By Sydney Nolan
Yikes! You just got back that history test you spent all last week cramming for, and your grade is NOT what you expected – not even close. How’s a pre-collegiette supposed to keep her parents from freaking, prevent her grades from tanking for the semester, and manage all the other stresses in her life? Try managing your next grade freak-out with these three easy steps guaranteed to help you deal with and move on from any grade shocker.
First, don’t panic. Stop and think about what you’ve just received.
It’s super, super hard, but in order to handle a grade you’re not so happy with, it’s important to step away from the situation for a while. “When I get a bad grade, I quickly look at the grade and then put the assignment away. Reading through the red marks on my paper only makes me feel worse, so I save that for later when I recover from that heart-dropping feeling of seeing my grade,” says Julia, who recently graduated from HP Baldwin High School. Anywhere from ten minutes to a day or two works as a cooling off period depending on how you feel about handling the situation. Emotions in check? Go for it. Still steaming? Probably better to wait at least a period or two. (Of course, the exception to this comes when then end of the semester is looming and you need to deal with things ASAP to make sure grades are correct on a transcript or report card.)
Once you’ve given the grade (and the person who gave it to you) some time and space, it also helps to put the grade in context so you can decide how you’ll move forward. As much as it might suck to admit to yourself, think about whether or not you just possibly might have gotten a grade you truly did deserve. Did you work as hard as you know you should’ve? If you’re comfortable, check with your friends and see what they thought of the assignment or final grades. Do their results seem comparable to what you ended up with? Hannah Gibbs, a alum of Strawberry Crest High School, uses her friends as a good barometer when she receives an unexpected result. “When I get a bad grade on a test, I usually talk to my other classmates about it,” she says. “If they didn't do as badly as I did, I kind of then end up feeling bad. When it's at this point, I review what I did wrong and if there's an opportunity to fix it I do, but if there's not I don't let it bug me. I move on and leave it alone.” It can be painful, but it sometimes helps to double-check and make sure what you expected is actually reasonable or feasible.
It’s also important to put the assignment, test, or paper into context. If it’s just a minor quiz, it might not be worth getting too upset or worried over it. If it’s early in the semester or you’ve got bigger opportunities coming up, it also may not merit too much of your time or attention. Even if you plan to protest or pursue a grade change, it can still be helpful to put it in a larger context. Presenting your arguments in a bigger context could help strengthen some of your claims.
Second, come up with an action plan.
If you’ve decided to do something about a grade you’re unhappy with, you’ve got at least a few options at your disposal. Think about your options, and decide which one makes the most sense for the situation you’re in.
First, you can always approach your teacher and see if they’d be willing to take a second look at your work and potentially re-think your grade. The key with this strategy is to approach a teacher politely, calmly, and respectfully, and state your case as logically as possible. Explain what you found surprising or didn’t expect about the grade you’re contesting, and give them an idea of what it is you want the teacher to do for you. Walking in and demanding they change your grade won’t get you anywhere. Explaining how you studied hard, giving them examples of different things you did like make flash cards or study with other classmates, and asking for partial credit on certain questions is more productive. This is also a good time to clarify why you lost points on something if you’re still confused, or (nicely!) point out any mistakes you think were made when calculating a final grade.