Productive Speed Meetings with Your Professors

Published on October 19, 2016 by arothstein

Perhaps the only person busier than you as a college student is your professor. In addition to his or her professional responsibilities as a member of the faculty, he or she is acting as a mentor for each and every student enrolled in his or her courses. He or she may also still be employed in the field in some capacity. The bottom line is that your professor’s time is extremely valuable. While he or she does not mind spending time working with you to achieve your educational goals, you should do your best to maximize the one-on-one time that you spend with him or her. By saving your professor and yourself time, covering a lot of material, and honing right in on the reasons for your meeting, you will leave the meeting feeling motivated and refreshed.


This may seem counter-intuitive, however, the more time you have to reflect on the important questions and concerns you want to talk with your professor about, the more productive your meeting will be. Start a list of topics, and add to it as the meeting date approaches. No topic is too trivial to add to this list. Think of it as a brain dump. Anything remotely related to your college life or career plans can be added to the list to be sorted through later.


Go through your list of concerns and questions and chunk them into general topics. For example, if you have a question about the final paper requirements for your course and a question about your last paper, you can list those in a category called “Papers.” A suggestion to improve message board discussions for the course and a recent problem uploading an assignment could be sorted into a category called “Course Concerns.” As you chunk, you can decide which topics could be easily converted into a quick email and likely do not warrant a full discussion. Remember, you only want to spend your valuable face-to-face time covering information that you want your professor to weigh-in on in person. Don’t waste time bringing up topics that won’t lead to interesting and valuable insights.


Pretend as if you only have five minutes to meet with your professor. While most meetings are scheduled in 15- to 30-minute blocks, once the conversation begins, the time will fly. You need to focus on the essential points you want to make. If you are a rambler or think you may get nervous one-on-one, do not hesitate to do a practice conversation with a friend.


It is tempting to try and write down every single word your professor says during a one-on-one meeting. Instead, try and get the professor’s permission in advance to record the meeting. If this is not possible, take shorthand notes, and focus on the conversation. Perhaps even invite another classmate to sit in on the meeting to help you remember the important details.  

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