I did get to talk to some of the second years when I was choosing classes and found that a lot of their experiences were vastly different from mine with different professors. It became obvious to me that my goals in the program were different from others' goals. When people suggest professors, they're suggesting them based on their goals and experiences, but as we all know, history does not always repeat itself, especially with different players. I learned that asking questions about professors that are objective was the best way to evaluate my professor choices. Here's a few rules of thumb that I found worked for me:
- Know what you're looking for in grad school. If you're really focused on your grades and want to take less challenging courses in order to ensure a good GPA, professors are going to be harder to research. Some professors that were easy one year became more challenging the next. In addition, not everyone defines the word "easy" the same way. If you're looking to challenge yourself, then ask questions regarding work load, project types, etc. There's nothing wrong in either approach, it's just a matter of what you want to accomplish.
- Try to challenge yourself in the subjects that you want to pursue. I want to go into marketing when I get out of grad school. Not only will I be taking more marketing courses during my time at school, but I'm also looking to take teachers that I know will push me. I'm not saying that you have to take the most challenging teachers in every subject, just the ones that interest you the most.
- Try to find a professor that has a teaching style that meshes with your learning style. When researching professors, try to get a feel for the way their classes are structured. Some professors lecture for a full four hours; others have discussions and lecture; others have group projects in every single class. I learn best when the classes are interactive, so I try to find professors that aren't lecturers.
Professor selection is important, but remember that classes are only seven weeks long. Everything goes by so fast that there's rarely time to dwell on anything too long. It makes for a really interesting, fast-paced environment. It's great for people like me that get ADD after a few weeks of studying a single thing. There's no time to get bored. Before you know it, you've got midterms and then finals. And it's time to start again.