Why Do Some Professors Have Strict Requirements?

Have you ever taken a class with a professor who handed out a thick syllabus with pages and pages of course rules and requirements? Have you been astounded by your professor’s declaration that all papers not stapled would receive an F or that he or she will only accept papers secured with a paper clip? Are you amazed that a professor would kick a student out of a class if the student didn’t do the homework? Do you sometimes feel lost among all those rules and worried about your ability to survive the semester?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, take a moment to relax and try to think of the semester from your professor’s perspective. Many college professors and instructors teach more than one course, and often these courses are quite full of students. Even though college professors might only teach a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, they are most likely hard at work on Tuesday and Thursday prepping for class, grading papers, and responding to students’ assignments. Given all the important work a professor does, what reasons could he or she possibly have for not accepting a paper in the correct format?

Well, for one, these details can make a professor’s life more efficient. If every paper or assignment has a student name, section number, and date in the top right corner, then a professor can easily flip through a stack of papers to find the right one. Likewise, a stapled paper will help keep each sheet together; other professors might like the paper clip because they can take the paper apart and spread it out on their desk. The point is that these sorts of idiosyncratic requirements may seem odd to you, the student, but they grow out of the professor’s long experience at teaching and discovering what works best for his or her routine.

As for rules like ‘don’t come to class if you’re ten minutes late’ and ‘if you haven’t done the reading, then you should leave the class,’ these too have specific reasons behind their existence. To a professor, class time is a valuable resource. Disruptions caused by students who come into the class late or who ask for a summary of last night’s reading cut into a professor’s allotted time and hurt the rest of the class.

Of course, there are some requirements that might make no sense to you, so you should not hesitate to ask a professor about the policy and why it’s there. Before you do, though, try to think of it from the professor’s perspective.

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