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The Corson Technique: A Simple Tip to Make Profs Hate You Less

Written by Alex McMurray
Image by Rawpixel on Unsplash and Tyler Doupe from Student Life Network

Don’t be THAT student. Use The Corson Technique to get on your professor’s good side.

Ok, so maybe your profs don’t HATE you. You’re a good student, right? You always show up to class on time. You always do your readings and take detailed notes. And you always come prepared with everything you might need for class, right? Right?

Well, I can’t help you be prepared and on time for class. Maybe try sloppily turning off Netflix and passing out an hour earlier than usual? At least, that’s the advice that I needed when I was in school. Let’s pretend that you’re getting all of that stuff right and your profs think you’re pretty swell. There’s still a simple mistake you might be making that can hurt your reputation a whole lot. Thankfully, it’s easy to fix.

When you don’t understand something in class, or in the reading, or in your assignment, what do you do? Do you ask the prof about it? And if you do, HOW do you ask them? This is where The Corson Technique comes into play.

Just what is The Corson Technique? It’s when you “work through a complex idea one sentence at a time in order to ‘crack’ it.”

If that’s a little abstract, let’s check it out in practice. Here are two versions of the same situation. Just put yourself in the professor’s shoes and it shouldn’t be tough to see which one works better.

Version 1 (Don’t Do This)

Student: Hey Professor, how’s it going? I need some help with something.

Professor: Oh? Well, that’s what I’m here for, shoot!

Student: I don’t get the reading from last night.

Professor: What do you mean? It had some complicated parts, sure, but I think it’s about right for your level.

Student: I dunno. It was hard.

Professor: Hard… how?

Student: I just don’t get it!

Professor: Well, I’m not sure how to help you. It was forty-two pages long, do you have any notes or…?

Student: Helping me is your job! Do it!

Version 2 (Do This)

Student: Hey Professor, how’s it going? I need some help with something.

Professor: Oh? Well, that’s what I’m here for, shoot!

Student: I was reading through the assigned discourse on modern communication, and I was confused by what one of the speakers had to say on social media. I thought that storytelling had become even more important in personal branding, but he seems to be suggesting otherwise? I think I get the rest of it, but that part just didn’t make sense to me. Here, on page twenty-one, I highlighted the part that I was struggling with…

Professor: Ok, let me refresh myself. Well, first of all, his point isn’t necessarily right, this is meant to provoke your own thoughts. And yes, you sort of got it, but in a wider context, his point really is that…

As you can see, there is a right way and a wrong way to ask for help. Someone once said that there are no stupid questions. Well, I would challenge them to attend any class at any school and sit in for a while. There are a lot of stupid questions.

So What Do I Do?

Don’t be one of those people! The prof is there to help you, but they are not meant to be mind readers or magicians. When you ask for their aid, make sure that you are specific about what you need assistance with. Show them that you understand some of the problem, and help them see what it is that you need. Perhaps more importantly, show them that you’ve put some work in. Someone who is really trying to learn but just isn’t succeeding at the moment will always earn more respect than some lazy person that expects to be spoon-fed everything.

Asking for help in this way will save you and your profs time. Plus, by really engaging with the material or the problem, you might find the solution yourself. The very act of studying a bit harder, clarifying what exactly it is that you don’t understand in comparison to what you do, and putting that extra bit of effort in may be the key. You might not even need the help! But if you do need some help, make sure you don’t make your prof hate you when you ask.

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.