College Advice and Tips From The Top Rated Professors in The USA


If you’re a student wondering how to get yourself through education the right way then you really should take the advice of these professors and their top 3 tips!

The Internet is full of student tips and guides but we thought what kind of advice can students really trust and take on board?

Well, that’s why we asked the top professors (according to Princeton Review they are part of the best 300 professors from universities from all over America) the question:

“If you could give three tips to college students to help them
get the most out of their studies, what would they be?”

With the tips from these highly acclaimed top professors with years of experience in all fields from anything from Psychology to English to Neuroscience, there’s advice that is invaluable to students wanting to achieve the highest possible grades.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a freshmen or well into your college years, these tips will help you in all kinds of areas of your student life.

An amazing 32 professors provided their tops tips for students!

Below you can hear from some of the professors themselves (in no particular order) as they elaborate on their tips (some even gave 4 essential tips!). You can read through them all or scroll to your favorite professor!


yolandaYolanda P. Cruz

Oberlin College – Professor of Biology

  1. Organize, organize, organize.
  2. Cramming does not work.
  3. Asking for help is a sign of engagement, not weakness.

Paul BrackenPaul Bracken

Yale University – Professor of Management & Professor of Political Science

  1. Get to know as many profs as you can in person — not a 30 second chat after class.
  2. Break out of your HS ghetto by joining a Club or sport that’s new to you.
  3. Spend zero time on Facebook and Twitter and social networks — you should be too busy for them in any case
  4. Go to lectures at your college in fields you know nothing whatsoever about.

Karl NiklasKarl J. Niklas

Cornell Univ. – 208 Plant Science

  1. Take careful notes in lecture and lab.
  2. Read the notes and material in each class every day (repetition is a good way to learn).
  3. Work in study groups.
  4. Get 8 hrs of sleep every day.

William C. WoodWilliam C. Wood

James Madison Univ. – Professor of Economics & Director, Center for Economic Education – Personal Website

  1. Go to class. This may seem obvious, but keep in mind that many people have worked to give you a place to stay, food to eat, and a learning environment. Don’t disrespect that by sleeping in instead of going to class.
  2. Go to each of your professors’ office hours at least once. With a few odd exceptions, they want to see you and to talk with you about anything — but preferably about the things you’ve been studying in class.
  3. Read original sources about things you’re interested in, even if no professor assigned them. For example: Don’t settle for news accounts of key decisions that come from the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, go read the decisions yourself. Don’t settle for half-baked reinterpretations of what the Bible says. Instead, read for yourself.

Martin SternsteinMartin Sternstein

Ithaca College – Professor, Department of Mathematics

  1. Go in to introduce yourself to each of your professors the very first week of classes.
  2. Each day, when a class is over, carefully go through your notes putting red question marks in the margins next to whatever you don’t fully understand, and then go in the very next day to the professor’s office hours to clarify those points — never tell yourself that you’ll wait and catch up on the weekend!
  3. In addition to making friends from among your fellow students, every semester make sure you get to know one professor, and they get to know you, on something more than a superficial basis. This will immensely enrich your college experience, and will be invaluable when you later need letters of reference.

Joseph PucciJoseph Pucci

Brown Univ. – Professor of Classics

  1. Explore what you don’t know in order to be certain of what you love.
  2. Study what you love.
  3. When you do both, your “career” will take care of itself.

Martin JonesMartin Jones

College of Charleston – Professor of Mathematics

  1. Attend class.
  2. Take notes on scratch paper and then RE-COPY the notes into a spiral notebook BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS. In this way, you will get a chance to think about the material and make notes about what you don’t understand. This keeps you current with the material and minimizes panic before the tests.
  3. Try to enjoy learning and don’t just focus on the grades. If you enjoy what you are doing, the material will actually stay with you.

Dan HubbardDan Hubbard

Univ. of Mary Washington – Associate Professor Business

  1. Learn from everyone you meet.
  2. Refuse to be bored. If a class is not interesting, take the time to find out why the person at the front of the room thinks it is.
  3. Turn your problems “upside down.” The different perspective will stimulate your creativity.

Fred BaumannFred Baumann

Kenyon College – Professor of Political Science

  1. Care more about the questions than the answers; i.e. try to see the big problems to which the answers respond and correspond.
  2. Talk to teachers and, above all, interested fellow students about what you are studying. In a lot of courses more can be learned outside of class than in.
  3. Learn to see and love the humor of things; delight in the twists and surprises that really learning about anything produces.(Stay thirsty, my friends, stay thirsty–just not, in this context, for beer.)

Barrett HazeltineBarrett Hazeltine

Brown Univ. – Professor of Engineering

  1. Realize that you came to college to be more effective after college. (You or someone else is investing in your education–make the most of the time and money.)
  2. No matter what your major, gain experience in explaining your ideas, either in spoken presentations or in writing.
  3. Challenge yourself–the penalty for not succeeding when you are student is much less than when you graduate. Take courses that will push you. Join activities that will require thought and effort.

Mike FoleyMike Foley

Univ. of Florida – Professor in Journalism Excellence

  1. Care.
  2. Get to know your professors (and show them that you care.)
  3. Find the best teachers, and take their classes.

Matthew CarnesMatthew Carnes

Georgetown Univ. – Assistant professor in the Department of Government

  1. At the end of each lecture, spend 5 minutes reviewing your notes. Write down one take-away point (the most important thing from the lecture) and one question that you still have (it might be a point of clarification, or something that intrigues you, or a possible implication that goes beyond the ideas in lecture). This will help you tremendously when studying for exams and when trying to come up with paper topics later in the course.
  2. Go to office hours. You can talk about your questions from class (see number 1 above), academic interests, career goals, or something the professor is working on. This will help the professor get to know you, show your interest, and help a lot if you ever need to ask for an extension, letter of recommendation, etc.
  3. Engage your professor’s research. Professors are experts in their field because they are doing ground-breaking research. They love to talk about it, and even for you to get involved as a research assistant. Ask about their latest project and see if you can be part of it. You’ll discover how knowledge is created, how articles and books are written, and maybe even figure out if you want to do research or be a professor yourself.

Joseph LauingerJoseph Lauinger

Sarah Lawrence College – Professor in Literature

  1. Prioritize your responsibilities and don’t lie to yourself;
  2. Read the complete assignment on time, take notes in class, review and think about your notes;
  3. Eat enough, sleep enough, play enough.

Catherine SandersonCatherine Sanderson

Amherst College – Professor of Psychology

  1. Go to class. Always. On time.
  2. Go to office hours. You will need a letter of recommendation before you know it and it is better to know the professor before you ask. Most professors sit alone during office hours.
  3. Study throughout the semester, not just during exam period, when it will be a huge amount of material to remember. Mastering the material bit by bit, and figuring out where you have questions, is a much smarter strategy.

Stephen PennellStephen Pennell

Univ. of Massachusetts – Lowell – Mathematical Sciences, Wind Energy Research Group – Personal Website

  1. Attend every class meeting.
  2. Ask questions when you don’t understand something.
  3. Find a group to study with.

Denis AurouxDenis Auroux

Univ. of California – Berkeley – Professor, Department of Mathematics

  1. Only one tip: don’t fall behind — study and make sure you understand the material throughout the semester, not the night before the midterm.

Panayotis KevrekidisPanayotis Kevrekidis

Univ. of Massachusetts-Amherst – Professor in Department of Mathematics and Statistics

  1. Spend your time studying ! — go to your classes, make the most of what is offered to you by your professors (incl. contact hours), and your TAs, learn from them and from your classmates, ponder on what you are learning and try to deeply understand it, not just memorize or automate it to pass your classes or get good grades. Also develop your technology and communications skills because in all likelihood you ‘ll need them no matter what you do.
  2. Keep your mind open and a broad perspective — feel free to expand, broaden or even modify your initial scope/goals/aspirations, adapt as you learn (to your own needs and to those of the society/job market around you), find what you really think is inspiring as a result of this synthesis and pursue it to the fullest.
  3. Once you find your aim, maintain a strong focus on it — remember that college is meant to drive your next step(s) and it is potentially key in what you ‘ll be doing in life: so become the best in it that you can be and prepare/position yourself well for your next steps: e.g. if you are going to go to grad school, take grad classes if possible, prepare strongly for your GREs, use summer research experiences for undergrads and/or honors theses to do research, and so on.

John Warne MonroeJohn Warne Monroe

Iowa State University – Associate Professor of History

  1. When you find yourself really loving a class or topic, take that love seriously. In my opinion, this is the fundamental secret to success in college. Often, students base their majors on all kinds of external factors, such as what their parents want, what their friends are doing, what they imagine some hypothetical employer might be looking for, and so on. The problem is that if you don’t feel a sincere interest in a subject or program of study, you simply won’t do well at it, and if you’re thinking about job prospects after college, doing well is actually what matters most – far more than the specific subjects you study. In terms of future employment in the business world, you’re much better off with a philosophy degree and a 3.9 GPA than with a marketing degree and a 2.5 GPA. Enthusiasm for what you study is a kind of turbo-charge: it’s what gives you that extra boost to really push yourself and develop the hard-core critical thinking skills that will make you successful once you graduate.
  2. Seek out the best teachers and take their classes. While professors are generally well-qualified and know what they are talking about – getting a PhD is no walk in the park, after all – every campus has a few brilliant teachers, the kinds of people who can light sparks in your mind and change your life, even in classes that might not seem that interesting on the basis of the course description. It’s worth doing a little research to figure out who these teachers are the moment you get on campus, or even beforehand. Do other students you talk to keep mentioning a certain class or professor? Are there people on campus who have gotten teaching awards? If so, try taking their classes. This, by the way, is where you’re likely to discover that love for a subject I mentioned in point 1, which is really the key to getting the most out of college. I still remember the history class that did it for me my sophomore year: “Early Modern France,” taught by Natalie Zemon Davis.
  3. Go to class, do the reading, and take notes. Even if, by some miracle, you manage to keep up with the work and get a passing grade, you’ll learn much less from a class you don’t attend regularly. So go! And when you go, do everything you can to make it worth your time: if it’s a big class, sit in front, so the professor can see you and know that you’re on the ball; do your best to read the assigned text beforehand, or at least look it over; during the lecture, have a notebook and write down a summary of what the professor is saying. Figuring out how to take notes – how to sort out what’s important from what’s not as the professor is talking – is an important part of the learning process in college. It teaches a particular way of focusing, and of absorbing ideas. If you’re good at it, it will also give you a handy study guide when the time comes to prepare for exams. In my opinion, by the way, it’s better to take notes the old fashioned way, with paper and pencil, than on a laptop. Since you write more slowly, you have to think harder about what’s most important in the lecture.

Devon W. HanahanDevon W. Hanahan

College of Charleston – Professor in Spanish – Personal Website

  1. You have access to many great minds and interesting perspectives that are open for your perusal and that are in use to make you a smarter, more experienced person! (IE, you’re a student!) Don’t take this tremendous gift for granted! Go to class to genuinely learn more about the world and yourself, NOT just because you need a credit.
  2. You expect a lot from those around you every single day, right? You expect other drivers to be careful, restaurants to make your food the way you asked for it, teachers to be prepared and knowledgeable, friends to be friendly…… the list goes on and on. So expect a lot from yourself as well! Take pride in your work and hold yourself to the same high standards to which you (maybe unconsciously) hold everyone else.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up about mistakes. Mistakes don’t define you: how you deal with them does. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best: “Finish this day and be done with it. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Realize that mistakes are a part of growing up!

Lawrence WichlinskiLawrence Wichlinski

Carleton College – Associate Professor of Psychology

  1. For classes that involve reading, make notes (write or type them) and summarize what you’re reading.
  2. Do it while sober.
  3. Don’t multi-task while you’re studying.

Gilda Werner ReedGilda Werner Reed

Univ. of New Orleans – Professor in Psychology

  1. Read over all notes the same day you take them.
  2. Talk to instructor when trouble first surfaces.
  3. Lay off of caffeine, especially if you are prone to anxiety.

Victor L. CahnVictor L. Cahn

Skidmore College – Professor of English

  1. If you have a problem, whether academic, social, or personal, don’t let it fester. Talk to somebody. Talk to professors, counselors, departmental assistants, or fellow students, but talk to somebody.
  2. When selecting courses, go by instructor rather than subject. A course may sound boring in the catalog, but a first-rate professor can quickly make it a favorite. On the other hand, in the hands of a poor teacher, even a seemingly fascinating field may be ruined. When you learn about a teacher who has earned widespread enthusiasm, sign up.
  3. You’ll have to select a major, but otherwise try to learn something about as many subjects as possible. You have the rest of your life to specialize. You have only these four years to acquire the breadth of knowledge that a good liberal arts education can provide.

More excellent tips are available from Victor through his book Conquering College (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009).

Barrett Tilney

Georgetown Univ. – Professor of Art (History)

  1. Always go to class. Attendance, however, is more than just sitting in the classroom. You must be fully engaged by paying close attention and participating.
  2. Stay on top of your work – don’t procrastinate. Start papers early and don’t cram for exams.
  3. Take advantage of resources on campus, such as the writing center, to produce your best work.

Gary Lewandowski, Jr.Gary Lewandowski, Jr.

Monmouth Univ. – Professor of Psychology

  1. Seek Out Challenge, Not Good Grades – College’s most basic purpose is to help you grow and improve as a person. The way to accomplish this transformation is by taking risks and challenging yourself. Move beyond your comfort zone, push yourself, and be comfortable with a bit of struggle. Easy A’s may seem like a good idea at the time, but you will learn much more from the courses and experiences that push you. When you leave college should be very different from who you were when you started.
  2. Your Relationships are Important – College is a time where people fall in love, hook-up, and often find their future spouse. Use your time wisely. Most importantly avoid wasting your time in bad relationships. Not only are these relationships unfulfilling, but they prevent you from finding a better partner. Healthy relationships are equal partnerships between two people who love, respect, and trust each other. Your partner should be your best friend and your greatest source of happiness.
  3. Take Courses from Great Professors No Matter the Topic- When you have a class with a great professor, there is something almost magical that happens. A topic that you may not know much about, or find that interesting, suddenly becomes one of the most important things in the world. Passionate experts who instill a sense of curiosity, imagination, and passion in their students aren’t as common as they should be. Once you find them on your campus, enroll in those courses. Regardless what the topic may be, those courses will be the ones you remember long after you leave college.

Douglas A. GentileDouglas Gentile

Iowa State University – Professor of Psychology

  1. Go meet with your professors during their office hours.
  2. Read the assigned chapter BEFORE going to the lecture about it.
  3. The answer is in the syllabus.

LisaMarie LuccioniLisaMarie Luccioni

Univ. of Cincinnati – Communication Professor – Website

  1. You pay thousands of dollars on college tuition, years of your life pursuing a degree and yet many give only a cursory thought to job interview attire. Professional interviewing clothes cover approximately 90% of the body. What messages are you sending? Dress wisely. Apply sartorial strategy. And hey. A professional interview portfolio is an “above and beyond” gesture.
  2. A handwritten thank you with names spelled correctly makes you memorable. Trust me.
  3. View all required classes through frame of “How will this class help advance my personal/professional objectives?” Avoid memorizing information only to regurgitate on test. If you’re required to take a fill-in-the-blank class, reflect how this subject assists you in achieving objective. If I could retake my undergraduate courses again, I’d approach from this perspective. I was stupid. Learn from my mistake, Scholars.

Diane EvansDiane Evans

Rose Hulman Institute of Technology – Associate Professor of Mathematics

  1. Take advantage of a professor’s office hours! Don’t be afraid to go there to ask for help. Not only will you get your question answered, but the professor will get to know you better.
  2. If you have a professor who will not answer your questions or make him or herself available to you for help, look into switching into another professor’s section. Sometimes having the right person for your learning needs can make a lot of difference in how well you understand the material.
  3. Take advantage of learning from your peers. Don’t be afraid to ask your classmates questions. Form study groups and relationships with others in the class. When the professor is not available, at least you’ll have other people who can answer your questions.
  4. If your college has a learning or tutoring center, use it when you need it. Often the tutors are students who have struggled through many of the concepts that you are currently learning.

Tom HughesTom Hughes

Univ. of South Carolina – Professor of Business Law

  1. Don’t miss class. 90 per cent of learning is face to face.
  2. Check your resources, what is on , Rate your Professor, don’t take bad classes. Don’t take easy courses unless you are dumb or lazy.
  3. Don’t be careless with your life. Care about what you do. Talk about your classes outside of class. Embrace learning not grades. Respect yourself.

Eric RonisEric Ronis

Champlain College – Associate Professor of Communication

  1. Keep in regular communication with your professors. Ask questions when you do not understand or need clarification. Let us know if/when there are life circumstances that may be affecting your work. Work to create a positive relationship between you and me.
  2. Keep an open mind. What you think you know now is not everything there is to know. What you believe now is not necessarily what you will come to believe. As Hamlet tells Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Allow yourself to evolve.
  3. Keep at it! This is work. Do not despair (at least do not despair for long). If you slide back, do not get discouraged, just keep climbing up the mountain–and try to enjoy the views along the way.

Robert KostelnikRobert Kostelnik

Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania – Professor of Sport Management

  1. Beginning your freshmen year participate in at least one volunteer experience, job, activity, etc each semester and summer. That will total 8 – 12 items for your resume at the end of your academic program.
  2. Stop by once or twice a semester to visit select faculty in your major in their offices for a short visit. Once they know your name and interests they will let you know of activities that can benefit students with a special interests.
  3. Display interest when sitting in your classes. Faculty see students who act interested and may make an effort to get to know your interests.

Mark WaltersMark Walters

William Jewell College – Professor of English
Below are my three tips, the short and elaborated versions:

  1. Be disciplined.
  2. Be engaged.
  3. Be curious.
  1. Be disciplined and responsible: be in class every day and thoughtfully complete assigned material.
  2. Be attentive and engaged during class: listen carefully to your professor and your colleagues and participate in the exchange of ideas.
  3. Be curious and interested in learning the subject for its own sake: acknowledge there is much you don’t know and be discontent with this; cultivate the desire to know; and even when you come upon a course or material you initially believe to be uninteresting, or of no use to you, throw yourselves into it anyway, and in this disciplined commitment, you’ll likely develop interest, and gain knowledge, and begin to acquire certain habits of the mind that will continue to serve you in and beyond your classes and careers.

Melinda Shoemak ShoemakerMelinda Anne Shoemaker

Broward College – Professor of Psychology

  1. Budget and balance time with coursework, family, work, etc. obligations
  2. Use campus resources – tutoring, mentoring, find what is available on campus that will help with certain courses.
  3. Develop an Academic Support System – use faculty, students and peers to help in the areas of course selection, problem areas with classes.

tickOur Conclusion

Firstly we would like to thank all the professors for the valuable tips and let them know how much it is appreciated. Thank you all!

We see some of the points being made over and over and some being not so obvious but very important.

Some key points seem to be:

Attend lessons! (Seems obvious but attend and be alert and interested, every one you don’t ‘attend’ could be harmful to your studies).

Take time to get to know your professors (office hours talks are said to be very important for you and your studying) .

Read and write notes (again, seems obvious but this is, according to these professors the easiest and best way to learn and remember material).

Enjoy your studies and also get involved in studies and clubs that you wouldn’t think were interesting (broaden yourself!).

Keep track of your progress! ( Our free Grade calculator Can help with this)

There are many more insightful tips throughout, please read and use them.

We found these tips from these top professors very interesting and invaluable for any student. Please feel free to leave us a comment below letting us know what you think.

2 thoughts on “College Advice From Professors

  • June 20, 2015 at 12:52 am


    I’m headed to college this Fall, and I’ve seen some important tips here that I’ll try as soon as I arrive on campus. Thanks for you guys’ insight!


  • April 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm


    I see some invaluable comments from the professors. I will pass on these to my son.


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