Making yourself known in the department
By Jess Baker,
While the tile might sound like something meant only for the brightest and the most eager students on your course, having a good relationship with the members of staff in your department at university will only enhance the time you spend on your degree, and potentially the time afterwards too. There is no longer anything embarrassing about making an effort!
There is a whole host of ways to get to know your lecturers. The easiest method is simply to speak up during your seminars and tutorials; don't hide in the corner while other people are putting forward ideas and questions. If you think you have something important to say, then say it! When it comes to choosing modules which have a limited number of places (which may be decided by the lecturers themselves) you want to make sure that your name is at the top of the pile of desirable students.
Outside of your contact time, the departments will be offering a multitude of opportunities to make a name for yourself - all you have to do is look. Most academic departments will appoint reps of some description who are elected to represent the student body in staff meetings which can potentially decide the future direction of your course. These roles advance with time and offer some students the chance to attend department, faculty and university-wide discussions, as well as involvement in your university's union. Not only is this a fantastic position to make sure the staff know who you are, it also spreads your name throughout the student body, which can only help when it comes to meeting new people.
While positions like Course Reps are limited to a small number of people, opportunities like open days and visit days come around several times a term and have a much bigger capacity for student helpers. Whether it's welcoming people into the department in a brightly coloured t-shirt with a plate of biscuits or giving a brief talk on student life, any involvement will get you noticed and remembered.
Even if you don't actually enjoy these voluntary roles (you might assume they're boring now, but I predict you'll be proved wrong) then the opportunities they might open up are certainly worth the effort. If lecturers have found a reliable student who's proved themselves to be enthusiastic and capable, who do you think they'll offer additional roles to? Events like open days can open the doors to roles such as mentoring; which is often a paid position as well as being extremely rewarding.
As well as all the benefits that good relationships with the staff can offer during your degree, let's not forget that life doesn't end after those three years. Some of you may already have aspirations of postgraduate study, for which you need to demonstrate a genuine passion (there's that word again) for your subject, with proof. You will also need references, which are much easier to acquire when the lecturer you're approaching isn't meeting you for the first time.
Postgraduate study isn't the only pathway which will be more accessible with glowing references of course; any employer will be looking for somebody who actively involves themselves in their team, whether that's an academic department or an office environment.
At the end of the day you will reap what you sow, and a university degree will only be as good as you make it. Obviously every department will offer different opportunities, and some subjects tend towards student involvement more than others, but every opportunity is worth looking into - seize the day! Grab every chance you are offered with both hands and get stuck in.