The first mistake students make when selecting classes is focusing on the academic aspect. Too often, future scholars turn to topics that they think will fulfill college requirements. If they’re a bit more liberal, they might try to fill their schedules with classes that sound interesting or fun. But the key factor that makes or breaks overall success of a class is the professor. Basing class selection solely on who is teaching it may seem like strange advice. However, with the right person standing at the head of the lecture hall, any class, any topic, any endeavor can become a unique learning experience that you will come to cherish over a lifetime.
One of the most important characteristics in a good professor is someone who loves and is passionate about the subject he is teaching. You may find yourself stuck with a teacher that was pressured into teaching a class that he finds mundane or boring. In which case, you may want to reconsider your options. If the professor isn’t interested in the class, how can you expect to be?
It’s usually easy to spot these profs as they fall under a few categories. The first is a graduate student teaching class to help pay off student loans. The second is the expert brought in from a high-paying profession to pass their knowledge onto the next generation. However, such an authority would often prefer to enjoy his time off without answering your pesky questions about a subject he knows too much about. And the third is the dinosaur who has heard it all and seen it all and is counting the days until retirement. None of these professors should be sought out.
Another key factor in selecting a good professor is someone who is highly knowledgeable on their subject. For this reason, it’s often better to look for professors who are middle-aged. These profs have not only finished their education, but they have several years of teaching under their belt. They know how to show you what they know rather than read it out of a book or select it out of their heads in an uninspiring way that makes it obvious that they’ve repeated it over and over again for decades. Also, if you’re taking a class with a professor right out of graduate school, not only does he not know as much as his older counterparts, but he can’t teach you in the most effective way possible, simply because he lacks the experience to give him confidence in front of a classroom.
Finally, you must find a professor that is willing to work hard in order to make the most out of the class. Professors that are not willing to stay after class to answer questions or email you with any concerns about projects and essays are not worth the trouble of signing up for their class. They must be obviously willing to put in the effort in order for you to return the effort to the lesson. Students are tempted to sometimes select a class based on the fact that the professor is an easy grader or lets students out fifteen minutes early every week. But ask yourself, if you’re paying top dollar for these classes, don’t you want someone that is willing to make your degree mean something, not just on paper, but in your head as well?
While the most easily accessible resource for professor selection is websites like ratemyprofessor.com, you can also gather such information from sources like other professors and upperclassmen friends that have a plethora of knowledge at their fingertips. You must work to seek out the gems on staff at your school, but with enough research, you can reap the benefits by getting the most out of your education.