Warning! Bad Students Ahead

Here are 13 types of college students that professors would love to avoid.

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College students might be surprised to know that professors gripe with great regularity about "bad" students. These aren't the ones getting bad grades (the profs are happy to try to help them), but instead are the ones who quickly show themselves to be a royal pain in the butt. Of course, you're not one of these students—or are you? To find out, have a look at the 13 kinds of students that professors would rather not have in their classes:

1. The Tourist. This is the student who deigns to show up for class only when he or she feels like it and sends annoying E-mails to the prof, offering lame excuses, the rest of the time. "I had to console my roommate on the death of his cat"; "My grandmother's ill so we're planning her funeral"; "My frat's traveling to the international frat-fest in Daytona Beach." No excuse is too low.

2. The Latecomer. This is the student who always shows up late to class, meanders up to the front row and then, as slowly as possible, plunks himself or herself down right under the prof's nose. And then the ritual is repeated in reverse 10 minutes before the lecture is over. These students make the prof long for the tourist.

3. The "Barely There" Student. This is the student who's physically present in the class but is doing just about everything but attending to the lecture. He or she is playing yawn tag with the guy in the next seat, lost in a Mondaze (even though it's Thursday). And, if his or her computer is open, the screen is divided among YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

4. The Whiner. For this student, everything is fair game for complaint. The class is too big, the room is too hot, the lecturer too boring, two papers are too many, they can't understand the TA's English . . . . You get the idea. He or she drags down everyone in earshot—and makes for a very long semester for students and professor alike.

5. The "Enemy Combatant." This is the student who makes taking a course into a pitched battle–confronting the professor on every possible occasion. Whether it's about the grade on the test, something that was unclear or inaccurate in lecture, or the course policy on late papers, no battle is too small for this student. (Of course, the professor, whose main goal is to avoid conflict with students at all costs, isn't too happy to see this student rounding the corner to the prof's office.)

6. The Dolt. This is the student who can be counted on—100 percent of the time—to offer up something stupid. Perhaps raising an ill-informed question about the reading he or she didn't even do or giving an answer that's so off the track that the rest of the class dissolves into sniggering. One especially bad habit of the dolt: sitting in on the class for three weeks before realizing that this isn't the class he or she signed up for. (This really has happened.)

7. The Mr./Ms. Know-It-All. Some students think they're the biggest experts in the room and are eager to show off their "expertise" to the whole class. Unfortunately, many participants, especially the professor, aren't interested in hearing these Know-It-Alls bloviate about their private "theories," about how the professor's point is contradicted by the reading, or about how some other professor taught the point differently or better. Worst case we've seen: A student announced to the class that he was the "self-appointed TA, whose [self-appointed] job will be to explain the professor's confused lectures to the rest of the class."

8. The Grade-Grubber. Professors feel special distaste for students who are clearly in it only for the grade and couldn't care less about learning. This student will come in to dispute a half point on a quiz that counts 0.05 percent of the final grade. Or, he or she will ask for regrades, do-overs, and extra credit. Worst of all is the student who asks the professor to look over the exam to find a few extra points to push the exam up and over to a B.

9. The Ubermensch. Some students think that the basic rules of the course don't apply to them or that for every rule, there's some exception. Can't get the paper in on time? Need an extra week. Missed the midterm because my alarm clock didn't go off because of a power failure? I'll take a makeup. Never got around to doing the term paper? I need an extension. Bottom line: Prof doesn't find this student as special as he or she might think.

10. The Child. Professors run scared when they see parents coming down the pike. It's one thing to bring parents to orientation, but students who send their parents in to do the dirty work, such as to inquire why their jewel isn't doing better in the course, are major turnoffs for professors. Profs don't see parent/teacher conferences as part of their jobs, and they quickly come to learn that families in which parents reach out to professors are most likely dysfunctional families. Something they may already have at home.

11. The Litigator. Some students want to go legal before even entering law school. A bad grade gets them studying the fine print of the college catalog; then it's on to launching an official grade appeal, starting with the professor and, if things aren't going right, on up to the chair, dean, and president of the university. (This, too, really happens.) Final result? The grade hasn't changed, but all the faculty members are praying the student never winds up in their course.

12. The Gossip. Do we need to explain why bad-mouthing the professor around the whole department isn't going to generate positive vibes with your professor or with other professors in the school, who figure they're probably next? And ratting the professor out to the undergraduate adviser isn't such a hot idea, either, when it turns out that, unbeknownst to you, the adviser shares an office with your professor.

13. The Thief. A student the professor most loves to hate. This is the student who steals property—intellectual property, that is. This ranges from using in a paper a few words or ideas from someone else to surreptitious glances at a neighbor's exam—or at his or her own hat or hand, where code words for the exam are artfully concealed. 

  • Want to see the flip side of the coin? Read 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Professor
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