Finding the right professor for you

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Shirley Paul
Campus News

Have you ever sat down on the first day of class with a new professor, took a look at the syllabus, and wanted to bolt out the classroom to drop the class? If so, then you know how hard looking for the right professor can be.
It’s like an investment. More research you put into finding the right professor can mean a better grade at the end of the semester.
When I say research I don’t mean finding out your professor’s favorite foods to bring to class to get a better grade, or their astrological signs to read their horoscopes and see how their mood will be in class that day.
I mean adequate information that can often aid in the decision-making process. There are many resources students can look to when shopping for the right professor.
For one, students often overlook the simplest aid yet: word of mouth. A student that took the professor prior to you will know their reputations the best. It’s important to seek their advice. They can share their experiences and give you some form of guidance.
Also, prior students may also have access to old syllabi, exams, and quizzes. These resources can help to give a preview of the courseload the professor may expect.
Seeking out prior student’s advice will take time and effort. It requires researching as well. Some will give advice formed on opinions. These opinions can stem from the grade received as well as personal learning styles. This is something important to consider in the search.
When using this method it would be best to seek out more than one student. Though responses may differ, one will outweigh the other. It’s a very practical approach in finding the right professor.
Another resource that has been found useful is the popular website known as, ratemyprofessor.com. Christopher Washington, a second year student at Nassau Community College, often seeks the opinions of the website when searching for his professors. “In my opinion, it’s been extremely accurate,” he says.
It is a very simple and helpful tool that can easily aid in the search. The opinions are based on ratings from students. The criteria include the easiness, helpfulness, and clarity of the professor. Also, textbook use, attendance, and grade the student received in the class. They are all factored in, to produce a rating. Comments are also encouraged.
This can be a well sought out resource because of its versatility. There’s also a lot of feedback which could aid greatly in the research process. The ability to have a range in opinions can help to narrow choices easily and more effectively.
Yet, like any opinion there can be factors that lead them. It’s important to not base decisions solely on what others thought of a professor. Learning styles of different students may vary. What you think is hard may have been easier to somebody else.
Also, a student’s opinion of what a “good” professor looks like may also differ. “I consider a good professor to be one that gives material that’s easy to understand, someone who’s easy to talk to and makes time for office hours, and also a teacher that can make any material fun and interesting,” says Anthony Edwards, a second year student at Westchester Community College.
Opinions can be diverse. Though they are helpful, it is your choice to stick with a certain professor. This is why it’s important to find what’s best for you in a professor. There are many effective ways to achieve this.
Before you think about bolting out the door at the sight of the syllabus, stick it out. The only way to truly know what the professors expect is by getting through the first day and listening. The syllabus may look jam packed with assignments and work, but once the professor explains what’s expected, it may not seem that bad.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about the midterm and final on the first day. Who cares if people think you’re jumping the gun. Find out specifically if the midterm and final will be cumulative. This is an open window into what to expect for the semester. This will prepare you to know that keeping notes and studying will be a top priority throughout the semester.
Learn your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a visual learner or an auditory learner? Would you rather learn through power points, charts and graphs or sit through a lecture and take notes.  This can be crucial in finding a professor that’s right for you. Many professors set out their teaching styles and explain them during the first lectures. This is a great time to see if your learning style will adhere to the professor’s teaching style.
One thing many shy away from is communicating with professors. This is also another important factor in finding the right professor for you. Are their office hours reasonable? Do they provide contact through emails or telephone numbers in case of questions and concerns? Is extra study and review sessions available before exams? Your needs and the answers to these questions can help you make the right choice for a professor.
Identifying your personal matters can also help you in finding the right professor. What do you hope to get out of the class and what can the particular professor offer you? Is the course load reasonable? Will you be able to put forth the time and effort that’s demanded by the professor? These are good questions to reflect on in the process.
There are usually adjustment periods and deadlines to schedules. So, if even in doubt stick it out.
The approach of a new semester can be refreshing. Another term brings the excitement of new experiences, new classes, and even more importantly new professors.
Though rigorous and challenging at times, the research of finding the right professor can be rewarding at the end of time. It can be the difference between that anticipated 4.0 or a 3.5.
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