Once you start college you begin to realize that not every professor is going to be as cool as Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World. Sometimes you just can’t get along with your professor and that’s alright. It’s only a problem when it begins to affect your grades. If you have issues with a professor in a class based on essays and participation, then it will likely have an effect on your grades. Grades such as these are more subjective and left to the professor’s discretion. If you feel the grades you are receiving aren’t fair, here are some steps to fight for that A.
Step 1: Check Yourself
You have got to make sure your ego doesn’t get the best of you. You should also have your emotions in check prior to contesting a grade. Resist using the ugly cry that Kim Kardashian made famous. Resist telling the professor that they “ain’t got the answers.” Try to understand why you got the grade you did before you claim that it is unfair or biased. If you immediately say the grade is due to bias without acknowledging the mistakes you made,
Step 2: Check Feedback (if available)
Most essays have feedback on them when they are graded. Read these comments and see if you agree with them before approaching your professor. Most of the time your professor has legitimate gripes and criticism of your work, and you should take them into consideration. If the comments say something along the lines of “unclear thesis,” “needs citation” or “argument not supported with enough evidence” instead of “LOL this essay is trash,” the professor might have a justified reason for your grade. A lack of comments is a red flag that your professor did not take the time to thoroughly read your work. Comments with emotional language such as “terrible conclusion” are also indicators of bias. When checking feedback, you should always look to see if it is constructive and if you agree with any of the criticism.
Step 3: Discuss the Grade with Your Teaching Assistant
TA’s are the middlemen between students and professors. They can be extremely helpful when it comes to grades and communication with professors. The professors are not always the ones grading the papers. Instead, sometimes the TA’s are the ones distributing grades. Your TA will likely be more familiar with your work than your professor and could help either change your grade directly or help you express your point of view to your professor. They’re also less scary to talk to than your professor.
Step 4: Discuss the Grade with Your Professor
You can do this in a number of ways. If you don’t like interacting face-to-face you can begin the discussion with an email. If you choose this route, make sure that the email is polite: beginning with hello and asking questions are important. Your conversation shouldn’t come off as an interrogation. Your questions should sound like questions and not accusations. You are not Magnum P.I. and the professor should not feel like the suspect of a crime. This won’t get you the reaction you want. Explain why you think the grade is not reflective of the work in an assertive but humble fashion. The phrase “Hello professor, I was wondering why I received this grade” sounds a lot better than “Fix my grade right now and stop playing with my GPA! Do you know who I am?!”
If you have a face-to-face interaction, then the same rules apply. You still have to be polite, ask questions and thoroughly explain why you think the grade is unfair. Make sure you are being an active listener instead of just waiting to argue with everything the professor says. This method will likely get you the most immediate and positive response possible. If you articulate your argument properly and don’t get too emotional, the professor will listen.
Step 5: Take It a Step Further
If you’ve discussed your grade with your professor and they refuse to change it, you might have to go a little further. Often this means discussing the grade with the dean of your major’s department. This may lead to a conference between all three of you or having to prove that your grade was unfair to the dean. This process can take a while, so set up a meeting immediately after unsuccessfully discussing with your professor.
We have all received low grades where we had no idea how such failure was possible. Instead of feeling helpless and accepting it, you can go about fixing it. When you’re trying to graduate with honors, C’s can feel like F’s, and when you’re trying to get into graduate school, C’s can feel like Z’s. But there is no need to put your dreams of honors or graduate school to sleep. By taking the steps listed here you turn a teacher like Ms. Krabappel into Ms. Frizzle—improving your GPA and creating a better relationship with your professor.