- Samantha Olsen
Tools to Use In Your Undergraduate Degree: Rate My Prof & Grammarly
As I’ve made my way through my undergrad, I’ve learned about some tools that I now regularly use that have helped me through and provided a little bit of relief when picking courses or when writing those big final papers. For those first years or students who haven’t heard of these websites yet from their peers or professors, please continue reading and check these out because they are worth it!
Rate my Prof:
Especially as a transfer student to SFU in my third year, I had no clue what professors I wanted to take courses with. Everyone has different ways that they learn, or find they are better at assignments compared to exams, or vice versa, so making sure you have at least some professors who teach or align their syllabuses (from the opinions of other students) in a way that you believe will make you successful in their class is important.
Rate my Prof allows you to read (or write after you’ve finished a course) what other students thought about the professor and the course that they took with that professor. Each professor is graded out of 5 and given tags explaining whether you are expected to read a lot of content, if there is lots of homework, whether they thought good feedback was given, if there's lots of papers, whether it was test heavy or lecture heavy etc. Other students are giving you advice on what they wished they had known or what they felt would help you decide whether to take the course or not.
Now, disclaimer, there have been times where I’ve taken a course where the professor received bad reviews, and I had a good experience with them. There have been other times where I’ve taken a course with professors who receive good reviews, and my experiences with them were not as good as some others found it, so still, be careful. Some may have been heated after receiving a grade they may have deserved but were not happy with or some may have felt the teaching style fit them a lot better than maybe it would for you which resulted in them being happy with the professor/course. Going to the first week of classes is still a good idea to see whether you think the class is a good fit for you. What other students wrote is not an end all be all, but it is nice to have what they said in mind.
This is one of my favourite tools to use when handing in absolutely anything that requires me to write: papers, writing reflections, discussion posts, emails, BLOG POSTS. Grammarly is super helpful for fixing something you may have spelt wrong, or taking out unnecessary commas (I am an overuser of the comma), or fixing a chunk of words that could be summed up into one word (honestly, I am horrible for this too).
As soon as you paste your writing piece into the space on Grammarly, it will allow you to “Set Goals”, where it asks about audience, formality, domain (if you want to buy the “premium” version), tone, and the intent. This part is trying to ensure the suggestions it makes aligns with whom you expect to read it, what you want the writing style to be, and what the intent of the writing piece is. Mostly it is just trying to figure out what this is going to be used for and what your aim is.
After you have finished with that, you can copy and paste your writing piece into the space or upload the document. Grammarly will search the document and give you suggestions to fix certain spots in your writing piece, and by clicking on that suggestion, it will remove what you have and replace it with what it thinks should go there. Now, if you're a broke student like myself, there are some “premium suggestions” that you cannot access with the free version of Grammarly, but it’ll show you that you have a certain amount of them just to try to make you cry and influence you to buy it. What I usually do is try and fix the problem myself because Grammarly underlines the parts that the premium suggestions would fix in yellow if you were to buy it.
For example, you may have a “punctuation in compound/complex sentences” writing issue under the premium suggestions. What you can do is go find the yellow underlining and try adding a comma there to see if the suggestion disappears. If it does, then you’ve fixed the problem. With different writing issues that pop up under the premium suggestions, there are different fixes that you will have to make. Sadly, the comma does not solve all of our problems. Sometimes it's not super easy to do this though, and you may find it's worth it to buy the premium subscription because you don’t want to waste your time going through a document guessing what you should fix. I praise you for this, you are a better person than I am.
While Grammarly is awesome, disclaimer, sometimes it does make mistakes. So when you are choosing suggestions, make sure the suggestions are correct and make sense in your sentence. Don’t blindly use this at the very last minute before you are about to hand in your paper and expect that all the suggestions are going to be absolutely correct because this may not be the case.
These tools have been very useful for me even with their limitations, and I hope that this provides some insight into what you can expect and some tips on how to use them!