It’s the end of the semester and your grades are about to be posted, if they haven’t been already. Some of your grades may end up being a disappointment to you. Before you go to complain to your professor about how unfair your final grade seems, take a breath and follow these steps.
1. Check the syllabus: It bears repeating that most of the answers to students’ questions can be found in the handy-dandy syllabus. It should clearly have the grade breakdown laid out. Just because you got an A on the majority of your assignments doesn’t mean you will get an A in the class. It depends what the assignments you aced were worth.
2. Check what you missed: Don’t forget, your grade isn’t just based on what you did, but what you didn’t do as well. If you received A’s on all the work you did, but you only did half the work, then those A’s turn into F’s pretty quickly.
Now, professors make mistakes when they calculate grades; invariably, every semester, I misread my spreadsheet in the transfer to the official system or forget to count something from a student who handed work in at a different time. These things happen, and if you believe this is what went wonky with your grade, calmly and rationally contact the professor about the potential mistake.
More often than not, though, you receive the grade you earned. And that you “need” a certain grade in no way convinces your professors of their error or unfairness. In fact, “needing” a grade is on you, the student, to make sure that you work to earn that grade. It’s not the professor’s responsibility to retroactively change the grade once the work has been completed.
If you get a grade that is lower than you expected or wanted, take it as a wake-up call. What can you do next semester to make sure you are not in a similar situation again? Go to the professor’s office hours. Get more sleep. Create better study habits. Go to the tutoring center on campus for extra help. Be proactive, because by the time the semester ends, you get the grade you’ve earned — whether you think you deserve it or not.
— Dr. Lee Skallerup Bessette is an English and writing instructor who has been teaching at colleges for almost 15 years, in three different states, two countries and two languages. She has seen it all and heard it all. You can follow her on Twitter, @readywriting, and check out her blog, College Ready Writing, where she talks about the broader issues and challenges facing higher education today.