The 6 Different Professors You'll Have & How to Do Well in Their Classes

As many of us move into college this fall, we’ll get immersed back into campus culture celebrating syllabus week and hanging out with old and new friends. However, after your parents drop you off, classes begin much sooner than you might be mentally prepared for. Here’s a list of the types of professors you’ll have in college, and what to do when you meet them.

1. The snooze fest

You'll encounter the boring professor a few times during the first few years of college, mainly due to prerequisite or graduation requirements. Underclassmen typically must take certain classes that don’t necessarily correspond with their major or interests. Nevertheless, some professors acknowledge that and try to make the subject as light as possible—while other professors fall short and teach straight from PowerPoint slides or the textbook with no extra insight. Kendra, a sophomore from Lehigh University, says, "my first semester of college I had to take the most boring class with such a monotone teacher. I had to a have a lot of patience to get through the class." Take it upon yourself to gauge whether the lectures are crucial to receiving an A. 

Does this professor take attendance? Is the professor’s monotone voice actually giving out information that will be useful on the next test? Or is he just going on tangents that you can probably skip for now? Still, go to as many classes as possible because mere exposure to the material is better than skipping altogether. Your parents will also appreciate you utilizing the classes they spent hard-earned money on. And you’d be surprised—some teachers even give extra credit to those who show up to class.

2. The hard-to-understand professor

Understanding phosphorylation and protein kinase are hard enough, but factor in a professor with a thick accent, or a professor that whispers in lecture of 200+ students and you’ll be sorry you came to college. Some professors may speed through their lessons leaving you more confused than before you came to class. Before you say something offensive, or consider your institution hell on earth, remember that your professor is trying their best, or what they believe is an effective teaching method. If you can’t understand the lecture, it is their job to help you. Seek assistance during office hours, and try to find the lecture notes online. Usually, professors will post them so students can pay more attention to the lesson rather than trying to achieve the most aesthetically pleasing notes.

Rebecca* a junior at Temple University says, “I had a professor with a really thick accent in one of my hardest classes, and I thought I was going to fail. As soon as I voiced my concerns, he helped me out a lot. I also tried to stay ahead in my studies so I was always prepared for the lecture.” Rebecca has the right idea! She looked ahead in the textbook so she could try to follow along, and she reached out when she needed help.

3. The unprepared professor

Sometimes you’ll encounter a professor that is always late, never prepared, and/or downright terrible at teaching. These people will usually push back due dates not only for students but also for themselves to catch up.

Sarah*, a sophomore at Lehigh University, experienced a professor that was a current graduate student and wasn’t the most enthusiastic or prepared to engage in the class. “My professor would come in with an excuse every day why she was late but it just seemed like she didn’t want to be there. I, unfortunately, didn’t learn much, but I still got a good grade,” she says. In these types of classes, try your best to stay on top of the syllabus even when your professor can’t. That way, you’ll have no excuse to fall behind.

4. The professor you came to college for

Most professors love their job and are really passionate about what they teach. Hopefully, your school has screened professors for their effective lectures and their clear public speaking skills. These professors get you excited for class, even if you don’t necessarily like the subject they are teaching. They make you glad you decided to earn a college degree, and you can’t wait to get to know them better. Fortunately, with professors like these, they make it very clear from syllabus week what they expect from their students. Strive to be that kind of student whether that’s turning your homework in on time or staying after class for more in-depth discussions.

5. The self-promoter

It’s equally comical and sad when the only available textbook for your class is sold through the university bookstore at a ridiculous price because they are written by your professor. These professors are trying to showcase their accomplishments and publications to their students, which in this day and age equates to a YouTuber saying “don’t forget to subscribe” at the end of their videos. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to check to compare multiple textbook prices.

To do well with these professors, it is crucial that you attend their lectures and go to office hours. Because they are the authors of their own textbooks, they have insight where the pages may fall short. Michelle*, a sophomore at Syracuse University, says, “It’s annoying when you have to pay $300 for a textbook your professor wrote, but even more annoying when you don’t take the chance to ask them questions because they are the expert in the material.” If you don’t understand something, what better pro to help you than the author themselves?

6. The one without the curve

These have to be some of the least favorite professors on campus. They teach insanely difficult classes and expect students to perform well on their almost impossible tests.

“I honestly studied every single night for three weeks for this final, and still didn’t do as well as I had hoped. It was heartbreaking and I didn’t get a curve,” says Julia* a sophomore from Lehigh University. I’m sure a lot of students can relate to Julia’s struggles. Sometimes, no matter how intense your study habits can be, the tests and the teacher are just plain difficult.

Students can rally up and proclaim, “you should curve it!” since no one did exceptionally well, but with these professors, they are usually trying to teach a life lesson. Sometimes life does not give you grade curves and you will most likely fail. These teachers aren’t messing around when it comes to failing students, and they want you to know that from the start. Instead of complaining about how unfair this class is, make sure you make that much more of an effort to get sh*t done.

Some way you can get ahead in classes like these is to seek help in writing/math centers. A lot of colleges also offer peer tutoring by students who did well in those difficult classes. You aren't alone in your struggle! It's perfectly normal to need help every now and then. Make sure you also voice your concerns with your TA and/or professor.

As difficult as college can be, you should remember that it’s not impossible. Whether you have the most amazing or the absolute most boring professor, try to make the best of your situation. It’s said that the best students perform well given even the hardest circumstances. You might just learn not only the subject matter but your learning style in general. Good luck!


About The Author

Stephanie is a sophomore at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she is currently studying international relations with a minor in psychology. She is also a member of the Kappa Delta chapter. Stephanie hopes her future consists of making the earth a more sustainable environment, helping underprivileged children, and lobbying for women's rights. Additionally, her interests include dogs, green tea, and traveling. You can find her on Instagram at stephanie.huynh_