5 Things Not to Talk to Your Professor About

Talking with your professors can simultaneously be intimidating and helpful. While your professors can provide insight and advice on everything from career options to your paper thesis, there are some subjects that are best left out during office hours. So just what are some topics not to talk to your professor about?

1. Why you think you deserve a different grade on an assignment or exam.

Your professor has already given you the grade he or she thinks you earned (note: the grade you earned, not the grade you think you deserve) on an assignment.

Of course, if you notice something simple, like your professor miscalculating the amount of points on an exam, you can mention the error. Otherwise, don’t talk to your professor about a grade change. You can talk to him or her about how to improve your grade next time or about some course material you’re still not clear on. But changing a grade? Nope.

2. Why your personal or social life means you won’t be in class.

If you have a funeral to attend, that’s one thing. But missing class, asking for an extension on an assignment, or asking to reschedule an exam or in-class presentation because of something short of a very serious emergency is not acceptable in college. True, your roommate might be horribly sick, your sports team might have extra practices, and your sorority might be busy planning for an upcoming event, but your classes come first –– always. After all, your professor undoubtedly has personal things going on in his or her life, too. Everyone in the course has made a commitment to attend regularly, participate, and turn things in (or return them graded) when promised.

You need to keep your end of the deal. The rest can wait.

3. Gossip about other professors.

There are good and bad professors on every campus. (And the qualities that one student thinks are needed in a good professor might be the same qualities that another student thinks are present in a bad professor.) Talking to your professor about one of his or her colleagues isn’t too professional on your part, and it puts your professor in an awkward situation. How are they supposed to react? Agree with you? Disagree with you? If you need to vent about a bad professor or have some concerns that you’d like addressed more formally, talk to your academic adviser or the Dean of Faculty. But leave your other professors out of it.

4. What crazy stuff you did over the weekend.

Your professor seems pretty cool, so you’re assuming she’d like to hear about what happened at your fraternity house last weekend, right? Wrong. Professors don’t necessarily have the time (or interest) to hear about out-of-class shenanigans. (After all, if you’re there during office hours, other students might be waiting to talk to your professor about other, academic-related topics.) Additionally, if you report happenings that raise legal, safety, or campus climate issues, your professor might feel — or actually be — obligated to report what they’ve heard. Keep gossip about out-of-class activities to a minimum when possible. Did you go see an art exhibit last weekend that relates to content you’re covering in class? Now that‘s a weekend activity to discuss.

5. What your parents thinks about anything related to the class.

Your parents might be your best cheerleaders. They know you are smart, hardworking, and dedicated. And they certainly think you deserved a better grade than you got on your last paper. Your parents, however, are not taking the class. They are not the ones assigning grades. They are not the ones doing the coursework. So while your parents may have opinions about what’s happening in your academic life, they have no role in it. Bringing your parents into the conversation — or, even worse, having your parents contact your professor — is completely inappropriate. You’re in college, which means you handle the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let your parents have their own life while you focus on building your own college life — including talking to professors when and how it’s most appropriate to do so.