At a major state university in which most courses are taught by graduate students or adjuncts, how does one get to know faculty? Getting to know faculty is very important - First, and foremost because one can learn a great deal. Secondarily, getting good grades and high GRE scores is not enough - to get into graduate school one needs excellent research experience and faculty references. So, how do you get to know faculty especially if your classes are very large??
Ideally, you should start getting to know faculty early in your college experience, in your freshman year. This is not always so easy in a large
university. If possible, enroll in small classes which require written work.
Take more than one course from a faculty person, particularly if you only
have access to larger classes.
If you must take exclusively large classes, be sure to participate in
class. Prepare to participate, you want the faculty person to remember you
as a bright, articulate person. So, provide thoughtful responses. Do the
reading prior to the class in which it will be discussed, and ask questions
aimed at integrating the lecture with the reading.
On days when you have not completed the reading, silence is the better
part of valor. The myth perpetuated that you can
snow faculty without doing the reading is false. Nearly all faculty find this behavior to be highly annoying. However, many do not call students
on it for fear that they will alienate the well read but more reticent students from participating.
Seek out faculty during their office hours. Come to talk about the material
in greater depth. Come for advice about graduate school. But, in doing so,
remember to do some groundwork. Do not ask faculty to do your homework for
you; that can backfire. Remember, if you are graduate school bound, then you want to engender
in faculty the sense that you are a self-starter. Ultimately, you want them
to write references that say that you are able to work independently and
that you know when to seek supervision. You do not want them to say that
you work well under close supervision; this is code for "will require
a lot of your time";. To wit, I am always impressed when students hit
the web or the library before they come to me.
Beyond taking classes, another way to get to know faculty is to work
with them on their research or on an independent study. If your university
has a mechanism for this, it is essential that you obtain this kind of experience.
You will NOT be accepted into any graduate program without research experience!
I have a colleague who had 1600 on her boards, a 4.00 and 10 years of clinical
experience, she was rejected from graduate school because she did not have
the necessary research experience. She took a year to rectify this deficit, gained admission. Today is a nationally renown researcher in her field of clinical research. If
you attend an excellent college in which faculty are devoted to teaching
and not to research, you must take systematic steps to acquire research
experience possibly in a local university school of medicine, in a summer
program, or during a semester off. My column on research addresses strategies
for obtaining this experience.