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Maximizing College Success: How to Find Engaging Professors Who Make Learning Exciting

"He brings everything to life."

 "I only took this class because I had to, but it turned out to be my favorite."

"She really cares about her students. She wants to make sure we learn."

"I changed my major because this class inspired me so much."

Amazing things can happen when you take a class with an awesome professor:

  • You may change your major or career focus

  • Your professor becomes a mentor

  • Future opportunities such as research or study abroad related to the topic

  • You remember how exhilarating learning can be

As an example, UT Austin requires students to take six credit hours (2 courses) in US history, and many students take the common pre- and post-Civil War sequence. However, students have a long list of courses from which they can choose to satisfy US history, and those in the know think carefully about the courses they take for this requirement. Even if you choose to take the pre- and post-Civil War courses, you can still choose from several professors since many sections are taught each semester.

One of the best things a student can do in college is take courses with professors who bring the course to life. Whether it's a course in your major or for general education requirements doesn't matter. At all times, you should be in control of your own education. When you have choices in your curriculum, take them seriously and make a great choice.

How to find amazing college professors:

  1. Understand your degree requirement(s): know if you must take a specific course or if you have a list of choices to meet a requirement.

  2. Research professors: depending on your university, you will have different resources with which to find out more about the professors.

    1. Institution-specific resources: UT Austin provides access to course instructor surveys which can include very helpful comments from previous students; past course syllabi for classes/professors are also available which gives you valuable information about how the professor designs their classes and grades academic performance

    2. Teaching awards: if your institution offers teaching awards (the vast majority do), find the list and try to take courses from these award winners. Typically, teaching awards are selected by students.

    3. Ask around: asking other students who they took X course with is illuminating

    4. Reddit: a simple search can uncover a lot of honest, thoughtful comments, or you can post yourself to solicit information

    5. this well-known website allows you to search professors by department which is nice in the case of my US history example above; you can also search by name if you know who you're looking for

  3. Plan ahead: often, the most engaging professors' classes will fill up quickly; it's on you, the student, to know when the next term's course schedule comes out (a simple "UT Austin Fall 2024 registration" search is probably sufficient but if you get stuck, contact your academic advisor) and start researching professors so that when registration time comes, you're ready!

Professors are game-changers in more ways than one. Taking classes from great professors who love teaching is significant, but even beyond that, research shows that having a professor who cares about you personally will strongly impact your experience and success in college. More on that in part 2 of the series so stay tuned!

Reach out today to learn more about how college success coaching can help you achieve your goals!


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