Do Profs Notice When Students Suck Up? (And Other Answers to Search Terms)

Posted by on Apr 3, 2012 in Communicating with Professors, General | 2 comments

My blog’s one year anniversary

No binoculars needed. Just ask for help!

is fast approaching: April 8th!

Now, I feel like an absolute social media toddler in every sense of the word!

I know very, very little about SEO.

(I know more about REO… Speedwagon, that is… and in case you are cringing because I’m showing my age–or the students reading this don’t know what I’m talking about–I totally know about LMFAO, and I love them!).

As I was closing out Blogger, I made a list of the search terms/phrases that students/readers used to find my blog. I thought it would be fun to see if I could respond with some quick answers. Ready?

-Do professors notice when students are sucking up?

Um, yeah! We work with enough people, after all. We can usually see right through phony niceness. Sucking up will not get you a better grade, so don’t bother. And we can’t and shouldn’t accept gifts.

What to say/do instead?

Do solid work, contribute energetically in class (but don’t take over), be proactive and genuine in your individual communication. Say, “I have a goal of getting a ‘B’ in this class. Can I meet with you to discuss that?” or “Will you look over this paper for me ahead of the deadline? I can have it to you a week in advance? Is that early enough or would you like it sooner?” These are the signs of a proactive and “real” communicator! You won’t have to suck up.

-Do professors notice which students go to office hours?

Well, we know if you show up, but it isn’t like we keep a tally sheet: “Okay, Brad came to office hours six times. He’ll get an A. Jill came to office hours only once and she’s nailed with a C! Muhahhahahaha!” (I threw that last part in for effect… did you like it?).

What to say/do instead?

Go to office hours if you need to go to office hours. But don’t go just to “be noticed.” Again, that’s just phony and you’ll be noticed for the wrong reasons. But if you need help or have a grade/class issue, say, “Professor, I need to talk with you about an issue I’m having with the upcoming assignment (or with my grade). Will you be in your office during office hours today? Or should I make an appointment?” You can also come visit to talk about your major or another topic, but just make sure you aren’t going just because you think it’s going to score you points with your prof. It probably won’t.

-Should I tell a professor that I’m struggling?

Of course, you should! Why would you want to keep that to yourself? You were not supposed to come into college knowing all the answers. Otherwise, you’d be teaching the classes (which would be completely awesome because, hey, no homework, but then there’s the grading, and that can be a pain in the tush… I digress).

What to say/do instead?

Decide that asking for help is “the new smart” and read this post back from last August! It was my second highest viewed post on Blogger (nearly 1,400 visits!). Take one of the verbal suggestions I gave to ask for help…:

-”Can you help?”
-”I don’t know what in the heck is going on here and I need to figure it out.”
-”I’m totally lost and would like not to be.”
-”I think I have an idea of what we’re supposed to be doing, but just want to ensure that I’m correct.”
-”I’m missing the mark on this particular concept and I think I know why.”

…and ask for help! You’ll be so glad you did! (I will be celebrating you, too!).

I’m going to sign off here, but I’ll revisit this list again… promise! Remember, if you have a question, no searching necessary! Just drop me an e-mail at I’m glad to help!


  1. I absolutely love this Ellen! In my son’s freshman year of college, he had to reach out to one of his professors for help. I was SO proud of him for being SMART enough to know that he was not showing weakness for needing help, but rather strength in ASKING for it! He ended up with an A in the class and has no qualms about seeking help when necessary. Thanks for the super advice. Oh and on my site, I get searches for “Will scholarship judges know that I lied on my applications.” Sigh……..

    • Hi, Monica,

      I know what you mean. It makes me so sad that students perceive their need for help as a sign of weakness. In my adult life, I actually feel smarter when I know the right places to go and the right resources to seek out for help. I also know that the person I’m asking feels good about being targeted! It’s a win-win on all sides!

      And a big groan… lying on applications? (Hand slap to forehead). Oy! Are you blogging about that one? Please do!

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