Picking a Professor in College

Ready to start your journey?

Whether or not you’ve decided on a school, one factor is sure to play a big part in your decision, and that’s picking a professor.

Picking a Professor

Sure, they’ve got all the necessary letters after their names, but are they interesting, entertaining, and open to new ideas? Will you be able to learn with their teaching style? There are many factors that go into choosing the right professor for you, and it’s one of the common problems freshmen face in college.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

No matter what the subject is, it’s a good idea to research and check professor requirements and coursework. This can help you plan accordingly throughout the semester.

Picking a Professor

College student discussing with a professor

While you may not think that choosing a professor is a big decision, it can be the biggest decision you make to ensure your success during your education journey. It’s important that you choose a professor that has a teaching style that you understand and relate to, whether it’s a public vs. private college. And, some professors have course requirements that will not work with your schedule.

Researching your professors and their requirements can also help you plan your semester. For example, if you have a professor that you know requires a 5-page paper at the end of the semester, you can plan ahead knowing that you need to build time in for that paper. If you choose a notably hard professor, you will likely know this in advance and be able to schedule more time for studying and preparing so that your GPA does not suffer.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

If a professor you want is not available, you should still take the course, just do your research first so you know what to expect. It’s not advised to skip a course just because the desired professor is not available. This can set your entire education journey back. Luckily, there are various ways that you can research your school’s professors. Here are some ways to discover whose classroom you want to sit in.

Choosing Your College Professors

Students listening to their professor's lecture

There are some resources available to you that can help you vet and pick a college professor that suits your learning needs. By doing so, you can set yourself up for a higher probability of success in your chosen courses.

Check Out Websites for Professor Ratings

There are various professor rating sites for students to check out professor feedback and information.

  • ratemyprofessors.com allows you and other students to offer feedback on professors and expectations of specific courses.
  • ratemyteachers.com offers a public ranking of professors and their preferred teaching styles.
  • uloop.com is more of a bulletin board where you can see specific ratings, such as the ease of course, clarity of teaching, and overall helpfulness.

These sites can be a great starting place for you and others to rank your professors and their teaching styles. Keep in mind, what works for one student may not work for you and vice versa, so it may be best to continue your research after these sites.

Look for Online Video Courses

Student watching a video course of a professor

Many colleges offer free videotaped lectures on YouTube and other video servers. See if a professor you’re interested in has an online college class, and watch a few lectures. You may even be able to view comments left by previous students with feedback.

By viewing a professor’s past lectures or courses, you can see how the professor interacts with his or her students and the overall teaching style. This can give you a good sense of if the professor’s teaching style fits your learning needs.

Check Out the Professor’s Course Website or Blog

Many professors have publicly available online syllabi for their courses, which will give you a good idea of their focus, teaching style, and sense of humor (yes, some really do have one).

Even better, a number of college professors have online blogs dedicated to both their professional and personal interests start following your favorites and leave comments on posts that appeal to you. If you end up at that school, it could be an opportunity to forge a bond in advance.

Find Past or Current Students in Your Prospective Major, and Ask for their Recommendations

Student asking around for best professor recommendation

Locating past or current students that have studied or are currently studying your prospective major can help you gain some feedback on professors. Facebook is a great way to find students at a particular college, or you could simply ask the school to put you in touch with a few students or alums to find out more about the courses and professors.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

The students may not want to bad-mouth any of their professors to a stranger, but they’re likely to recommend certain instructors above others, which will give you a good idea of which courses are worth taking, and the workload involved in each course.

Read their Work

Student reading some books authored by a professor

Some college professors have published a wide range of books, studies, and academic reports. The reading may sometimes be a bit off topic, but if you want to get a true sense of your instructor’s intellect, pick one up and dig in.

If you search the professor’s name, you should be able to find books that he or she has authored. You can also ask your prospective college for recommendations on a professor’s literature. The college website may also have a professor bio on its website that offers information like this.

Many scholarly reports are available online through Google’s Scholars search; if you can’t find the one you want, ask your local library for help.

Sit in on Some Classes

Student sitting in on a class to observe a professor

The easiest way to get a sense of which professors you’ll enjoy is to try out their classes firsthand. Whether you make a campus visit as a prospective student or after you’ve been accepted, you’ll probably have the opportunity to sit in on some of the larger classes.

Choosing to sit in on a class or two can also give you a good idea of the class expectations and workload. By sitting in on a class, the professor’s teaching style will become apparent, which will hopefully help you to make your decision. If you’re hoping to check out one course, in particular, contact the school’s admissions office in advance to plan your visit so that you’ll make sure to be there at the right time.

Trial and Error

When you begin college, you typically have a full week to change classes if you decide that a particular course isn’t for you. By attending the class for more than a day, you will get a good feel for the class’ workload and expectations.

If, after a few days, you find that a course is not right for you or a professor’s teaching style is not suited to your learning style, you can ask to be moved to a different course. However, don’t wait more than a couple of days or the class you’d like to move to is likely to be filled up.

Picking Your College Professor

Students listening to the professor during class

Picking a college professor can be a big decision for you when you’re starting your college education. However, it is also an important decision that shouldn’t be overlooked. The right professor can really make or break your experience.

It’s important to remember that because a certain professor may not be the perfect fit, if it is the only professor available for the desired course, it’s advised to still take the course. By researching and learning about the professor, you can plan accordingly.

Research various rate professor websites, talk to previous and current students, and make decisions that are best suited for your learning needs. This is just another step in your higher education journey, so start researching your courses today!

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.