Apr 2014
Josie Bungert

I never used “Rate My Professor,” and didn’t fail college

Last semester, I took a really hard class, and while I was in it, I complained to every single person I knew about how awful it was, and how much I didn’t like the professor for the class. Everyone’s first reaction: “Well, did you check ‘Rate My Professor‘ before you signed up for the class?” My answer. “No. I didn’t, and I haven’t all four years.” After they are stunned and confused, their answer is always simple: “Well if you had, you wouldn’t be in this predicament.”

To me, though, it was never that simple. When my friends discovered “Rate My Professor,” I was immediately turned off by the idea. First thing was, the people on that website are brutal. From what my friends would read, many of the reviews seem more like reactions to personal situations they encountered with the professor rather than comments on overall teaching style and classroom dynamic. That’s the stuff students should be more concerned about, rather than what the professor said to a student one time, or how mean the professor was when the student had a late assignment. Though some of the comments are rational and can really show the professor’s personality, I found the comments to not be constructive, and that they came totally out of nowhere.

Second, peer reviews of professors started coming from the fueled comments on this site. For example, around registration time, I would ask my peers about professors, trying to see if they had taken them, and if they hadn’t, and hadn’t heard anything from their peers, their comments would be reiterations of the website. They would often say “Well, no, I didn’t have them as a teacher, but I saw on ‘Rate My Professor’ that they are really tough and really mean.” I took these comments with a grain of salt, and found them not to be fair to the professor. The comments I did take into consideration were the ones from my peers who had the professors in class, or at least knew them from more than just an online post.

Third, and the main reason I don’t use the site: I just didn’t want preconceived notions about a class, whether because I took it because the professor was supposed to be easy, or I ended up with a professor that I didn’t want. I felt that if I went into a class with an idea about the professor, that I wouldn’t be able to come up with any of my own impressions. I don’t think its fair to a professor to not be given a chance to prove what kind of person and professor that they are.
If the site works for you, and you have had good experiences because of it, feel free. But, from personal experiences, I have had some awesome professors that I don’t know if I would have taken if I had taken their online reviews to heart. In addition, sometimes it’s okay to have a bad professor or class now and then – you learn a lot being put in these situations. Finally, thinking for yourself is a valuable skill to learn, and avoiding this site, or avoiding taking the comments to heart, can allow you to learn that skill sooner rather than later.

Did you have a good or bad experience with “Rate My Professor?” Tweet at me, @jlbungert