At the midpoint of the semester, many students begin to worry about their grades. Sure, the instructor may have mentioned excessive late arrivals or a failure to participate, but who knew that meant they would actually deduct points? What’s a student to do when faced with an undesirable grade?
Be realistic about what your grade actually means.
Many students in the U.S. are, thanks to grade inflation, accustomed to receiving high grades or even all A’s in their courses, so the first “B” on a major assignment or in the class may come as a shock. However, a “B” is not a bad grade; it’s higher than average!
And what grades mean changes across disciplines. In an English course, a “C” may indeed be less than desirable grade. In a math course, a “C” may truly be the average. And there’s nothing wrong with an average grade!
Keep in Mind That Your Instructor May Have Actually Been Grade Inflating.
When you go to your instructor complaining about a “B,” many of them will not be amused for the simple reason that they have already awarded you a higher grade than they think your work actually deserves. Some departments give instructions for their teachers to grade inflate because they know other schools do it and they don’t want their graduates to look under-prepared in comparison. So when you arrive in their office shouting that your “B” paper deserves an “A,” your instructor is mentally sighing because, really, your “B” paper deserves a “C” and they feel they’ve already been generous enough.
Assess Your Own CULPABILITY.
Students demanding grade changes, arguing over whether they deserve one more point on question #2 and 2 more points on question #5, and insisting that the directions were unclear and they aren’t to blame for not turning in an assignment are all very common. But you know what’s not common? The student who admits that they didn’t understand the assignment because they missed the last two weeks of class. The student who agrees that the late penalties outlined on the syllabus are fair since they, well, did turn the paper in late. The student who admits that they didn’t fulfill all the requirements of the assignment prompt.
The student who takes responsibility for their work instead of finding a reason it’s the instructor’s fault that they don’t have the grade they want is really going to stand out as someone special. When it comes time to ask for a letter of recommendation, your instructor will remember you as the student who took responsibility for your actions- and you’re very likely to get a recommendation letter that sets you apart.
Honestly Assess Your Grounds for a Grade Challenge to Ensure That the Challenge helps, not Harms, You.
Consider carefully the points above. Did your paper lose points because you turned it in late, failed to make the specified revisions your instructor asked for, failed to address the assignment prompt, etc.? You might want to think twice about contesting your grade unless you really know that your instructor “has it out for you” or awarded someone else significantly more points for the same work. Otherwise, if you contest, you may be facing a policy that allows the possibilitiy of assigning your work a lower grade. You don’t want to run to a committe with your “B” paper only to have them return it labelled with a “C.” (After all, these committees are less familiar with you and your work and less likely to award you points for “effort” or “significant revision” or whatever. They’re just going to assess what they see before them on the paper.)
Look Toward the Future.
You may be concerned about your grades because you need a certain G.P.A. to maintain your scholarship, get into a certain honors society, or apply to a specific grad school. However, bear in mind that if you aren’t applying to a specific and highly competitive academic program in the future, your grades might not matter all that much. Job applications typically don’t ask for your G.P.A. or your transcripts–they just want to see you have a degree. That “C” you got in your freshman philosophy course? No one’s going to know about it. (And even if they did, it’s unlikely someone hiring you to do accounting cares about your ability to do philosophy.)
Try To Take Something Away from Your Failure.
“Failure,” of course means different things for different people. Some students can’t stand the fact that they received a “B” in a course while others are happy to receive a “C.” But how you define failure is not as important as how you to react to it. Everyone faces failure at some point at life. But do you acknowledge to yourself that you could have changed something and done better–and make plans to change in the future? (Maybe attending class more could help, for example.) Do you admit to yourself that you honestly tried your best and still got a “C”–but that’s okay? You’re still a valuable individual. Or do you simply give up because things didn’t go your way this time? Finding ways to deal with your failure and move on may be one of the most important lessons you actually take away from your time in college.
Remember You Are More Than a Grade.
Your grades do not define you as a person. They simply measure how well you met the criteria of a specific class. If you fail out of a class, that does not mean you are unintelligent or not valuable. You still have a lot to offer the world, even if you can’t memorize all those amino acids for the life of you.