Syllabus Red Flags

According to students, the first day of class is indicative of what to expect from a professor. A strict attendance policy and an excessive workload may be key red flags students spot on the first day of class that make them consider dropping it. Here’s what students said their biggest red flags are.

Julian Steinmeyer, a first-year studying education, said using multiple online platforms to post course materials sets off alarms for him. According to Steinmeyer, professors should use technology to simplify courses rather than complicate them. 

“For me, [a red flag] would be if they have less organization on the digital side of things, having everything in all sorts of different places and when I have to put a lot of work finding all the different materials to turn in,” Steinmeyer said. 

Chesley Goodman, a fourth-year studying English, said the required reading can make her feel apprehensive about a class. 

“Sometimes, it’s [a red flag] when they make you get their own textbook that they wrote,” Goodman said. “Last semester, I had a professor where we would sometimes read some articles that she co-authored. … It’s not always a bad sign, but sometimes, it is.”

Ireland White, a second-year studying psychology, said she pays close attention to the assignment expectations for a class.  

“If [a professor] immediately starts talking about all of the projects they have, I immediately get scared, especially if they’re group projects,” White said. “That scares me because I don’t get to pick the people that I’m with, and so if they immediately start talking about it, I’m like, ‘I don’t even know anybody here.’ And also, it just feels like they’re putting a lot of work on us and it’s not even the first day.”

Katelyn Berg, a fourth-year studying psychology and anthropology, said flexibility is essential to a good class experience.

“I always get scared when there’s no leniency in the attendance policies on the syllabus,” Berg said. “Like when attendance is for a grade. I guess that’s in the lower-level classes mostly, but if it’s like a 300, 400 class, and they’re still taking attendance for a grade, that always freaks me out a little bit.”

Alina Jugan, a fourth-year studying nuclear engineering, said she thinks it’s important for a professor to accommodate for unexpected circumstances in the attendance and deadline policies.

“I’ve had a couple of professors be really strict talking about deadlines and absences,” Jugan said. “You have to tell them a week in advance or multiple weeks in advance, which is fine, but if something happens and your teacher won’t let you excuse that, that’s a little bit frustrating.”

Some students said a professor’s demeanor can dictate their perception of the course. According to Kayla Kelley, a third-year studying biology, professors who are uptight and fast-paced on the first day raise concern. 

“If they’re really intense on the first day, like skipping through the syllabus really fast and getting to the material like 20 minutes into class, that’s a little scary,” Kelley said.

Helen Watson, a second-year studying chemistry, said she prefers professors to be open-minded when it comes to answering questions.

“I don’t like when the professor isn’t open to answering questions,” Watson said. “Being able to ask questions is important; they need a ‘no dumb questions’ attitude about answering questions.” 

Serena Lam, a first-year studying education, said she hasn’t had any bad professors yet, but her favorites have been welcoming towards their students and excited to teach. 

“I like when they are very smiley and welcoming, and you always walk in greeted with a smile,” Lam said. “It makes me excited for class and I know it’s going to be a good day.”

If you are wary about a course, keep in mind the last day for students to drop a course without a withdrawal on their transcript is Jan. 23.

Assistant News Editor

Assistant News Editor

I am a second-year studying English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Professional Writing. I joined Technician as a correspondent in October 2021, and I am currently an Assistant News Editor.