge whether a Twitter account is used for personal or professional reasons.

Once you have left university, consider LinkedIn as a more appropriate 'social network' to add your former colleagues and professors on.

4. Times New Roman, point 12. Your essays should be in nothing else.

Word 2007 onwards caused a rift in the academic world by changing the default font to Calibri point 11. And even though students, and I, have handed in essays with this font and size, with the usual double line spacing, it should not nor ever be.

Academics like Times New Roman, point 12. It is easy to read, and besides all else, Calibri looks too similar to Comic Sans for their liking, and you could be marked down for not using the academic font and point standard.


5. Bring possible solutions to your problems, rather than expecting a magic wand.

Academics often are a misunderstood bunch of people. While they may be world leading in their respective fields, often finding solutions to smaller problems of a variant nature are difficult to come by, as they mull over fixing world hunger over their latte.

So instead of simply bringing a series of problems to a professor, try and bring potential solutions. Even if communication is difficult because of their academic hedonism is too focused on their own work, try and pre-empt their answers with some of your own.

Think of it as giving them research for them to consider, rather than asking a flat out question without thought or regard to what the answer might be. Plus, this way you may well get the answer you are looking for instead of a far out solution which makes you want to gouge out your own eyes.

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