The freedom you experience as a college student can be a shock after coming from the high school structure you were used to. Finally being able to choose your own schedule, courses, and professors is a great thing, only if done strategically.
Selecting the right classes depends on what courses you need to complete your general ed and major requirements. But another part of course selection process is to ensure you don’t get stuck with an instructor whose methods are the opposite of your learning style.
So, how do you find out which college professors are the best?
In the past, you’d have to hope you knew someone who can tell you about the professor. But now you can find hundreds of professor ratings and reviews online.
Here are a few of the most popular college professor rating sites, and a few tips on how best to use them, to pick the classes that are right for you.
RateMyProfessors.com is the most well-known website dedicated to college professor ratings. With millions of ratings for professors across the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, it’s one of the largest as well.
Users can rate professors on clarity, helpfulness, and “easiness." Controversially, users can also vote on whether professors are “hot or not," and professors who get more “hot" votes are awarded a chili pepper icon on their profiles.
MyEdu is a general community site for college students that works directly with universities to calculate professor ratings.
Instead of relying on anonymous online reviews, MyEdu obtains each professor’s course materials, as well as student evaluations written at the end of the course. MyEdu then provides potential students with study tips, attendance policies, teaching style, and other evaluations so students can determine which professors and classes are the best match for their learning styles.
A newer website, UniYu is not quite as established as the other rating sites, but quickly growing in popularity. Currently, it’s available in a limited number of universities in the United States, Europe, and Canada.
UniYu aims to be an online counterpart to campus life, where students can go online to meet other students, share notes and homework, buy and sell textbooks, and interact in other ways. With a feature called UniProf, students can rate and comment on individual professors, but not anonymously.
College professor rating sites are still controversial with professors and administrators, and not just for the “hot or not" chili peppers. They worry that students will give undue weight to online ratings, and may miss out on good courses.
Online professor rating sites do have value, but keep in mind the following tips so you can make the most of them.
Take each review with a grain of salt, especially anonymous reviews. Students can have varied motivations for leaving a review, including bitterness over bad grades, finding the class too difficult, or even personal issues with the professor. Some reviews may even be outright false, so don’t believe everything you read.
When choosing a professor based on reviews, keep your college goals in mind, and remember why you’re taking that course. A high “easiness" rating may not mean it’s the best course for you if you’re looking to learn and challenge yourself.
Don’t rely solely on online reviews to make a decision about a college course taught by a certain professor. Your college advisor will be able to take your abilities and goals into account and give you personalized recommendations on which courses to take. If you have concerns about professor reviews you found online, you can bring them up with your advisor for a second opinion.
You can also talk to friends who have taken the course you are looking into and get their feedback on it. It may be more detailed than online review information because you can ask your friend specific questions about the course and why she did or did not like it. Also, because you know what classes your friend tends to enjoy, you can better understand her perspective on the course.
Remember, there’s more than one side to any story. Be careful and wise in how you use online college professor ratings, or you could be missing out on some great courses.
For more insight on how to pick your college courses, check out: A Guide to Picking College Courses