It’s hard to believe that letters on a piece of paper hold so much importance. What happened to high-fives and sticker charts? Shouldn’t we all get a trophy? Unfortunately, as we progress through school, grades begin to take on more serious implications. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to maintain good grades, because they can directly impact our future. Fortunately, academic success is largely determined by our individual efforts, which means that in theory, anyone who is willing to put in the effort can earn top grades.
But let’s be real: sometimes life happens and the grades seem to be dropping from the top of the alphabet towards the bottom! Although this isn’t the best-case scenario, it is natural for grades to slip when something else becomes a bigger priority. This is when a magical thing called office hours becomes handy. Office hours are a mystical college resource often overlooked or outright avoided. Believe it or not, professors set aside several hours each week when they are located in their respective offices and are available to help discuss grades, clarify questions, or just talk. More often than not, they just sit and wait. Office hours tend to get busy right before a mid-term or final, but they are a chronically underutilized resource most of the semester.
There are a few steps to follow for a successful conversation about a grade that could have a significant impact when it comes to an increase on your GPA.
- Determine if you have a basis to ask your professor for a grade review. You have to make sure you understand the professor’s point of view when it comes to grading. A professor is not going to change a grade unless there is a very legitimate reason, or if the grade was miscalculated.
- Make an appointment with the professor to discuss how you got the grade and how you may be able to avoid getting that type of grade on the next assignment. Professors encourage you to be proactive, and like to help prevent you from getting a poor grade in the first place.
- Prepare for your meeting. Go back into your lecture notes or your syllabus, and be sure to know the material well or know what the professor was looking for.
- Be courteous and professional with your professor. Do not be accusatory or claim you deserve a better grade. Do not accuse the professor of favoritism by starting with the line “I did the same thing my friend did in the class and got a lower grade.”
- Emphasize that you want to make sure you want to catch any problems before the next exam or paper is due. It will show the professor that you are not there just to complain.
- Highlight specific areas of concern and ask for an explanation of what went wrong.
True, talking to a teacher about an unsatisfactory grade is often a daunting task, but what exactly are the professors here for? To teach and help us succeed! Developing professional relationships with your professors can build a lot of credibility and go a long way. Most professors are compassionate and understanding if you are going through personal difficulties, and will make accommodations if you reach out to them early and openly. Do not wait until you are failing to seek support. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s completely true. It’s better to talk to them and work out a strategy to raise the grade rather than spend the next couple semesters staring at that unfortunate letter that forever resides on your transcripts.