by Angela Bourassa
When considering different education options after high school, it can be all too easy to overlook the importance of great teachers. While name recognition, location, departments, and cost might all be high priorities on your list, most students don't weigh the value of a school's professors -- at least not beyond the simple metric of a student-to-teacher ratio.
Regardless of the subject that you choose to study, the attentiveness, expertise, real-world experience, and enthusiasm of each of your instructors can have a huge impact on your overall college experience. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
Great instructors know what they're talking about.
An experienced professor should have a thorough knowledge of the subject that they teach, and they should love teaching it. When they come across a question they don't know the answer to, they should be as curious as the student to root out the answer and expand their expertise.
Great instructors know how to break down complicated problems -- and to help students do the same.
From Shakespeare to computer science, the mark of a great teacher is their ability to explain the complexities of a subject in a way that is clear and relatable. Likewise, a great teacher helps students gain an understanding of how they can break down problems on their own, which is a vital career and life skill that often gets overlooked in lecture-based classrooms.
Great instructors have real-world experience.
Certain subjects like history might be an exception to this rule, but in general, the best instructors are people who have held jobs that relate to what they teach. Would you want to learn writing from someone who never published? Would you want to learn about cutting edge technologies from someone who never held a job in tech? Career experience outside of academia can help make a professor's lessons more practical and more effective.
Great instructors are accessible.
Holding office hours once a week when you have a thousand students in any given semester isn't exactly the same thing as being accessible. Beyond what's required, truly great professors know when their students aren't in class. They provide extra assistance, act as mentors or help connect students with other mentors, and otherwise invest in the overall success of their students.
Great instructors are passionate.
The best teachers are people who feel like they have found their calling. It isn't the prestige of tenure or the freedom of summers off that draws them in. The best professors take great joy and satisfaction out of helping students learn and excel within a field that matters to them, a field that they find important and meaningful.
Seeking Out Great Teachers
When comparing different schools, especially once you're down to your top two or three options, take a look at the faculty pages on the school's website. Take the time to go to teacher review sites and find out whether the people who teach the subjects you're most interested in are respected and liked by their students. Double check how many courses at your chosen schools are actually taught by professors and how many are taught by TAs or adjuncts who may or may not have any interest in teaching long term.
And most importantly, if you can, talk to students. Your best insight into a school isn't what the school says about itself but what its students say about the school. Reach out to admissions counselors, go on campus tours, or talk to your friend's cousin who already goes there.
In short, do whatever it takes to ensure that your chosen program will provide you with the academic, personal, and career-minded attention that you deserve.
Make School is a two-year computer science college based in San Francisco that offers a Bachelor's degree in Applied Computer Science. The focus of Make School is providing product-based learning that prepares students for real-world careers in software development. Students graduate with an average salary of $95k.
Learn more about Make School's philosophy, courses, and outcomes at https://www.makeschool.com/computer-science.