How to get help at college when your professor is unhelpful

Going to college can be a confusing process, particularly when you are new and are still finding your feet. Ideally, you will have professors to whom you can go to for help when necessary. Occasionally, though, you will come across professors who aren’t helpful, perhaps because they don’t care, or perhaps because they are just too busy to help. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with unhelpful college professors. 

Pin down a convenient time

If you find that your college professor is unhelpful during the lecture, then pin down a time to see them outside of lectures. If they are forced to face you and you alone, it will be less easy for them to avoid answering any questions that you may have, and they will realise that you really do care about the course. If they are vague about the time for you to come, then be firm and tell them what time you will be there and wait for them if they don’t turn up on time. 

Go prepared

If you’re struggling with the course in general, try and find out some specific points that are confusing you and make a note of them. Then when you are talking to your professor, you can ask them targeted questions to which you should be able to get reasonable answers. Professors are often incredibly busy and have so much on their minds that they can’t cope with vague questions. 

Have reasonable expectations

Some college students don’t really know what to expect from their professor. If you are fresh out of high school, you may be expecting too much – once you are at college, you are expected to do a lot more work on your own. If you are expecting your professor to give you a step by step explanation on how to complete an assignment, then it is no wonder he isn’t helpful – that isn’t his job. He is, however, there to support you and you absolutely have a right to that. 

Talk to other students

See if your fellow students are having the same problem. If it is just you, then you may need to sit back and consider your behaviour – are you being unintentionally rude or too demanding? If others are having the same problem, then clearly something needs to be done. It may be worth trying to see your professor en masse; he will find it hard to ignore you all at the same time. It may help him to realise that it is a general problem with his behaviour. 

Report them

If you have tried the above steps and haven’t managed to get anywhere, then you really need to report the matter to someone – particularly if you are worried you are going to fail the course without any help. Go to your head of department, or, if it is the head of department you are having trouble with, you may need to speak to their deputy or find someone in administration outside of the department. Be polite, but persistent, and they should take you seriously. 

Bypass them

Unless you are studying a subject for which there is only one professor, you will probably know of other professors to whom you can go. It may be that they are perfectly willing to help you; and if they aren’t, then you can explain about your problem professor and ask them to suggest a way around the issue. Again, if you approach this new professor en masse, it shouldn’t add too much to their workload. 

Leave negative feedback 

By the end of the course, when you have sorted out the issue one way or another, then you should absolutely leave negative feedback about the professor in question – nearly all students are asked to fill out a feedback form at the end of each year. Be honest, without being rude. Such forms are usually taken seriously and you may help to save the new group of students from going through the same thing. 

Unhelpful professors are usually few and far between. However, rest assured that if you do happen to come across one, there are ways to deal with the problem.