There are many reasons for bad grades in college. You may have an overwhelming week with four papers, three tests and six chapters to read. Or maybe you thought you had the content mastered and didn’t need to study.
One bad test grade isn’t the end of your college career, but depending upon the class and the professor, it can make the road to earning an “A” for the semester a little bit harder. Each class you take is an investment of time and money, so it’s important to make the most out of your academic experience. When you encounter a bump in the road, don’t give up. Look at the situation and examine your options.
Here are a few tips to help guide you.
Analyze the Situation Objectively
When you get the news about a bad grade, it is important to take a step back and assess the situation from all angles. Is the grade just? Was the rubric unclear? Do you feel that you met all of the requirements that were communicated by the professor? 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 asking a friend or mentor to listen to your side of the story. 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
You may be wondering about how to talk to a professor about a bad grade. Most professors will be impressed that you care enough to have a 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 become angry. This will only make the situation more adversarial.
Consider the Politics of the Situation
If you talk to your professor about a bad grade and are dissatisfied with the outcome, it is time to consider the next step. Before moving forward on a grade appeal, be sure that you have thought about the potential consequences. If the professor is a department chairperson or is a gatekeeper for graduation from your major, you may want to think twice about pushing the issue. On the other hand, if you’ve failed the class and you may be on academic probation, it may be worth it to pursue a grade change. If possible, run it by an academic advisor or a faculty insider to gain their perspective on the politics of the situation.
Go Through the Grade Appeal Process
A grade appeal process is an opportunity for you to formally contest a grade issued by a professor. Each college has a different process, so it’s important to look at the required steps. Eligibility for a grade appeal is contingent upon the reason for a bad grade in college. For example, if you disagree with the grade because you feel that your work deserved an “A”, an appeal is not likely to go forward. On the other hand, if you can prove there was bias in the grading procedure or other misconduct, you may have grounds for a solid appeal. Remember, you have to provide hard evidence of bias or wrongdoing, in order to win an appeal.
Replace the Grade
There are many reasons for bad grades in college, but finding a remedy is the main goal. Often, colleges allow students to retake a course and apply the highest grade earned to the final transcript. If you feel that you’ll achieve a higher grade, the second time around, take advantage of the opportunity to boost your grade point average. It may seem like a daunting task to retake the class, but you might increase your knowledge base and send a message that you are a committed student.
If you’ve talked to a professor about a bad grade and exhausted all of the other options, you may have to use it as a lesson learned and move on from the incident. A bad grade can just be a blip on your transcript and mind, unless you allow it to consume your mindset.
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.