Student Life

How to Pick the Best Professors

Elizabeth Hoyt

August 05, 2016

How to Pick the Best Professors
A great professor can make any subject interesting whereas a not-so-great one can make even the best subjects dull or unpleasant.
As a now-seasoned college student, you likely know that a professor can make or break a class – no matter how interesting the subject matter. A great professor can make any subject interesting whereas a not-so-great one can make even the best subjects dull or unpleasant. Check out the following guide to help you find the best professors and ultimately create your perfect class schedule.

Web sites that rate professors

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to hear about a professor’s teaching style is from students who have been in the class. Different sites include different ratings, from the professor’s overall rating to listed student comments, past course syllabi and types of exams. On some sites, you are able to search by qualities like helpfulness, clarity, easiness and, even, hotness!
A word to the wise: be careful getting caught up in the funny search topics on some of the sites. While they can be entertaining, things like a professor’s “hotness” ranking won’t help your grade, but his or her teaching style certainly will. Popular professor ranking websites include Rate My Professors, MyEdu, Koofers and Uloop. Discover what you should know about professor rating websites.

Talk to your student adviser

It’s your adviser’s job to know about courses, professors and which courses you’d benefit most from taking. If you’re on the fence about a particular professor or course because of what you’ve heard or read, ask about it.
Your adviser wants you to do well, so he or she will be honest with you and share any information he or she has regarding professors and courses. Remember, students talk about their classes to advisers all day long so, chances are, they know a lot more than you think!

Ask students within a particular major for professor recommendations

Many professors teach several different courses within a given subject field and chances are that a student majoring in that subject will take courses with them, sometimes several times over. Once a student embarks upon a particular major path, he or she will likely get to know the professors within the department. It’s a great idea to ask upperclassmen or other students who have declared their majors which professors they’d recommend within their department and why. You’ll gain insight on what the professor is known for, his or her teaching style and what that particular student liked or disliked about a course.

Find out if the professor has a blog or website

College professors often have websites or blogs, sometimes for professional reasons, for their classes or, even, for personal interests. Take a little time to do some research on the Internet to see if you can find any online resources that may give you a glimpse into what a professor is like. Sometimes, professors even upload videos of lectures, course notes and class syllabi that can help you can insight into a course as well.

Check out their work

Professors rarely limit themselves to teaching. They are often also working on research projects, writing books and doing all sorts of impressive things with their talents. Find out what your professor is working on (or has done in the past) and read some of his or her work. It just may spark your interest and it’s easier to get motivated to learn from someone if you admire their work. Google Scholar is a great tool to help you uncover a professor’s latest published work.

Sit in on a class

If you have the time and, of course the permission of the professor, sit in on one of the professor’s course lectures. Make sure to ask beforehand, as it is against some school policies, though some professors are more than delighted to indulge a curious mind. You may not understand what’s going on in the course, but it will give you an idea of the teaching style. Also, pay attention to the students in the course. Are they interacting with the teacher? Are they awake and attentive? Is the class full? All of these are helpful indicators of what you should expect if you decide to take the course.

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