Books & Reading

Talking to Your Professors about Grades – “R U Ready 4 College” Excerpt (Part Two)

RUR4C Final Cover
R U Ready 4 College?
Available in print and for Kindle!


All this month I am going to be sharing excerpts from my newly-revised edition of R U Ready 4 College?, which shares strategies on how to be successful in college and how to cope in your new surroundings, academically-speaking.

Excerpt Two – Talking with Your Professors about Grade Inquiries:
Every professor has his or her way of commenting on work. Some give lengthy remarks, others a general overview, and a few say nothing at all. In my opinion, professors should always be ready to explain why they gave a particular grade. If a student does a good job, there may not be much to say. But if a student falters or fails, there are obviously issues that need to be addressed. So if you have professors who never give feedback, then shame on them.

Thankfully, the majority of professors make comments on your work. But sometimes you may still not fully understand what they say or even agree with it. But like with most things in life, there is a wrong way and a right way go about asking:

DON’T Be demanding. “I don’t feel I deserved this score!” is the demanding students’ cry, whether they expect too much from their professors or themselves. Approach your professor with that attitude and your professor is likely to say you did deserve it.

DO Be Curious. Phrase your request along the lines of, “I was just wondering how my work received this grade. Could you please tell me what I did wrong so I can do better next time?” That sounds better than, “I don’t deserve this!” and demonstrates that you’re an active learner who wants to learn from your missteps.

DON’T Expect your grade to be changed. You are free to ask your professor to review your work, but just because you do doesn’t mean your professor will comply. Unless your grade is the result of a mathematical mistake, it’s not likely to change.

DO Be Fair. Everyone who has been in school has earned bad or low scores because no one is perfect; therefore, be willing to accept your grades. You rarely will have a strong case to contest a grade unless it’s a mathematical error on your professor’s part. That being said, professors will not argue with you if your only evidence is that you disliked your score.

DON’T Complain. Professors don’t care what grades you made in high school or what grades you’d like to get in college. They’ll kindly (or not-so-kindly) inform you that this isn’t high school anymore and/or you need to grow up.

DO Be Understanding. College is different in many ways, especially when it comes to assignment standards. Whenever you need to talk to a professor about a grade, don’t assume you deserve good grades for any amount of effort. As I’ve mentioned before, professors hate whiners, so don’t waste your time complaining – use your time for improving.

DON’T Be arrogant. If you thought whiners were annoying, try being a big-headed know-it-all. Treating your professor as if he or she is clueless always produces marvelous results. Marvelously bad, that is.

DO Be Respectful. Grades are based on standards called rubrics and are rarely given flippantly. There are a few professors who use bias to base grades on but that’s petty and inexcusable. Thankfully, the vast majority have high standards and grade using those criteria, such as adherence to an assignment’s instructions, overall delivery, freedom from errors, and so on.

In closing, know that your professors aren’t your enemies. They’re there to help and deserve respect even if you don’t like them. Life requires you to deal with people you love, like, and hate, but you have to treat them all with kindness and respect regardless.

Want to read more tips on interacting with your professors (among other topics)? Then check out “R U Ready for College?”, available both in print and for Kindle!


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