Receiving a bad grade in college is a reality that several students face every day. There are several reasons why one may receive a bad grade. Maybe you had four papers to write in one week, or maybe you skimmed the textbook a little too quickly. Whatever the reason may be, a bad grade is not the end of the world. Contrary to popular belief, professors are not out to get you. There are always solutions to prevent further discouragement, and it is important to utilize those resources around you. If you find yourself ready to drop out at any given moment, take a deep breath, and hopefully these tips will make you reconsider.
Was it Really that Bad?
When you get the news about a bad grade, it is important to take a step back and assess the situation from all angles. Will this result in me failing the course? Can I earn points back? Could I have prepared better ? At first, it may be challenging to look at the situation objectively, but it’s critical to engage in self-reflection about the reason for the bad grade. Consider all possibilities as to why you may have received the grade you did. Once you have sorted it through, your next step is to set up a meeting with your professor.
How to Talk to a Professor About a Bad Grade
Speaking with your professor about any concerns in the class is a positive step for improvement on future assignments. Taking this step shows great initiative, and the professor will appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation. Begin by emailing your professor to set up a meeting. Avoid an accusatory tone, even if you feel that the grade was unjust. Instead, ask your professor to discuss your work and how it compared to the stated expectations for the assignment. Go a step further by asking how you can improve your grade. If you feel negativity from the professor during the discussion resist the urge to show your anger. This will only make the situation more adversarial.
Prepare for all Outcomes
If the conversation with your professor does not go as planned, it is time to consider other options. Before following through with any plans to withdraw from the class, consider making a plan on how to improve your grade. This may look like devoting more study hours to the given course, or maybe planning a time to work with other classmates on future assignments. Overall, your disappointment in your conversation with the professor should not discourage your motivation to succeed in the class. If this bad grade results in academic probation, it is worthwhile for you to put in the effort to improve your grade. Contact any administrative figure such as an advisor or tutor that can assist you during this process. You will not regret asking for help if it means your situation will improve.
Remember what you are Working Toward
Though this is a frustrating feeling, the goal in college is not to receive straight A's (well, it shouldn't be). The end goal is to earn your degree, and prepare for a career following graduation. Unfortunately, college will present challenges that you can only prepare for as they come. What is most important to remember is that these imperfect grades are learning experiences, ultimately making you a stronger student. Allow your comeback to be stronger than your setback, and keep your future goals in mind. Rumor has it that even Einstein received failing grades...let that serve as motivation during your time of struggle.
Once the communication has taken place, and the necessary work has been done on your end, consider this a lesson well learned. A bad grade can just be a blip on your transcript and mind, unless you allow it to consume your mindset. College will throw challenging tasks your way, but always remember the infamous phrase: "C's get degrees."
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.