Monday, September 18, 2017

When should you obsess about grades?

As my English 101 course ended this Spring, I got several emails from students, all saying pretty much the same thing.
Help!! I really need a B in this class and I just realized that my average is C minus!! What can I do?? Is there any extra credit I can do to pull up my grade?
These emails came in at the start of Finals Week, and all the work of the class had been submitted. There were literally no more points to be earned. Time for a little bit of realism:
  • Week 14 is too late to begin worrying about your grades. Most college courses rely on an accumulation of information and points, so if you are concerned about your grades, Week 2 is a better time to start worrying.
  • Put the pressure on the right person. If your grades are low, put the pressure on yourself, not on your teacher.
  • If you know you will struggle in a class, ask for help. It's always available.
  • Few teachers give extra-credit assignments. I don't. Extra-credit puts extra work on the shoulders of the teacher, and is unfair to the rest of the students who did the work during the term. Besides, extra-credit doesn't usually fit into the syllabus. (Just for reference, it would have taken a nearly perfect—198 out of 200—8-page paper to have raised that C minus grade to a B in English 101. The arithmetic of averages means that you can't turn in a 10-point assignment and do much to an 800-point course.)
  • Most teachers have rules about revisions, late papers, etc., and the rules vary from one teacher to another. Read the syllabus.