First impression matters

First impression matters

Most of us know that impressions are formed with in the first few minutes of meeting a person. So it is important to make a better impression...

Most of us know that impressions are formed with in the first few minutes of meeting a person. So it is important to make a better impression especially when it comes to your professors. Why? It’s hard to grab a job without a reference and faculty is good source of reference. Not just for reference, but your grade and research opportunities are based on your professor’s perception of you.

When Are Impressions Formed?

Impressions are formed very quickly when meeting someone. We do this on an unconscious level. We're usually not aware of it. As a student in a class of 20, 40 or more, your professor likely won't form an impression of you that quickly as he or she may not even notice every student during the first class of the semester. Professors' impressions of students are formed in the first couple of weeks of the semester. Specifically, professors form expectations about what kind of student you are -- whether you are studious or a slacker. And they form impressions about what they can expect from you work wise -- will you submit stellar work, adequate work, of subpar work?

Why Do Impressions Matter?

Impressions can help or hurt you - regardless of whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student. If a professor forms an initial impression that you are studious and responsible, that positive view will likely color his or her evaluation of your work. That's not to say that you can hand in shoddy work without facing negative consequences, but that the professor is likely to appraise your work with the expectation that it will be solid.

And a positive expectation can lead to a positive evaluation. Likewise, if a professor has formed the impression that you are a lazy student, that negative impression can cloud his or her view. Perfectly adequate work may be colored by this negative impression and be evaluated more negatively than is merited.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

The finding that expectations about students can influence professors' evaluations of them (grades! letters of recommendation!) is a well-established finding in education and psychology known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Positive or negative impressions unwittingly color our evaluations and the positive of negative impression is thus sustained. So the initial impression of a student as studious or a slacker influences how a faculty looks at, treats, and grades a student.

Students who are seen as slackers will earn worse grades, sometimes worse than merited. Use the self-fulfilling prophecy to your advantage by forming a good impression on day 1. How do you form a good impression? It's simple.

  • Show up to class on time, preferably early so that you can converse with the professor before class begins
  • Be attentive in class. Stay focused and more importantly appear focused -- that means no putting your head down, looking out the window, doodling
  • Be respectful. No eye rolling, faces. Don't do outside work in class - no outside reading, checkbook balancing, etc.
  • Submit assignments on time
  • Sit towards the front of class. You don't have to sit in the first row, but sitting towards the front conveys interest and a desire to learn.
  • Smile and be friendly -- professors are people too.
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