3 Types of Professors and How to Approach Them

Your college professors will often come in a wide range of types, but this quick and easy guide will give you a rough idea of how to identify three major personalities that you’ll meet in the classroom. Don’t waste your trying to impress professors who won’t be able to give you the attention you deserve. Follow this guide and you’ll find the professor who works best with your own personal style.

The Super Busy Professor

This would be the professor who is working on writing his or her next book or publishing the findings of his or her latest studies. If they repeatedly bring up the interviews they do for NPR take this as a warning. Don’t expect to find this professor in the office very often and don’t hold your breath after you send them an email.

Persistence is key when trying to contact the busy professor, but if you’re interested in finding more experience, see if he or she has an opening in their research lab or needs a hand editing their book. This way you’ll end up getting more time with the professor and build useful skills. They’ll be thankful for your help and be more inclined to give you a glowing letter of recommendation for grad school.

The Poorly Organized Professor

This professor is often lovable, but flawed. While you may find your time with him or her to be quite enjoyable, this professor makes a habit out of forgetting necessary materials for class. This type of professor is constantly moving lectures back because of class discussions that go on too long. These professors are usually the best to talk to privately because they don’t moderate their behavior around students like other professors.

In a sense, they can be honest with you while other professors may deflect or give you stock answers to your questions. Now this is the professor who you may want to avoid asking for a letter of recommendation from, as he or she is likely to take a long time working on it and ultimately may not give it the attention it deserves. From my experience, these types of professors make great advisers, but are not necessarily the most dependable.

The Difficult Professor

While most students revile hard grading professors (just check out ratemyprofessor.com), this maybe the most useful professor you’ll have in college. Yes, you may not get an easy A or an A at all in his or her class, but you might just learn skills that matter outside of the class. Succeeding in a hard class requires determination and critical evaluation skills which will apply to other classes and to life after college.

You may not end up liking this professor, but you may realize that his or her class has more benefit than most classes you’ll end up taking. Ultimately, this is a professor you should strive to impress, if not with grades, then with your work ethic, because this professor will give you the best letter of recommendation that you could hope for.

While these basic archetypes cover a range of professor types, there’s always exceptions to the rules. If you have your own insights on approaching professors, feel free to drop some knowledge in the comments.

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Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals is a senior at DePaul University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. Outside of class, Ryan can be found working in the Pysch Lab or at a local health clinic. When he's not distracted by cat videos, he tries to balance his time between playing guitar, writing prose, and running around the soccer field.

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