Ahhh…course registration time; a time for frantically storming in and out of academic advising offices, constantly scrolling and searching through course catalogs, and desperately asking older friends for their opinions on certain classes or professors. As college students, it is only natural for us to be concerned about the classes we take and the professors we have. However, judging a course solely based on someone else’s negative (or even positive) experience can plant preconceived notions in our head, causing us to have certain expectations before even taking the class.
You never know until you try for yourself
During my first semester of college, I signed up to take a class called “Theatre Appreciation,” which fulfilled a gen-ed requirement. The course name sounded pretty relatable; I was never a “theater kid,” but I’ve always appreciated seeing plays and musicals. Still, I was worried I was going to be sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of students who made intimidating Shakespeare puns and could perform monologues on command. Turns out, Theatre Appreciation was my favorite class of the semester. My professor was engaging and entertaining, and I looked forward to going to lectures, and I loved participating in discussions. (Who would have thought!?) I’m still nowhere near a theatre aficionado, but I truly enjoyed learning about how history, culture, and other values tie into the performing arts.
Oftentimes, especially with gen-ed classes, students feel that they are taking the class to simply complete a requirement. I definitely felt this way prior to taking the theatre class; my advice is to go into the class with an open mind, even if the course is something that does not pertain to your major or discipline. You may end up finding something that you really enjoy, and if not, that’s understandable – but being open-minded will allow you to make the best of the class.
Each student has a different experience
As a journalism major, I only needed to take two science classes (*cue “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang*). Naturally, I signed up to take an introductory astronomy class. During orientation, my advisor supported my choice, saying, “Ahhh…basic astronomy…perfect for non-majors like yourself!” I even found some online reviews of the course saying that it was an “easy A.” Perfect! I pictured myself happily stargazing in a planetarium and sketching basic phases of the moon. Stars, Apollo 13, and the Jovian planets…what could go wrong? Well, let’s just say it was all fun and games until I walked into the first class and the professor said, “Knowledge of physics concepts will be very beneficial to this course.” My heart dropped. This was an outrage, I thought. I didn’t sign up for this! What happened to “basic” astronomy!? Needless to say, astronomy ended up being one of my most difficult classes of the semester. I had friends in the course who had different professors; each person had a unique experience since each section was structured differently.
Online reviews, rumors from friends, and even suggestions from advisors are not always 100% accurate. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t trust anyone – but know that what is easy for one student is not always easy for another. Each person has their own individual learning style, so some students may like a professor’s way of teaching, while other students prefer other teaching methods. If you find yourself in a situation similar to my astronomy fiasco, do your best to ask the professor questions when you need help or are confused about a certain topic. When I heard the word “physics,” I thought I was going to fail the class; it wasn’t easy, but it ended up working out in the end. I showed the professor that I was willing to work hard (even though I despised the material). This also taught me that not every class is going to be enjoyable and entertaining, but it is still possible to succeed.
All in all, my experiences this past semester made me realize that you honestly will not know what to think of a class or professor until you see for yourself. While websites such as RateMyProfessor.com are common ways for college students to gain insight into a course or instructor, we must remember that all students’ experiences are different, and making up your mind about a class before trying it for yourself – especially early on in your college career – may only hinder your ability to learn and succeed in the course.