How to Pick a Good Professor

The cost of an education is far too high to settle for a bad professor.  Students need to be equipped to rapidly identify a good professor from a bad one in order to ensure they get a valuable education. Here are some tips that will help make this decision in time to withdraw from a course, sign up for a new one, and get one’s money back before it is to late.

Examine the course description

At this stage, a prospective student needs to take charge of his or her own education.  Even if a part of a strictly planned major, many schools offer flexibility or have more than one professor for each subject.

If the course description is not something you find applicable to what you want to learn, seek other options.

If the course is a must take, or if applicable, the next step is to ask fellow students or utilize the internet to see what others have said.

This must be done with a grain of salt, be wary of slackers who will rate a professor low because of pettiness or for being challenging.

Examine the syllabus

On the first day of a course one will usually find a syllabus. This will give you an in depth explanation of the course outline, beyond what any description or fellow student can provide and in the words of one’s professor.

Many students make the mistake of simply scanning a syllabus.  This is easy to note by the high number of lazy peers who ask questions that are already answered in the syllabus in front of them.

Take your time reading the required text, assignments, and schedule.  Pay particular attention to any goal statements or achievements desired. After reading the syllabus you should be aware of what you will learn and assured that the methods appear to be sound. If not, ask questions, be challenging even, if you are not satisfied, drop the course.

Analyze your instructor

First impressions may not be everything, but as one who values your time, your money, and your education the first impressions of your professor are critical. A Red flag should be raised when a teacher complains about low pay, or even jokes about it. This is a sign of low moral, and this is not your problem as a student. Be on the lookout for arrogance, and try to assess the teaching style.

Feel free to ask your professor about his or her life experience with the subject matter, and observe their credentials. It is ok to look for attributes you personally enjoy, such as a sense of humor, but these should not be crucial factors. It takes courage, but asking a tough question on the first day of class can save you from a miserable semester with a bad professor.

Watch for bias statements

A good professor with provide you with information, not personal ideology.  A bad professor will often announce personal political, theological, or other views as accepted facts, often belittling or mocking opposing viewpoints.  Some do this to intimidate students, others are so entrenched in their own beliefs that they assume everyone agrees.  Even if you share the same ideologies, keep in mind you want someone who will challenge and educate you, not someone who will give you rhetoric you already agree with.

Look for a professor who can separate personal opinions from factual information.  If after the first day of class, you can identify the professor’s political, scientific, or theological stance on any disputed issue this is a good indication that you will not learn much from such a person.

Timely Judgment

It is difficult to be sure of a good or bad professor after one day of class.  Be aware of deadlines to drop a course.  If you can attend a few more classes before making a final judgment, preferably at least until your first assignment is due.  This will provide you with an opportunity to see how the professor grades. A good professor is firm but fair.  You do not want an instructor who gives an easy A or one that is impossible.


Overall you want a professor who wants to help you learn.  This is a man or woman who enjoys teaching, and wants his or her students to succeed.  They want to challenge you, but are not out to make you fail or adopt their personal beliefs.

A good professor is one who helps you think independently and critically.  Remember, you are in charge of your own education, and it is up to you to do everything you can to ensure you get a good education.


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