How to keep an open mind about intimidating professors

Several factors are taken into account when building a schedule: time, difficulty, credits and overall course load. This culminates every semester during the extremely stressful registration process. One of the most pivotal factors when assembling a schedule, however, is the professor.

Wild rumors surround some professors, leading to an unbalanced registration period in which one section of a class is completely full while another is nearly empty. Ending up with the “undesirable” professor may seem awful at first—but is it?

A class with empty seats certainly appears to suggest that a particular professor is inferior in some way, be it their enthusiasm, teaching style or a large workload. Even if you assume the rumors that fuel these lower class turnouts are true—which is a dangerous assumption—things may not be so bad.

Smaller class sizes mean increased individual attention. This may come in the form of less crowded office hours, the ability to ask more questions in class or even a more sincere, personable professor. And if the professor does not turn out to be as bad as suggested by registration rates and general student opinion, the class may even end up being the better option.

A truly lackluster professor can also force students to band together and form study groups. Becoming acquainted with classmates—especially those with a common major—will provide an invaluable resource that will last throughout one’s college career.

Understandably, many students confuse “bad” with “tough” when choosing a professor.  Sure, an easy A is always nice, but having to work for one isn’t a bad thing—and having to work hard can be more beneficial in the long run.

Having to master the material to pass a tough class helps prepare you to take higher-level courses in the same field and can help in other classes. For example, taking a writing class with a difficult professor will not only help you in other writing classes, but will also improve your writing for other non-related courses.

As hard as it is to admit, a professor may not be particularly bad or hard—a bad grade could be on the student. I remember having a professor who, in my opinion, assigned excessive amounts of reading and was exceptionally boring. Once I realized that most of my classmates were ahead on the reading and thoroughly enjoyed this professor’s lectures, I started to work much harder. It turns out that this professor was not assigning ridiculous amounts of work, but rather I was just not willing to put in the effort—something that I changed and has helped me ever since.

Still, some professors are worse than others. Almost all students will end up with a professor they are not too fond of at some point. In this situation, it is important to go into the class without any preconceived notions. By at least giving the professor a chance, the class may be better than expected.

Although they can be scary, try to ignore any rumors about professors this registration cycle. Chances are the rumors are not true and, even if the professor isn’t the greatest, it is possible to have a positive experience in the class. At the very least, it’ll make your choice during registration a little easier.