Tips to Overcome a Bad Grade in College
College students can do better next time if they stay positive and get to know their professors
Receiving a bad grade in a college, whether "bad" is considered to be an F or a B, can be a little disheartening to students expecting better marks.
Dan Ariely, who used to teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management , knows a thing or two about giving bad grades. At MIT, he gave a C to a student whose employer was paying his tuition, and when Ariely gave the student a C, the company pulled its money. Ariely says this student "pulled every trick in the book" to overturn the grade, such as complaining to the dean of the school and the head of his program. Ariely felt pressured to change the grade and spent many hours examining the student's academic files, only to find that the student did, in fact, earn a C.
Ariely says this student was "painful" to work with, but professors say there are ways to deal with a bad grade that don't exhaust the instructor and actually help students be more successful next time. Here are three tips for how to do that.
1. Get some perspective:
When a student expects an A and is stunned by a C, Elaine Young, a marketing professor at Champlain College in Vermont, will ask the student to see the situation through her eyes.
"C is average," she says. "C is like everybody. B is better than everybody, and A is exemplary. Are you telling me that the work you just did is the best work you ever did in your whole life?"
Young also tells students that they're not in high school anymore, and the academic expectations are now higher.
"In college, it's not about getting the A for the effort," she says. "It about judging the quality of the product you have produced."
2. Be realistic:
"I think some students have this assumption that professors are out to get them," says Carrie Brown-Smith, assistant journalism professor at University of Memphis . "I think the vast majority of us, though, want students to do well." That's why approaching the instructor about a bad grade in an accusing way is one the worst things a student can do, says Brown-Smith.
The best way to deal with a bad grade, says Young of Champlain, is to approach the professor and say, "I would like to understand why I received this grade." This statement is not challenging the grade, but rather telling the instructor that the student genuinely wants to do better, Young says. Students miss the point when they tell the teacher they "deserve" a certain grade, she says. "It's not about what you deserve, it's what you earn."
Young points out that even if a student feels they deserve a grade because they worked hard preparing, assessments are ultimately judged on the quality of the work. She gives her student this example: "If you are doing a presentation in a business environment and the presentation is weak, you will lose the client and you will lose your job."
3. Set up a meeting:
Approaching the instructor and setting up a time to meet one on one is often the most effective way to learn from a bad grade, Young and Brown-Smith of Memphis say. A meeting helps both the student and the teacher, Brown-Smith says, who notes that getting a student's input on a test can often show her which questions should be clearer next time.
On the students' end, they learn how to communicate with their professor, Young says, which she knows can be "intimidating and scary." But even if approaching a professor can be nerve wracking, Young says that students who do so will often stick out from their classmates and show that they care about learning.
"Getting a face and a name connection suddenly makes you a human and not a number," says Young.
- Obama to High-Priced Universities: 'You're on Notice'
- Tips to Overcome a Bad Grade in College
- Look Out for These Federal Aid Changes in 2012
- The Evolution of American Higher Education
- Consider This Before You Pay for an Online Degree
- Time Management Tips for Online Students
- Weighing Costs of an Online Master's in Nursing
- 3 Career Reasons Why Students Get Online MBAs
- Waste Of Time For Business Students to Take Courses on Government
- 5 Great College Towns for Winter Enthusiasts
- Tips for First-Generation College Students
- M.B.A.'s May Face Lower Salaries in Corporate Social Responsibility
- 3 Ways to Use Foursquare to Connect With Your College
- 3 Tips to Master the TOEFL
- New Guarantees Help College Students Graduate in Four Years
- Tips for College Applicants, Students with Physical Disabilities
- Foreign-Born Getting STEM Degrees at Higher Rates than Native-Born
- How to Get the Most Money for Your Textbooks
- How to Kick Off Your Student Loan Repayments
- With College, Only the Motivated Need Apply
- Government Is Behind the Curve
- Economy Puts a Premium on Postsecondary Skills
- College Graduates Earn Higher Pay
- More, Better Jobs for College Graduates
- With College Degree, One Size Does Not Fit All
- College Is a Safe Bet
- You Can Lead Kids to College but You Can't Make Them Learn
- A College Degree Is Well Worth the Time, Cost, and Effort
- Some Career Pathways Require a Four-Year College Degree, Many Don't
- Going to College Is a Mistake for Many
- Average Student Debt Reaches All-Time High
- Tips for Mastering Alumni Interviews
- 4 Tips for Making the Most of Liberal Arts Degrees
- Even As They Proliferate, Online MBAs Remain Controversial
- High School Teachers Make Video Gaming Academic
- Global Classrooms Use Technology to Prep Students for Workforce
- Yammer Trumps Facebook for Some Graduate Students
- How to Apply to College for Free
- President Lays Out New Student Loan Rules
- Some Recommend Working for Colleges for Free Tuition
- 4 Tech Tips for Parents to Embrace Digital Education
- How to Go to Medical School for Free
- Students Can Ditch Competition by Interning This Spring
- 5 New Ways Colleges Are Reaching High School Students
- College Admissions Officials Turn to Facebook to Research Students
- At Some Colleges, Professors Live in Dorms, Too
- The Viability and Fairness of Value-Added Models for STEM Teachers
- High School Students Learning by Skype
- The Unorthodox Success Strategies of Millionaires
- 7 Ways to Slip Through the Sophomore Slump
- Colleges Step Up to Meet Dyslexia Challenge
- How to Save Time On Your College Applications
- Common Application Goes Mobile With New Site
- Baby Boomers Keep Learning With Continuing Education Classes
- Why Math and Science Education Means More Jobs
- AP Test Results Offer Hope for STEM Education in U.S.
- Companies Must Play a Vital Role in STEM Education
- Output Metrics Increasingly Influence College Decisions
- 6 Ways to Network While You're in College
- SAT Reading Scores Lowest in 40 Years
- Growing Number of College Grads Filing for Bankruptcy Protection
- Back to School and Deeper in Debt
- Dipping Into Your Retirement Account to Pay for College
- Colleges Offer Hidden Savings to Students
- 5 Ways Commuters Can Make Campus Feel Like Home
- Dropouts Rob Government and Economy of Billions
- Student Loans Pack Surprising Benefits
- These Free Websites Help Students With Classwork
- Investing in Education Is Smart Business
- STEM Education - It's Elementary
- STEM Education and Teachers: The Critical Link
Copyright © 2012 U.S. News & World Report