Many new college students spend their first few weeks trying to figure out what to call their professors. It’s not Mr. Smith, it’s Dr. Smith, since nearly all college professors have a Ph.D. Many run their classes in a more informal manner and will let you address them by their first name, but play it safe and use “Dr." unless told otherwise.
The reason many professors will let you call them by their first name is that college professors treat their students like adults. This can be freeing—who wants to be treated like a kid at 20? But it also means they expect you to act like adults, by showing up for class on time, turning in assignments, and generally conducting yourself in a mature fashion. In a way, the college student-professor relationship is more like an employer-employee relationship than anything else.
What this also means is that professors expect you to contribute in meaningful ways, to really participate in your own education. They don’t pretend to know all the answers. In fact, it’s perfectly fine to disagree with a professor or with your classmates, as long as you do so respectfully. Lecture classes are different by necessity, but most smaller classes involve a lot of discussion. The point isn’t just to learn facts, but to critique and question the ideas the professor presents. This can take some getting used to, particularly if you come from a high school where rote memorization is the norm.
Continue to page 2 for what to expect regarding responsibility, self-motivation, and study skills when you go to college.