By Meghen Jones
As the new semester ramps up, there’s an inevitable adjustment period where you’ll have to get used to a new schedule, new classes, and new professors. Professors are essentially teachers of the highest rank, having devoted years of study to becoming an expert in a specialized subject by obtaining an advanced degree—which is a Ph.D. more often than not. Teaching undergraduate and graduate students is the core responsibility of a professor, but aside from this, they dedicate a large amount of their time to academic work and pursuits, from published papers in well-known journals to panels at popular national conferences.
Of course, they tend to be even more concerned with your work and progress, which is why many professors have gained a reputation for being intimidating or hard-to-please. No matter where your preconceived perception stands, college professors really aren’t as bad as you may think—no, seriously! In fact, a select few may even change your life in a profound or significant way. With our fair share of professors, both good and bad, uCribs would like to formally introduce you to 8 types of professors you will encounter throughout your college career.
The Absent-Minded Professor
Prior to beginning college, you probably assumed that all professors are organized, practical, and present. However, there’s always that one professor, who excels in their private research, but is unorganized when it comes to everything else, including maintaining a timely schedule of your class syllabus. It doesn’t mean that they are a bad professor; they just may be focusing on other aspects of their job too much or experiencing an overload of professional expectations. Remember, professors handle a lot, especially if they’re assigned an admin or advisory role within their department as well. Despite their absent-mindedness, this professor tends to give the most captivating and passionate lectures because they are well informed within their field of study. It makes the fact that they’re always late grading assignments or returning feedback an easier pill to swallow. Maybe one day they’ll forget to print that quiz you forgot to study for…
The Old School Professor
No matter the career, there’s always that small crowd of people, who aren’t too fond of modern technology. You know them very well—whether it’d be your dad or your current boss. While you may assume that every professor is up-to-date with the latest tech trends, some professors learned their processes and preferences well-before the Internet was even a “thing.” So, even though there will be professors, who embrace Google Drive and Prezi with fervor, there also will be old school professors, or traditionalists, who are stuck in their ways. They’ll want your assignments handed in physically, expect you purchase print copies of all your assigned materials and utilize more dated tools—overhead projectors, anyone? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it might take some getting used to for someone always with a smartphone in-hand.
The Mind-Blowing Professor
Throughout college, you’ll have professors that are considered good, and then you’ll have others on their own playing field. Like, a mind-blowing professor that literally makes turns your perception of the world on its ear. It may be a history professor, who introduces you to a new cultural perspective in which to analyze different historical movements. Or, it could be a science mentor that provides you with key insight, propelling you to test a promising solution to a real-world problem and establishing a career in your field. These professors are superb at what they do—really challenging students to think, explore, and discover. Leaving you, their pupil, a wiser, more experienced individual at the end of the road.
The Intimidating Professor
There’s no doubt that most college professors are intimidating in some way, shape, or form. It seems in the first week of classes, they like to feed the belief that they are a force to be reckoned with—rightfully so, they’ve studied long and hard enough. It’s not that they’re trying to be difficult; college is a make-it-or-break-it environment, and in the first few years, professors are attempting to weed out the students who are there in body, but not in mind or spirit. In our experience, even the most intimidating of professors, can turn to into the most comforting of teddy bears, if you show your dedication to the coursework at-hand. You’ll most likely grow as a person from having faced such a difficult challenge head-on.
The Intellectually Equal Professor
Have you ever had a professor that made you feel like they are smarter than you? Don’t worry—this is common. There is a ton of academic elitism in college, but mentally and emotionally, it can be very draining to deal with—sometimes, discouraging students from regular in-class participation. Luckily, there are many certain professors that treat their students as intellectual equals. These professors genuinely listen to what you have to say and engage in an actual conversation with you, both inside and outside of lectures or independent studies. This professor will make you feel like they are interested in your thoughts, theories, and otherwise—inspiring further academic exploration, research, and writing, which could take your own academic career to new heights.
The Popular Professor
Every university has those popular professors that propose thrilling course subjects, which result in competitive enrollment and full classes. Popular professors are usually intellectual, funny, relatable, and known for having their students’ best interests at heart. They’re also willing to go the extra mile, whether it means discussing a paper with you outside of their usual office hours, scheduling a fun activity for the class to participate in, or taking you on as a thesis student, despite having too many commitments already. They tend to be a staple at their respective universities, known and loved by those across multiple disciplines and departments. The simple fact is that they were meant to be professors in their field, and their willingness to commit to their students and fellow faculty makes them a shining star everyone is drawn to—and who doesn’t want to sit in a classroom with someone like that for an entire semester?
The Visiting Professor
Most undergraduate students are unfamiliar with the hierarchical structure of universities, and we can’t blame you. You’re just a student, after all, and you have many other concerns aside from evaluating your college’s staff. All that really matters to you is that you get your money’s worth in terms of academics and overall experience, being that college is expensive and difficult to afford for many. That’s why you should be aware that there are plenty non-tenure track professors on your campus. These days, it’s extremely common for a lot of colleges to host visiting professors. Visiting professors are an academic professor from one school, who temporarily works at another school. They may even be an artist-in-residence, present to help students hone-in on their craft. Universities hire a visiting professor to offer a new perspective to students, host collaborations between teachers and researchers, or temporarily fill a department vacancy. Whatever the reason, it will be an exciting, new addition for everyone on campus.
The Graduate Teaching Assistant
Last but certainly not least, there is the teaching assistant. Teaching assistants, more commonly referred to as TA’s, are graduate students that teach undergraduate classes in exchange for a stipend, or a percentage of their tuition being paid—sometimes in-full. TA’s usually teach introductory classes, tutor in the learning center of their respective department, or assist in research with a mentored professor. They’ll be responsible for leading class discussions, grading coursework, and communicating expectations with you. They are essentially a professor-in-training, but no less valuable to your college experience. Just keep in mind that your TA is also balancing their own set coursework, so we encourage you to be as patient and understanding of him or her as possible.
At every university, there are amazing, inspiring, and well-versed professors—but many adhere to a certain stereotype, whether they’d be difficult to please or extremely popular to the student body. Whoever they turn out to be, it’s important to build a good relationship with all of your professors. Trust us, it will make your college experience easier and a lot more enjoyable. If you dedicate yourself and work hard, you’ll even have references for future internships and job opportunities. By attending each lecture, being prepared in all your assignments, and engaging in class discussions, you will solidify your reputation as a good student, who professors—no matter their personality—will love to interact with and help in achieving future goals.