I got to sit in on a class when I visited my dream school, and found the professor to be super boring. Now I'm reconsidering whether or not I should apply. How much weight should I give this experience?

Answers

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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All the experts here provide sound advice. I will add this, unfortunately boring college professors are not uncommon. I can't be dishonest, there's probably plenty more to be found at that school. In fact at some of the most elite colleges, you may run into multiples. That's because there is a big focus on research, publishing and other scholarly pursuits. Being a great scholar or academic does not necessarily translate into being a great teacher. Some profs will even be a jerk - forgive me for saying so because just like anyone else - there are good profs, bad ones, and every type in between. The good news is that if you're with a great group of students - smart, ambitious, resourceful, supportive - bad and boring profs fade into the background. Your peer group will drive much of your learning and experiences, as well as help you figure out what that boring prof was trying to teach - yawn. You also have text books, the internet, study guides, a syllabus - each other - you'll learn what you need to.

As everyone else has said, don't put too much weight on the profs at a given school. They come and go - and every school has a smattering of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Focus on other features such as location, setting, strength of majors, unique opportunities, student type and make-up, and especially any experiential learning experiences, internships and career services.

Good luck!

Jessica Sillers, DC Freelance Writer, MFA Grad

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I wouldn't put too much weight on one professor in one class session. Any school is going to have some professors you click with and others you don't. If you sat in on a class mid-semester, you might also be missing other information that would have put that day's lecture into a more interesting context.

What other aspects of the college make it your dream school? Were you impressed with what you experienced around campus other than that class? If possible, ask an admissions officer if you can chat with a current student to help answer any remaining questions about what it's like to attend this school.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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As others have said, there is a learning curve between high school and college, even for the most intelligent high school student. For one thing, undergraduate classes are simply quite a bit longer, requiring more focus.

I remember being a high school senior and in similar shoes. I was visiting a college of interest, and I was overwhelmed with boredom in the class I visited. In fact, I was so bored that I started wondering if I wasn't smart enough to "cut it" in college if I couldn't concentrate on the material in this particular 101 session. But of course it was one class, and had I been enrolled in the course, I may have been so engaged from previous lectures that I would have plugged in more easily. Professors don't always know when visiting students will attend, so they don't know to contextualize information. No wonder visiting high school seniors can feel lost!

So my advice is a little different... I encourage you to consider all of this advice, and then ask to see the exact same class. With these thoughts in mind, you might have a different opinion!

Amy McElroy, SMU Law School graduate, Writer, Editor, and Parent of Two

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Another thing to remember about college, in addition to the great advice given above, is that it's a great place to explore your particular learning styles. In both college and law school, I realized I learned best when there were either visual explanations accompanying the lecture--drawn in real time--or when I could participate in a discussion about the material. Those situations required either a skilled lecturer who could break down the material in a way that I could analyze in a visual way or a relatively small class size.

You often have choices in college that you probably didn't have in high school, which is one of the great things about it--not just in what classes you choose, but also with which professors you choose. Those choices can get sometimes get limited by scheduling conflicts, etc. But I definitely wouldn't rule our a school based on one class visit. Besides, some of my favorite professors, I couldn't stand on the first day of class. If you are truly interested in the school, try staying overnight and attending some classes by shadowing a student in one of in your particular areas of interest. Good luck and have fun.

Amy Yvette Garrou, College admissions expert (US and international colleges)

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Only one thing to add to all the great advice above: Think about how much you like, or don't like, the experience of being in a lecture class. Many colleges--and especially larger universities -- have classes taught in lecture format. It would be good to sit in on some other lecture classes, at your dream school or at any college you can, just to see if it's the lecture format you don't like and feel it would be difficult to learn from.

If you find that you don't like lecture classes, that's great information to know about yourself! And it means that you can seek out colleges where the percentage of classes under 30 students is very high. Ask when you visit, or when you talk to an admissions rep, about the percentage of classes taught as discussions or as lectures.

You are asking a key question in the process of searching for colleges. Follow it further to find out more about yourself! Best wishes.

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher, Author, and Artist

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Basically, I would echo the sentiments of the above experts in terms of not judging a school on one class or one professor. Unless of course, this was a very well-known professor teaching a class in the exact college of study you wanted to study, in which you had heard rave reviews about him, and he was in fact the reason you wanted to go to this school in the first place. (Believe me, I've actually heard of this happening before!) But that is a rarity, and if you are just trying to get a general idea of what the school has to offer, I'd say this kind of experience would be very common. Not all professors are into lectures, and many are not always having their best day (yes, there are good and bad days for professors when it comes to lecturing). Also, they might just be at a point in their unit of study which is mechanical in nature, and not lending itself to a vivacious exchange or back and forth between students and professor (yes, this does also happen in college courses). So, in order to get a better idea, I'd say to at least try to visit 3 different professors' classes in 3 completely different subject areas, and then you'll be able to compare & get a better overall and more well-rounded view of what the school has to offer. Any school or professor can have one bad class, but if it gets up to 3, then you know you're in trouble. Hope that helps and good luck!

Anonymous, Former graduate student

The sad reality is every college will have a boring professor here and there. Sitting in class and learning something you may not like is tough enough, but on top of that, you will always have professors that may be monotone, boring, or otherwise seem uninterested in teaching. That being said, there are plenty of passionate teachers that make the learning experience fun. I would never judge a university by one professor in one lecture. That's like judging a movie from a random 1-minute clip.

Some other areas that deserve more consideration would be the location, the programs that are offered, student life, and tuition costs. Factor in all of these variables, and you should have a better understanding of whether that college is good for you. Again, every professor is different, and some may be more boring than others, but otherwise, this plays a rather small role in how you will spend your time at colleges. Best of luck to you in finding which college works best for you and try not to fall asleep when those boring professors come around!

Kendra Whitmire, Writer and Tutor

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I agree with the others who have answered this question. One professor and one class do not truly represent the campus as a whole. There are so many factors that could have made that session boring, even if that professor and/or class is normally one of the best on campus. Even if that is not the case, every campus is going to have a "boring" professor or a class that is not as fun to take as the rest. Additionally, it is highly doubtful that this one professor will teach you in all your classes, even if he or she is in the department in which you major.

Although sitting in on a class can give you an insight into the college experience, it should not be your deciding factor. Instead, consider the other reasons you want to go to this school. Also, if it is possible, see if you can sit in on another class from another professor. You may feel a bit disheartened after this bad experience, but it is important to keep in mind that choosing the right college is a very complex procedure and do not let one bad experience counter all the other positive aspects of a school.

Ronald Reis, Founder, YOUniversityTV

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It depends. Under most circumstances I would say that you shouldn't exclude your "dream school" from consideration merely from the one class you audited. Undoubtedly you will experience a professor or two during your college career that don't excite you. Was this a class you're likely to take? Did this class seem representative of the campus? Research institutions tend to bring in some of the brightest minds however, they are often more active in their research than teaching and they may never have taken a course in how to teach. Professors at teaching colleges are passionate about teaching. Remember why you're going to college in the first place; to learn right? As such, if the total environment didn't feel conducive to the way you learn, you may justified in reconsidering. Why is it your dream school? Is it because of reputation or location? You see, a college needs to match our personality in order for us to be successful there. At the risk of sounding self-serving, YOUniversityTV has a college matching quiz that matches you to colleges based on your personality (www.youniversitytv.com/match-me). Give it a try and see if your dream school matches your personality.

Amanda Burgess George, Professional Staff Advisor; Advisor for Freshmen and Transfer Students at Large State Institution

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I agree with Jessica. Each college class is different, and each student will take different experiences away from the visit. Did you visit the class with a friend? Or, was the visit arranged by the admissions office?

If this class was in the subject in which you intend to major, then I would suggest another visit to a different class. If the school allows such meetings, perhaps even request to meet with a faculty member in your intended major department. The more students and faculty you can speak with at any college of interest, the more well-informed your college decision will be.

As a whole, I wouldn't put too much weight on this experience, particularly if you love everything else about your dream school. Good luck with your visits!

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