Picking Instructors to Save Tuition

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A good or bad professor really can make or break your semester.  If it’s impossible for you to get a good grade or their teaching style doesn’t match your learning style, you risk either having to drop the course to save your GPA (which may happen before or after the withdraw period, forcing you to either extend the time you spend at school or cough up the money for a course that just didn’t work out,) or paying to take the course over again.

You should be a good student.  You shouldn’t be trying to dodge work.  You should learn to learn from different people and not expect that you automatically deserve an “A.”  But there are some times when you and a professor just won’t mesh.  For example, I had an amazing professor one semester, but she had an extremely strict attendance policy.   Most of your grade was showing up and participating as most of the learning that went on was discussion based.  And you know what?  I learned so much and even retained it.  But if I had taken that course during one of the semesters I gave birth, I would have been screwed.  For those semesters I needed classes that would allow me to do work from home.  I can study a book.  I can read e-mails.  I can master material.  But an attendance-based grade wouldn’t work for me.

I also don’t learn well from professors who aren’t organized.  I’m very serious about my studies, but if the professor is scatter-brained or can’t tell me when due dates are, I’m setting myself up for failure.  I don’t need someone to hold my hand, but I do need someone who’s going to give me a little bit of direction.

So far at school I’ve had one horrible professor.  It was one of those classes where you didn’t have much of a choice in who your instructor was.  The rest have been absolutely phenomenal.  I’ve scheduled them according to reviews I’ve found on Rate My Professors.  Good reviews are generally easy to find, but I’ve found that you have to be careful about the negative ones.  Because sometimes the students are just upset they didn’t pass by sleeping through class.

Discerning Between Negative Reviews vs. Stupid Reviews

Stupid Review

This is a stupid review.  Here’s why:

  • You’re in college.  You’re going to have to write papers.  Unless it’s a 10-pager everyday (which I doubt,) you need to grow up if you want to get any smarter.
  • Wake up in time to get to your class, please.  It’s disruptive and rude to show up late.  Dialogue with your professors if it’s a problem with childcare or work or something.  If they’re unwilling to budge on their policies, make sure you’ve asked on the first day of class so you have plenty of time to switch things up before you get too far into the semester.  Or heck, try emailing them before the semester even starts.
  • If you showed up on time, you probably wouldn’t be falling behind.  That’s not a poor reflection on the professor.  It’s a poor reflection on you.
Negative Review
This is an awesome negative review.  Here’s why:
  • You can tell the student was actually interested in learning.
  • The reviewer doesn’t bash the professor’s character.
  • The reviewer listed qualities that kept them from learning like the lack of focus.
Not all negative reviews are for an easy teacher.  Sometimes there are legitimate complaints from students who are in difficult courses.  For example, last semester many of my classmates (tried) to take an educational psychology class on-line.  They all dropped out.  Every last one.  They’re great students.  But they weren’t familiar with APA format.  And every discussion on the Black Board had to be in APA format using its appropriate (and different) grammar.  On top of that, you had to post and reply within certain time frames, which resulted with you being on the computer more than if you would have been in the classroom if you had taken the traditional route.  A lot more.  And dependent on those who responded to you.  And if you have kids or a job that prevent you from blocking off a couple of hours a day….
Legitimate complaints.  May have been a great teacher.  But the world will never know.  Because no one stays in their class.

My Experience with the Unknown

I go to a school with a lot of adjunct faculty.  So a lot of professors aren’t listed.  Or at least aren’t listed under my college.  I’ll try to check under other schools, but if I still can’t find them, I’ve picked the unknown over the ones who get negative reviews.  And in my experience, they’ve all been wonderful.  It hasn’t been any of their first times teaching, so that’s never been the reason why they’re not listed.  My theory is that people tend to want to vent opinions when they’ve had a negative experience, so full-time or bad professors are a lot more likely to have information available about them.  So if you have a good adjunct professor, students may not feel inclined to join the website just to review them.  I know I sure haven’t.

A great post from the viewpoint of professors.

What do you think of websites that rate professors?  Are you a student or a professor yourself?  Do you agree that there is a difference between stupid and negative reviews?

7 thoughts on “Picking Instructors to Save Tuition

  1. Manda

    I totally agree. I always consulted Rate My Professor when looking at classes for the next semester, but I tried to differentiate the stupid from the useful. I WANT to have to do work because I want to learn. But I don’t want an instructor who isn’t good! It’s sad that people just want to take all the easy courses throughout college by putting in zero effort. That’s not what I want to school for.

  2. Mrs PoP @Planting Our Pennies

    I’m like you. I always tended to like professors that had clear goals of what they wanted you to learn, but those goals were a challenge to complete. Not insane, but you couldn’t coast for 15 weeks then ace the final.
    What’s funny is that a lot of the professors get caught up in the ratings, too. And sometimes they make them feel bad. =( Though I think the funniest was when my MIL was complaining that someone else in the department got a “chili pepper’ for being hot before my MIL did. MIL is in her 60s! Why does she really want a chili pepper?

  3. femmefrugality

    Oh, the chili peppers! How irrelevant! And quite frankly, mean. And subjective. What does it have to do with teaching/learning? And what one person views as hot could be totally not in someone else’s eyes.

    Nicole and Maggie—I remember reading that post! I’ll link to it. 🙂

  4. Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

    While it’s been awhile since I’ve dealt with professors, a great professor (or teacher for that matter) can make a world of difference. Fingers crossed you continue to blessed with great professors.

    Thanks to Amazon, I’m a bit addicted to positive/negative reviews. As you so smartly noted, you have to read between the lines. I prefer reviews the list both pros and cons. Unfortunately, I understand that some business pay for good reviews on Amazon, so now I read them with more of a discerning eye.

  5. Pingback: 20 Ways to Save On Your Kids' College Education | Femme Frugality

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