How to Choose Your College Professors
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- Choosing the right college professor can significantly impact your success in a course.
- There are many online resources available to help you vet a professor before you choose a course.
- Avoiding taking a course you need due to professor availability is not recommended.
The right professor can make or break a class. Someone who can teach you the history of the Americas like you're watching a theater production might be a professor you enjoy. One who drones on in a monotone voice reading slides may be one you wish to avoid.
This is why it's so important to research your college professors before you sign up for a class.
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Why It's Important to Research College Professors
When selecting your professors, you should consider three factors: teaching style, class difficulty, and whether students enjoyed the course.
Professors' varying teaching styles can impact your ability to be successful in a college class. Some professors will be more explanatory, providing lots of context and examples to help you better understand the material.
Some professors will go straight through lecture notes and expect you to catch onto the material quickly. Depending on your learning style and your familiarity with the subject matter, one teaching style may appeal to you more than another.
Another factor to consider is the course's difficulty level. If the course is required for your major, you may want to be more selective with who you choose as your professor.
An easy professor in a difficult course may earn you an "A," but if it's a prerequisite, you may find yourself struggling in subsequent courses.
Finally, you should consider student reviews to help you choose your college professors. Students will be brutally honest and help you get a snapshot of the professor's personality.
They can also give you insight into workload, whether the professor is organized, and how the professor grades. A professor who provides clear instruction can help maximize your success.
How to Find the Best Professors
There are several ways to seek out the best professors on your campus, including talking with past students, looking up anonymous reviews, and checking professors' academic websites.
Use Professor Review Websites
One way many college students are most familiar with is using review websites like Rate My Professors, Uloop, and Rate My Teachers. These websites allow students to anonymously post feedback on a professor.
Another way to choose your college professor is through word of mouth and by asking past or current students. This can be as simple as talking to friends, reaching out to members in college organizations you belong to, or even asking your wider network of friends on social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.
Check Their Website
Another way to find the best professors for your course is to seek out their website and look to see if they have a syllabus posted. It may also give you insight into their academic interests.
If you can't gather enough information from their website or syllabus to form an idea of what to expect, you may need to ask your academic advisor for advice. They can help provide insight into which professor may be the best academic fit for you.
The Best Websites to Find Professor Ratings
There are several websites that can help inform your opinion of a professor, but the following three offer some of the most valuable information:
- Rate My Professors: This platform allows students to anonymously share feedback with other students on what to expect in a given course.
- Rate My Teachers: This platform allows students to view a public ranking of professors, which can help you find lecturers who match your learning style.
- Uloop: This platform is like a bulletin board for students where they can see ratings in specific categories such as helpfulness, clarity, and ease.
The Pros and Cons of Professor Rating Websites
While professor rating websites can be very insightful, there are some limitations when solely relying on them to inform your decision about which professor to take.
The Cons of Professor Rating Websites
Student reviews and ratings should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, less successful students may write negative comments after not earning the grade they anticipated. Moreover, negative comments can also come from students who were unprepared for the course's reading load or level of required discussion.
There may also be an inherent gender bias against a professor or negative comments stemming from a professor having a noticeable accent.
The Pros of Professor Rating Websites
Some of the benefits of relying on these websites are that they will give you deeper insight into the professor's style. For example, you might realize you actually like a professor that other students didn't care for because they meet your own interests and learning style.
What might seem like a complaint about a professor "not teaching" and only focusing class time on discussion might actually indicate that their class requires you to actively participate and debate in a group setting. In a review like this, you learn that boring lecture notes are not part of this professor's teaching style.
What to Do When Course and Professor Options Are Limited
Taking the time to choose your professors is always a good idea. At the end of the day, however, there is still only a limited number of professors teaching the courses you need.
The one thing you shouldn't do is avoid classes you need to take for your degree because some students have commented that the professors are "not good." Use the information you find about the professor and plan accordingly.
If you find out a professor is heavy on reading expectations or provides limited assistance on papers before due dates, it gives you the chance to schedule extra reading time in your day. Or, you can plan to make appointments at your school's writing center to ensure your success.