In case you weren’t aware, college is meant to prepare you for life in the working world. What this means is that you will certainly come up against college professors who harbor the goal of being hard on students as a way to teach them valuable lessons about how difficult the working world can be. If you’re a studious type who likes to rise to the challenge, this type of teaching will only be to your ultimate benefit.

Of course, like bosses, there are also professors that are simply, well, bad at their jobs. And just like in the real world, you’ll have to find ways to deal with these authority figures in a polite and productive manner. Here are a few tips to put you on the right path.

First, try to categorize the problem. Is the professor mean, lazy, or bullheaded? Is he/she targeting you or do all students get the same treatment? Is he/she being hard on students to elicit better performance, or is it his/her personal goal to fail as many students as possible? When you can figure out what it is that makes a professor “bad” it will be easier to come up with a solution for dealing with the problem at hand.

There’s not much to be done about a professor that simply expects stellar output from students. This type is only trying to ensure that students are as prepared as possible to face the harsh realities of the working world. If you can’t hack it, you might need to rethink your chosen major, or at least retake the course with a kinder, gentler teacher at the helm.

If a teacher seems to be targeting you specifically, there are a couple of steps you can take. Consider first talking with the teacher. Perhaps he/she sees some potential in you or thinks you’re slacking in some way and is trying to improve your performance. Or maybe you’re actually being targeted unfairly. If you feel it’s the latter, you may need to speak with an advisor or even an administrator about how to proceed – some type of mediation may be in order.

If your professor treats all students the same way and seems to delight in being mean or bullheaded, you might not feel like you have much recourse, aside from keeping your head down and doing your work. In fact, this is not a terrible idea. Following instructions and delivering your best work is often the right course of action, even if a teacher is being particularly hard on students.

However, you might gain more benefit through direct action. If there are things you don’t understand or practices you think are unfair, make sure to ask plenty of questions in class and make use of office hours to further clarify or to voice your concerns directly. There are few problems that can’t be solved through considered and concise discourse.

Many college courses also offer a review process, generally at the end of the semester, allowing you to rate professors on their performance. This is an excellent opportunity to enumerate any issues you may have had throughout the course of the semester, although it won’t necessarily help you in the here and now.

As a last resort, you can always get advice from other professors or address your grievances with an administrator, especially if you feel that you’re being treated unfairly for some reason. Often the best way to proceed is to simply deliver your best work or speak with a professor directly. If you happen to attend remote courses through an organization like Rutgers Online, don’t hesitate to email your professor with any questions or concerns.