4 Ways to Deal with a Bad College Professor

If you have an instructor who is less than stellar, these tips may help make the best of the situation.

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Of all the things you planned for this semester in college, having a bad professor was definitely not on the list. And yet those boring lectures, unclear examples, seemingly unrealistic expectations, and difficult content all add up to one thing: At least one class is going to be a major challenge this term simply because of the professor.

Here are some tips for college students facing this situation:

1. Determine if it's a personality conflict: Be clear on the difference between a bad professor and one you just don't like. Your professor may be old school, not into technology, rehashing everything you've already read in the book, or just plain boring. Or your professor may be the nicest person on Earth who also happens to be rather inept at explaining complicated concepts.

Take a deep breath and try to figure out the basis for your frustration with this particular professor. Does he have a teaching style you just don't like? Or does she not explain the material in a way that people can understand? Knowing the difference can help you figure out how best to approach the situation. Is the class one you can deal with, knowing it's going to be boring but manageable? Or are you concerned about your ability to learn the content of the course in a meaningful, productive way?

[See ways to overcome a bad grade in college.]

2. Know what your options are for changing classes: Sometimes, changing a class can be remarkably easy. If, for example, you are in Section I of a lecture course, see if you can change to Section II. Both sections will likely cover the same material, but with a different professor.

In other situations, however, changing classes can be a challenge. It's important to look into changing classes as soon as possible, since there are add/drop deadlines to consider. Talk with your academic adviser as soon as you can and make sure you know your options. If you want to switch classes, are there openings in the class you'd like to join? What will you need to do to catch up? How will the change have an impact on your course load? And will any change have an impact on what you're able to take next semester, or when you'll graduate?

[These tips help students learn from failing a class.]

If you can't change classes, find as many alternate solutions as possible. Sometimes, the worst of the worst happens: You have a professor everyone knows is horrible but you can't change or drop the class. In this case, the best thing to do is come up with a survival plan.

3. Seek out your peers: If you're really struggling with a bad professor, chances are that other students are, too. Talk with other people in your class to see if a group study session will help everyone better understand the material. Additionally, either on your own or in your new study group, talk to someone at a tutoring center on campus. See if you can arrange for someone to help people better understand the material. If enough of you are struggling, you might be able to set something up that helps everyone at the same time. If you learn better on your own, see if you can find a private tutor or even a mentor to help you make it through the class.

4. Talk to your professor: While it might sound intimidating and frustrating at first, consider talking with your professor. You don't need to mention your opinion of her teaching style, but you can use the opportunity to become clearer on his expectations. What will you need to know over the next few weeks? What kinds of concepts, theories, skills, etc., does this professor consider most important? How will he or she be grading the major assignments or exams? How would he or she advise you to prepare for the midterm and final? Being clear on your professor's expectations can help you craft your approach as you try to find alternate ways of learning the material.

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Have you had a bad professor? Did you barely make it through a class? Share your stories, tips, and tricks with other readers in the comments!


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