College professors are people. And like most people, they have their secrets.
Many professors are transparent with their students on matters like attendance policies, grading systems and course goals. But they may be less willing to divulge other information, such as ways to get on their good side.
No two college instructors are the same, but here are 10 things true for at least some of them, according to experts.
They Give Extensions
John T. Harvey, a professor of economics at Texas Christian University, grants extensions to students if they are attending class daily and turning in all of their assignments. Experts say many professors take similar stances.
“You can’t overdo it, but I think in general, these are people and they know that life happens,” says Colleen Paparella, an educational consultant and founder of DC College Counseling.
They Get Skeptical of Excuses
Untimely illnesses and family tragedies are not preventable, but when students repeatedly claim they face such occurrences, many professors cannot help but get suspicious, experts say.
“Professors allow for extenuating circumstances,” says Jennifer Sullivan, founder of Fast Forward College Coaching. “Extenuating circumstances are usually an anomaly. When extenuating circumstances happen all the time, it’s not an anomaly anymore.”
Students whose circumstances are legitimate can take measures to prove the validity of their claims. For example, students who miss classes or assignments for a relative’s passing should consider sending their professor an obituary link, Paparella says.
They Know if You’re Paying Attention
Students use computers as a learning device in many college courses. But when students are web browsing or playing games, professors often can tell, experts say.
Where students choose to sit can help them demonstrate an interest in class, Paparella says.
“If you sit within eyesight, that is going to give a perception that you’re engaged, even if you’re not,” she says.
They Don’t Appreciate a Teacher’s Pet
Some college students might roll their eyes when one student in class makes an exaggerated effort to get on the professor’s good side. Those students may not be the only ones irritated.
“That student in class that you find extremely annoying because it’s obvious they’re just trying to impress the professor? The professor finds them annoying, too,” Harvey wrote in an email.
They Recycle Test Questions
Many professors, like Harvey, will never give the same exam twice. But students who look at past assessments their professors gave may be pleasantly surprised on test day, experts say.
[READ: 7 Guidelines for College Student-Professor Interactions.]
“Looking at sample exams and old exams is a great idea,” Paparella says. “I think that’s oftentimes where (professors) get the questions from.”
They Are Insulted by Academic Dishonesty
Students caught cheating may figure that professors discipline them simply because doing so is part of their job. But the typical professor is genuinely offended by academic dishonesty.
“Professors take cheating very personally,” Harvey says. “If you wanted help or guidance, we would have been happy to provide it. I don’t disrespect you, why are you disrespecting me?”
They Might Not Have Proof You Cheated
Speculating that a student committed academic dishonesty is one thing. Actually finding indisputable proof of it is more challenging for professors. A professor who has a hunch that a student cheated may test reactions in hopes of getting a confession.
“If I question you about your academic honesty on a particular exam or project, I may actually have very little evidence and be depending on you to suddenly break down and confess — which students do about 95% of the time!” Harvey says.
They Don’t Have Much Time to Read Papers
Professors tend to be busy and may not be able to spend an abundance of time looking at every assignment their students submit. Many have mastered the art of evaluating work quickly, experts say.
[READ:Should Parents Contact College Professors?]
“Some professors have a large number of students in their courses, and I think skilled professors are really able to look at an assignment and see if a student met all the criteria,” Sullivan says.
They Know When You’re Trying to Fill Page Space
When completing writing assignments, some fatigued college students increase font sizes and line spacings or adjust paper margins to meet page requirements more easily, hoping that professors will not notice subtle changes. But those who try this are not fooling anyone, Sullivan says.
“Professors are very attuned to creative spacing,” she says. “They know that it’s an intentional choice to disguise a lack of content.”
They Want to See That You Care
Professors typically encourage students to communicate with them when they need help. Students who do so may not only get the benefit of receiving help, though. They might also earn their professor’s respect.
“Brownie points really do exist,” Sullivan says. “Actions like visiting a professor during their office hours or asking questions via email go a really long way to show a professor you care about your grade and you care about their class.”
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10 Things Your College Professors Won’t Tell You originally appeared on usnews.com