In a survey conducted by our partners at Questia of 1,000 college students and instructors, we garnered data on everything from college study habits to relationship building with faculty. We knew that instructors were substantial influencers in students’ lives, but the results may surprise you! According to the survey, “When students were asked who they turn to first for trustworthy academic advice, a whopping 61 percent said it was a professor. When asked who their college mentor is, 46 percent said it was also a professor.” It looks like students put a lot of trust in their instructors!

But how do instructors earn such profound trust from their students? To dig a little deeper into the matter, we recently conducted our own survey of college students as part of Cengage Learning’s Student Case Study program, posing the question, “Please think of the best instructor you have had since being in college. What made them the best in your mind?” Check out some of our top responses and recurring themes below.

College students’ favorite instructors

1. “My best professor was Dr. Poe, my freshman Philosophy professor. She always provided us with specific study materials for tests which the entire always benefited greatly from, and was quite the objective grader in terms of essay exams and papers. She was very open-minded to various answers and never was turned off by any kind of answer in any format. She facilitated class in a way that made for student-based and led class discussions about material, which allowed us to explore different ideas and gain a full understanding of course material.”
2. “A good professor is someone who has many different techniques. They utilize different mediums to give their message. A good professor should also be unique and be able to stand alone as well.”
3. “My favorite professor had an absolute enthusiastic passion that was contagious to the students. He was engaging, and made the material more interesting.”
4. “They were friendly, not obsessed with talking about their achievements, and they want you to pass not pride themselves on their students having a hard time with their class.”
5. “She cares about students’ lives after college.”
6. “All students were engaged. You had to participate at least three times a class. We had workshops where we edited each other’s thesis, essays, conclusions etc”.
7. “He created a genuine relationship with his students and actually cared about student progress.”
8. “Very interactive with the entire class. Always tried to push each student to think outside of the box and reach their full potential.”
9. “This instructor was not just a teacher, but an EDUCATOR, inspiring students to engage and contemplate not just try to absorb.”
10. “She is very upbeat and excited to teach her students about the course material. She makes the class very engaged in what she has to say and when a teacher is excited to learn that reflects the students’ attitudes as well.”

Enthusiastic instructors make the best college mentors

For many students, a top priority is enthusiasm for the subject matter. We all know that excitement is often contagious, and students look for your passion for the topic to motivate them as well as your transparency in how genuinely you wish for them to succeed. Ensure that they know you are invested in their success both in and outside of the classroom, as well as in their futures after graduation. And when you are privileged with the honor of having students that look to you as a mentor, remember our top tips for using influence in a positive manner.

Building on the insightful response in #9 above, what do you think is the difference between being a “teacher” and being an “educator”? How would you describe those special instructors who go the extra mile? Tell us about it below.