Rate My Professors is a great resource — but is it always reliable? Direct feedback can be a great, helpful way to alert people of others’ experiences with a company, restaurant or, in this case, a professor. Yet, these personal reviews rarely come without some form of bias, leaving ratings at extreme ends of the spectrum: either very high or very low.
So, how do students know which reviews to trust? What do they do when reviews are mixed? What if they need a class to graduate, but the professor has terrible reviews? Here are some top lessons learned from ignoring the ever-trusted Rate My Professors website.
If Everyone Hates a Certain Professor, They Usually Have Good Reason
Often times, negative reviews on Rate My Professors come with complaints of a low grade, making it difficult to discern between a student being angry because they did not perform well in a class or whether or not a professor is guilty of poor teaching and/or a lack of understanding. So, how do students know what to believe or what to think when others are continuously complaining about a professor?
First of all, if there are several reviews on Rate My Professors and all of them are quite negative, students are safe to assume that it really is likely that the professor is at fault. When reviewers seem to have reached a grand consensus about a professor, it is likely that many or most students all have similar experiences — in this case, they all have had negative encounters with him or her.
Sure, when only one or two people give extremely negative reviews, the professor likely gives mixed experiences that vary depending on the student. Nevertheless, if the negativity comes at an abundance, one should not ignore it.
But, Try Not to Dwell on Negative Possibilities
Students should not fear these professors if their classes are absolutely necessary for a degree. Rather, they ought to enter the class with a positive attitude and accept the fact that they may not receive the perfect grade everyone wants. Sometimes, a professor’s class really is just that difficult, and honestly, these professors are often the most valuable that students encounter throughout their time in college.
Professors who push their students are the ones who teach students the most, who challenge them to push themselves and reach new levels in their academic journey. Sometimes, individuals need to look past grades in order to see the bigger picture and ask themselves: “Is a bad grade really all I got out of this class? Did I learn a lot? Was I challenged and pushed beyond realms I have previously experienced?”
Students should always remember that college is about learning, and sometimes real learning comes at the price of sacrificing a good grade. So, if Rate My Professors is full of reviews of negative grades, students should remember that bad grades can sometimes lead to positive outcomes.
Sometimes, The Professors Prove the Reviews Wrong — Even the Positive
Occasionally, a professor with a plethora of negative reviews might actually prove to be all right, or even fantastic. Students should always remember that students visiting Rate My Professors to leave reviews likely have very strong emotions motivating them, and these emotions are typically negative.
Students with neutral experiences or on the slightly positive end of the spectrum are less likely to leave reviews than students who hated the professor or those who believe the professor is the best teacher to ever walk the planet.
Sometimes, professors are generally well liked and have great feedback on Rate My Professors, but they just do not mesh well with certain students. For instance, if a professor from the English department is used to English majors or upper classmen attending his classes and has one student who does not meet those criteria, the pair may struggle to work well together as the professor may be unaccustomed to younger, less experienced students. Neither party is at fault, but both are pushed out of their comfort zone and are more prone to making mistakes with one another.
That being said, students should always try to remain positive and remember that it is their own job to reach out for help. Rather than giving up all hope for success in the class, students should remain persistent. They should take advantage of office hours, set up appointments if the professor’s hours do not fit into their schedules and never be afraid to email questions. Students should be honest with their professors when they feel lost or behind with the material and get the necessary help.
Moral of the Story …
Everyone’s experience is different and individualized to each student-professor pair. Sometimes, the chemistry just is not right — and this possibility is totally okay. Students should always remember that not every class will be fun, not every professor will give good grades and good grades do not always signify a good professor or adequate learning.
A professor who challenges students, who maybe gives them lesser grades or who may come off as ruthless might just be the best professor on campus. Students need not forget that success comes at a price, and sometimes the success is learning, and the price is a C minus (or worse).
Students should also keep in mind that reviewers will likely only leave comments on Rate My Professors if they have had extremely positive or negative experiences. So, when reading reviews, one should remember that many students likely had much different experiences than those writing on Rate My Professors, but may have lacked enough passion to elicit a written review.
Rather than not taking a class, go in with ambition and a positive mindset. Students should not give up on a professor because of negative reviews, but rather should ask for help when they need it. Sometimes, professors receive negative feedback because students performed poorly in the class, but the students never reached out for help.
If students don’t come to a professor with their concerns, how is the professor supposed to know their students are struggling or that the students even care about their work in the class. Not everything is up to the professor. Just like any relationship, both sides have to give and take in order for it to work.