Choosing the Best Professors:
When Pickiness Pays Off
In high school, I’d hear horror stories about certain teachers. I’d cross my fingers that I didn’t get assigned to their classes, and there were either groans or cheers when the schedules were handed out. No matter how boring, strict, or uninspiring they were, I was stuck if I was in their class.
In college, it’s a whole different ball game. You have a lot more options when you build your schedule, and a plethora of professors to choose from. After you choose your major, there might be certain courses and professors that you can’t avoid. For the most part, though, you can tailor-make your schedule, choosing the best professors and dodging the ones you don't click with. In fact, according to an article from U.S. News, you should “audition” professors before you commit to taking their course at all!
How does this work? When you're a freshman, there is typically an array of introductory courses you have to take. Whether you know what you want to major in or you're completely undecided, there are still a handful of classes that you're required to take no matter what. Because all freshman have to take these classes, there are multiple professors teaching them. Take advantage of this! You will have a week or two after classes begin to drop classes and enroll in others. Enroll in a class and check out the professor. If you like them, great! If not, check out another professor teaching the same course. Just make sure you know the deadline to swap classes.
So, what should you be looking for when you "audition" your professors? Well, that really depends on how you learn best. Some of my favorite professors were others' least favorites, and vice versa. There are a few things you can look for when choosing the best professors for you.
- What is their class structure like? Some people love interactive seminars and group projects, and others would rather listen to a lecture, quietly take notes, and leave. Once you've sat through a couple college classes, you'll know what you prefer.
- How does their syllabus/class schedule look? Some professors will have assignments due every single day of class, while others only have two quizzes and a final exam. If you'd prefer lots of homework and put less pressure on the exams, that's something to consider. If you're a great test taker and don't want much "busy work," that's another story.
- What is their demeanor? You might prefer an upbeat, funny professor, or you may want to learn from a dignified, reserved professor. Some students learn best when a professor is entertaining and creative, while others do just as well with a cut & dried expert.
- What are their classroom expectations? I had a professor who didn't allow laptops in his lectures, and it was so frustrating. I handwrote all of my notes, just to type them up on my own time. This might not bug you, but other rules may. Typically, professors will have their rules and expectations listed on the syllabus. If something doesn't sit right with you, explore your other options!
It can seem like a hassle to swap classes and rearrange your schedule, but it's much easier than sitting through an entire semester with a professor you can't stand. You receive numerous benefits in college, and choosing the best professors for you is one of those. If you have options in your course selections, take advantage. Shop around, and ensure your semester is the best one possible!