College Students, Use Your Power

You have more power than you think.

A major misconception held by many college students is they can't or shouldn't question grades and they are powerless to get rid of poor teaching or to effect systemic school-wide change. It's just the opposite. Students, both individually and collectively YOU ARE A FORCE!

Think about it for a moment. Chances are college is costing $20,000 to $60,000 per year as well as building a big debt you'll have to pay off in the future.

I don't know about you, but if I spend that kind of "bread," I want to be satisfied with the quality of the product and have lots of input. You do!

What's most important is to approach your concerns professionally. Before taking any action; plan, document and have all relevant data at hand.

Here's One Example:

You are taking a course and receiving grades that you feel don't accurately reflect the quality of your work. You have every right (in a polite manner,) to request a sit-down with the professor to discuss what's on your mind. Most will accommodate you. Make your case, listen and take notes on what the professor says.

If he/she agrees with you, great. If their critique seems valid then accept and learn from it. You'll find an appreciation on the part of educators for students who really listen. The likelihood is they'll have more respect and pay closer attention to your work in the future.

Suppose the meeting doesn't net you the results for which you are looking. You think you've made a cogent case and deserve better grades. If that's so, challenge the grades through the proper administrative channels.

Most every college has a procedure to do this. Find the process from your school's on-line site, or if you can't locate it, contact the Dean of Students office. They will be responsive.

There's no guarantee you'll be successful, but there's an even chance you will. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying.

Another Example:

If you're like me, you've had a professor that is "impossible." They are disorganized, don't discuss their expectations, often digress with personal stories, speak in a dull monotone, don't explain complex issues masterfully, don't cover the curriculum and then expect you to pass exams. Here's where you use your collective power.

Rarely will you be the only student in the class having this experience. You can bet your bottom dollar many of your peers feel the same way. Don't wait until the semester is three quarters over before you act. Give it a couple of weeks and if the quality of instruction doesn't improve take action.

You may begin as a small group courteously approaching the professor during office hours. Never put an individual on the spot in front of a group. That's a recipe for confrontation and defensiveness in all areas of life.

Explain your concerns and see what happens. If you receive a positive reception that's great. However, in a case like this you may find the professor resistant and unwilling or unable to change.

Don't wait for the end of semester teacher evaluation forms. At that point you've wasted the term. Give it a couple of weeks. If there's no change then take action!

A Thought: Figure out how many classes the course has and what you are paying per session. It might blow your mind and motivate you to take act more swiftly.

As a group, (there is so much power in numbers,) craft a succinct letter outlining the situation. Send it to the Department Chair and request a sit-down. Present your case, be politely forceful and let the Chairman know just how you feel. He/she may or may not be in a position to help. Sometimes their hands are tied. On the other hand, they have an obligation to investigate.

If you don't achieve the desired result you have recourse to all sorts of social media to express the facts. Don't get into personalities, but simply post anecdotal stories about the class.

If it doesn't help you for the current semester, it will still do two important things.

Next semester other students won't enroll in the class. You'll also benefit indirectly because the school will see that you won't put up with inferior instruction. They'll feel pressure to make changes.

If not for the altruistic reason of wanting to provide you with a quality education, then with pragmatic reasons... they salivate for a good reputation and national ranking. More importantly, they want and they need your money!

Guess what? Sometimes those pesky parents can be a help as well. Have them call and write letters. You'll make them feel good for asking and maybe you'll even bond a bit more. It couldn't hurt... especially when you text for more spending money:)

We've only explored two scenarios where you as a student have the power to create positive change.

Please post your thoughts on this article and list difficult situations you come across at school. I'll address them in one of my next articles. Make sure and look for my upcoming blog:Why SAT's Should be Trashed!

Thanks for reading this post and remember you have power. Use it!