Story by Jennifer Gardner
Everyone wants to be the best. To be the best, you must learn from the best, and college students are turning to resources such as Rate My Professor and other professor-rating websites to read student reviews and professor rebuttals to decide what classes to take and which professors to avoid.
Even though Rate My Professor has faced skepticism over its accuracy, students overwhelmingly turn to professor rating websites when their personal networks fall through. They can read ratings on a professor’s helpfulness, clarity, easiness and hotness and compare professors across departments to make decisions about class schedules.
Kayla Huff, a sophomore computer science major, said she started using Rate My Professor as a second-semester first-year to help with her scheduling.
“I go on Rate My Professor because you can usually tell what kind of professor they’ll be based on the reviews,” Huff said.
“If there are a lot of reviews, then you can get a good sense of whether you should take the class or avoid that professor completely.”
Sophomore news-Internet major Colton Warren said that while Rate My Professor is helpful, he doesn’t rely on it to make the majority of his decisions.
“I use Rate My Professor to see whether there is a professor I don’t think I’d enjoy taking class with,” Warren said. “It’s not something I rely on that much, but it’s nice to know what past students have thought about possible professors.”
Of course, not everyone believes Rate My Professor is a credible source. There are professors who refute the negative reviews left on their pages in “Professors Strike Back” videos. First-year actuarial science major Rajat Puranik likes that professors respond to their students.
“The fact that professors look at reviews and respond to them just shows how much they care about their reputation,” Puranik said.
Huff turned to Rate My Professor when she found that advisors aren’t as honest about their colleagues as the reviews she can get online.
“Most advisors won’t specifically come out and say ‘Don’t take this professor’ or whatnot,” Huff said. “Rate My Professor gives more of the student perspective, and since the submissions are anonymous, the posters can be as brutally honest as they’d like.”
Warren said his advisor does try to steer him towards professors she thinks will be beneficial to his career, even if she doesn’t come out and directly criticize a colleague.
“My advisor is always helpful, but of course she would never talk bad about a colleague like you sometimes see on Rate My Professor,” Warren said. “My advisor never hesitates to suggest certain professors that may help me more with what I’m trying to do than another professor.”
Talking with someone who has previously taken the class is a more popular way to test out the waters and get an honest opinion of the professor and class load.
“I try to find people I know that have taken the class before,” Puranik said. “I trust them more than a random online review.”