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Articles / Applying to College / Frustrated by Profs ... Should Son Stick it Out Anyway?

Oct. 20, 2011

Frustrated by Profs ... Should Son Stick it Out Anyway?

Question: My son started his freshman year in August. Now it is the middle of October and he is having a hard time. He says that his one lab professor has such a strong accent that no one understands him, so he is spending a huge amount of time teaching himself. His other professor seems to just teach out of the textbook. The other professor has been corrected by my son and others twice. Needless to say, my son is frustrated and overtired. My question is do I let him transfer or do I have him stay for another semester and hope he gets different professors?

Academic satisfaction should, of course, be at the epicenter of every college experience. So, if a student is feeling cheated out of a fruitful situation in the classroom, then it's time to consider going elsewhere. But your son is still new to this college, and I assume he will take different classes next semester. Thus, he may be in a stronger position now to choose better professors for his future classes than the ones he was stuck with this term.


You don't say whether or not your son is happy with the OTHER aspects of his current school (residential and social life, extracurricular endeavors, location, etc.) If he's content beyond the classroom, then it seems premature for him to jump ship, unless he's adamant that he wants to do so. Instead, he should be proactive about seeking out classes that seem like stronger fits for the spring semester. The student grapevine, as well as Web sites like RateMyProfessors.com(or any school-specific course critique site that his college may offer) can help to point your son to profs the students respect (although one should not take this sort of advice as gospel truth).

In the meantime, encourage your son to seek out the academic assistance office at his college. They may be able to provide a free tutor, which could come in handy for the lab in which he can't understand the instructor and has to teach himself. Finally, keep in mind that almost ALL freshmen are exhausted in their first semester and it can take much of the year to find their “sea legs."

So, I think that your son should stay put for at least another semester. But, once the second term is under way, if he has made an effort to select the “right" professors and yet he doesn't notice significant improvement, he should look into transferring for his sophomore year.

(posted 10/20/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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