Finding classes, living away from home, and paying expenses can all make college daunting. Enter Rate My Professors, a review-based website that allows students to publicly rank instructors.
While having a collection of peer reviews can help take some of the stress out of choosing professors, the service also acts as an avenue for students to vent about professors they did not like or classes they did not pass.
Tiffany Hilton, a part-time math instructor at Salt Lake Community College, said students need to be wary of such reviews.
“The average student who enjoys class and does well doesn’t usually write a review on Rate My Professor,” she said. “Instead, you find the extremes: The students who loved it or hated it.”
Still, Hilton checks out the site every so often to see if there are areas she can improve. Based on 62 student ratings, most people agreed she was “awesome,” the highest level. Hilton earned a 4.5 out of 5 overall rating, with 98% of respondents noting they would take her class again.
“Professor Hilton was awesome,” one review stated. “She was so helpful. Her online reviews before each exam helped me get an A. I would highly recommend her. I have never been the best at math, but her class changed that. It is a lot of work, but if you do everything and do not procrastinate, you will be able to succeed.”
Instructors in the classroom are one thing, but with the coronavirus pandemic, online classes became a reality for all students. The change in format affected student stress levels and removed students from in-person environments where they can discuss teachers with their peers.
Danielle Davis, a pre-med major at SLCC, used Rate My Professors more often during the pandemic because it allowed her to see reviews of instructors both in the online and face-to-face settings.
“Some professors did not have a good online format but would’ve been good in person,” she noted. “It was good to know that.”
Criminal justice major Sara Cornell relied on the site for general education classes, many of which tend to run many sections each semester.
“I usually pick those classes based on scheduling,” Cornell said, noting the pandemic did not change how she used the site.
Cornell also commented on spotting reviews by students who were upset about a poor grade or who did not like a professor’s personality, saying “those are usually pretty easy to pick out.”
Virginia Heffernan, a journalist and cultural critic, said sites like Rate My Professors offer both pros and cons.
“Students should not base decisions about their education on it, believing (mistakenly) that they always know how to filter information on wiki sites,” she wrote in a 2010 New York Times Magazine article.
The best advice, she acknowledged: Proceed with caution.
“RateMyProfessors.com has its own vocabulary, its own values and its own idiosyncrasies,” Heffernan wrote. “Success on the site is a badge of something. It’s just not immediately clear what.”