How to Deal with a Bad Professor

When I checked my schedule a week before classes started my first semester, my chemistry professor was still “Unassigned.” How was I supposed to meticulously check them out on RateMyProfessor? On the first day of class, my freshly-assigned professor seemed nice enough, if not a little overwhelmed. I introduced myself after class, and that was the last nice conversation we had.

bad professor

While he seemed like a decent human being, as a professor he was rude, inconsistent, uninformative, and simply bad. Maybe he just wasn’t cut out to be a professor, maybe he didn’t know chemistry, maybe he was just adjusting… He was just a bad professor.

Either way, it made it really difficult for me to learn! However, I made a high A in the class and learned some really useful ways to deal with a subpar professor.

1. Ask your advisor.

I’m a big fan of giving professors a fair chance. However, if it’s early enough in the semester, talk to your advisor about what you can do to chance courses. Maybe another professor offers the same class, or maybe you can take the class next semester with someone else. If it’s too late to drop or switch (or maybe that just doesn’t work for you), you can still ask your advisor advice they have for students in your specific course. Ask if they can connect you with students who have previously taken the course to get help. Advisors are a great resource; use them!

2. Go to class anyways.

My biggest problem was sitting in class listening to my professor say nonsense. It actually made me angry! However, on the off-chance he said something important, like “I’m moving the test up!” (which actually happened!), I was there to here it. You might feel like they’re not teaching you anything, but your presence is important. Whether that counts in attendance points or your professor’s good graces, it all adds up. How can you make class with a professor you can’t stand bearable?

  • Wear comfy clothes. No point in looking nice for someone you can’t stand. Throw on a comfy sweatshirt and head that way.
  • Bring your favorite drink. Slurping a cherry coke makes class so much sweeter!

Take a break. Don’t skip class, but do mentally check out if it’s too much to bear. It’s okay to doodle for a few minutes or space out, but do keep it in check so you don’t miss too much! Just enough to refresh.

3. Reach out to your (bad) professor.

If they’re not a mega jerk (which they could be! It happens), and they’re just poor at teaching, reach out and make it really clear what their expectations are. Swing by their office hours or shoot them a quick email asking what you can expect from a test, if there are any extra credit opportunities, and what they recommend for extra help. You could even express that they teach in a style that you’re not used to, but make it clear that you’re making an effort!

4. When in doubt, stick to the syllabus.

Most syllabus end with “This is subject to change…blah…blah…” However, if it doesn’t say that, and your professor deviates from the syllabus (ie, adding/taking away assignments, moving test dates), you have grounds for argument against the fairness of the class. At my university, that is an automatic A. Even if it does have the disclaimer, you can still use the syllabus to your defense. For example, when my professor moved the test up and only told us during one class, everyone freaked out and cited the syllabus. He realized that was unfair, and gave points back!

5. Find extra resources.

If you have a textbook for the class, perfect! Read it! It can explain things your professor can’t. If you don’t have a textbook or just want more help…

  • YouTube videos are truly a miracle. CrashCourse has saved my life a million times, but there are also random smart people who put videos on the internet for us to learn! Hallelujah! Take advantage!
  • Stop by the library. If reading is your style, check out a book on the specific topic you’re studying at the moment to get a thorough, in-depth look.

Google. Google. Google. Do specific searches for topics you don’t understand or look for an overview of course materials. There’s a whole internet of people trying to help you. However, there are lots of resources that want you to pay. In my experience, I can get all the help I need for free if I do some digging, so I wouldn’t subscribe to things like Chegg or StudyConnect.

6. Go to study sessions.

Most of my large classes offer supplemental instruction, which is basically a tutor that sits in the class and offers assistance afterwards. Take advantage of this program if your school has it! It can seriously save your grade. If your school doesn’t organize study sessions, make one yourself! Holla at some other people in your class and set something up. Chances are, they want some help, too! You could simply ask the people who sit near you to team up, or send out an email to your classmates. Maybe they understand something you don’t; explaining concepts to other people is an excellent way to study and remember them!

7. Do your best.

No one expects you to make a perfect grade, but you can’t let a bad professor be an excuse for a bad grade! Only you have the power to do well for yourself. It can seem impossible, but you have to keep working hard. Even if you have to work twice as hard for the class, just know that you’re teaching yourself valuable study skills that will come in handy later! Plus, you (and your GPA) will thank you later.

8. Relax.

Above all, don’t stress. This class isn’t the end-all course. If the professor is bad, everyone else is struggling, too! There’s always something you can do to help your situation. Stressing about it only makes it worse. Pray or meditate over the class and find some relief.

A bad professor can cast a gloomy cloud on your learning experience that’s really unfair to students. Luckily, there are things we can do to deal with it and fight through the crummy professor-ness!
Have you ever had a bad professor? How did you deal with them?