By AMANDA GHANNAM, Staff Writer
Remember the good old days of elementary school, when we didn’t find out who our teachers would be until the first day of school? And we had no idea what they were like, or if our friends were in our class? Maybe some of us enjoyed that element of surprise at the beginning of the year, but now that we’re older, we can see there are definitely benefits to being able to choose your college professors in advance. And with websites like ratemyprofessor.com, it’s easier than ever to find out exactly what to expect at the beginning of each semester. If you haven’t used the site before, it’s basically a database of university professors. Each professor has a profile with an average rating out of 5 stars, and students can rate professors & specific courses based on factors like easiness, clarity, helpfulness, and hotness. (Yes, hotness—you can vote on whether professors are hot or not by awarding them a virtual chili pepper.)
We asked UM-Dearborn students whether or not they take advantage of this resource, and found a wide range of answers:
“I use it for every professor, for every semester,” said Anthony Wagner, senior and student of liberal studies. “I’ve also rated all of my professors.”
Taking full advantage of the site, students like Anthony always know exactly what to expect when registering for classes. The site offers a feature where students can rate not just the professor overall, but each class he or she teaches, so that students know the difference between how a professor teaches a 101 and a 300-level class, for example. Leaving detailed reviews of classes helps other students to be prepared for what could either be four months of Scantron exams or ten-page essays.
These features make the site popular, but not everyone depends on it. “I use it every semester, but I favor meeting a professor,” said Sam Parks, sophomore and mathematics major. “But if I’m forced into a class due to scheduling or there being just one option then I do nothing. If there are a few professors I try to talk to them the semester prior. However I always check RateMyProfessor just to know what I’m getting into.” For Sam, checking the website provides some additional background, but it’s important to make one’s own judgments about a professor, as compared to other students’ opinions.
But not all students find it useful to read other students’ reviews. Amber Gasser, junior studying political science, said of the site, “I look at it occasionally, but I don’t find it useful. I never really find the classes that I’m taking on there, so I don’t really have a good handle on what the professor will actually be like in the class I’m taking.” It can be tedious to search through so many reviews for details about the class you’re actually looking for. “I’d much rather talk to other students and find out what they think. Plus, a majority of the reviews are from people who didn’t do well in the class so they’re biased,” Amber added.
Evidently, UM-Dearborn students find that sites like RateMyProfessor have pros and cons. While some will go so far as to choose their schedules to take professors that get the best reviews, others prefer to make their own judgments after taking classes.