Advice to College Students Considering Grade Grubbing
I'm about to submit my second set of final grades. Already I've gotten emails about these grades-complaining, cajoling, even pleading-for better grades. And these emails are one of the worst parts of being a professor.

Now, let me make this clear. I've made mistake calculating grades. The general grading policy of the universities I work for stipulate that I have to submit final grades within 48 hours of giving the exam. Since I teach writing courses, it takes time to evaluate an exam. Thus, after hours and hours of reading exams, I have to sit down with a calculator and figure out what all these numbers mean. Even under the BEST of circumstances I'm not good with basic math, but when I'm tired, stressed, and rushed-well-occasionally I make mistakes.

I'm not complaining about when a student brings a legitimate issue to my attention. When students bring these errors to my attention, I apologize and correct them.

In the last 3 years, I've made 2 calculation errors and corrected both.

The majority of emails I receive are asking me to change final grades for any variety of reasons including that the grade doesn't reflect the "effort" the student put in.

If you are such a student, consider the following points before you grade grub:

1. Grades, unfortunately, do not measure effort. I make myself very available during office hours to work with students who are struggling with the material, but at the end of the day I have to grade based on the criteria I set out. Now, if you ARE struggling with the material, seek help DURING the semester. Most universities have oodles of free support, from tutors and group tutorials to writing centers, all designed to aid students achieve the grades they want.

Furthermore, most professors are required to hold office hours-USE THEM. I have to sit in my office even if not a single student shows up. Why not take advantage of the opportunity?

2. If there "family issues" during the semester (like emergencies or illnesses), keep your professors informed. Don't just spring it on them after they submit grades. If I know about your difficulties during the semester, I'm more than willing to work with you-give you extensions, cover lecture materials, etc-but suddenly informing me AFTER the semester seems, unfortunately, like you are trying to exploit your hardship in order to get a better grade.

3.Grades are not about feelings-mine or yours. The most common grade grubbing trope is "I don't FEEL like I deserve X grade." As I said before, grades measure your achievement against an objective set of criteria. I may like you as a student, but if your paper or assignment doesn't make the minimum set of requirements, I'll fail you. I may not LIKE failing you, but I'll do it. You may not LIKE failing, but that doesn't make the assessment invalid.

If you can point to specific indicators that the grade is WRONG (ie I miscalculated), then that is a valid objection. Just not liking the grade you received doesn't convince me that I made a mistake.

If you still decide to go ahead and grade grub, take the following advice:

This is ESPECIALLY true if you are writing an email to an English professor. I can't tell you how PAINFUL some of these emails are. From example a recent email posed this question "So can you the reason?" A large SECTION of that question is missing, which if the student hadn't taken more time to proofread, he/she would have noticed (I hope). These emails, quite honestly, are an INSULT to me and unlikely to persuade me. If you really want to convince me, show me what you have learned.

2. BE POLITE! You are asking me to do you a favor. As such, you should open your email with a greeting and a pleasantry (i.e. Hello Prof. X, How are doing?) Don't just launch into your request.

3.Be prepared to hear "No" While I am generally polite when I respond to a student's request, I'm often SERIOUSLY annoyed. Some professors, after years of coping, are no longer as kind as I am. As a result, you should be emotionally prepared to get an email like the ones my colleague pens in which he openly tells students their requests are INSULTING TO HIM.

Honestly, we DREAD getting grade grubbing emails. So just be aware of that before you decide to send that email.

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