1. Show that you’re interested in the subject. This doesn’t mean you have to have perfect grades and flawless work, but that you’re showing genuine interest in the content. Showing up to class on time, being respectful to not just the professor but the other students as well. Another key part is to have thoughtful discussions and questions.
2. Office Hours. Having that one-on-one time is important, especially if your professor has many or large classes. Set yourself apart from others and attend your professor’s office hours for help on assignments or just to seek advice.
3. Show interest in not just the coursework, but your professor’s work as well. Many professors will have research outside of class and areas of expertise. Some may even come to the class looking for assistance with their research. Ask them about it, and if they do need assistance, offer to help them out.
4. Do your work. While perfect grades may not define you as a student, they show how interested and motivated you are in the class. Complete assignments on time and study hard. These are the things that professors can comment on when writing letters of recommendation.
5. Keep in touch, even after you’ve finished their class. If it was a class in line with your major, this can be easier than for classes that are outside of your major. Going back to your professor and asking question or seeking advice can help if your new professor isn’t helping. This can introduce you to connections outside of school, and keep you in your professor’s mind when it’s time for letters of recommendation.
Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out. It can be a daunting task but the payoff is worth it. Professors are there to help, to teach and to give advice. There aren’t many professors out there that will refuse questions or just a talk.