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Last Updated On: November 3rd, 2020

I hear it every semester. “What do I do?” “AH! I’m going to end with a B!” Well, there are many things you can do to increase a grade, but let’s take it from the top.

Scenario: You’re sipping hot chocolate by the fire in early October…then mid October hits. Your hair begins to mold into what can only be described as a bird’s nest and your eyes are red from lack of sleep and constant tears. This is what we call the mid semester push. Usually mid term grades are due and students begin to PANIC. LEVEL 5 panic. By mid December you’re still a disaster from the October stress and you feel like you just can’t get ahead of the workload. How are you supposed to get extra credit if you can barely keep your head afloat? It’s an easy answer, really…PLAN AHEAD.

Step 1: Get to know your teachers EARLY.

I’m not talking general pleasantries in a Zoom class. You need to KNOW your teachers. How, you ask?

  • Go to office hours. Weekly. Make it a routine. Now I do know this feels scary so let me explain. When you routinely meet a teacher it shows them many things.
  • #1 You are struggling in their class and need help. Desperately, weekly.
  • #2 If you’re not struggling, it says, “I like your class. Thank you for the extra time and help in this subject area that interests me.”
  • #3 No matter how often you go, it shows you VALUE them and their contribution to your education. If it’s a class you really don’t need the extra assist in, just go once every couple of weeks. The message will still come across loud and clear.
  • ESPECIALLY WHILE ONLINE LEARNING….GO. TO. OFFICE. HOURS. There is much less interaction between the students and teachers now, so it’s really important to build a bridge and get the one-on-one education you deserve. Teachers are eager to communicate and work with their students. Use them as a resource. No matter how busy they act or seem, it’s important to remember this is part of their job. They are there for you as your personal tutor.
  • Also…always have at least 1-3 questions ready to go. (EVEN IF YOU KNOW THE ANSWER). That’s right. I said it.
  • Cornell University does a great job defining office hours, “[Professors and teaching assistants] expect students to “drive” these meetings with their questions and their thought. A good way to prepare for office hours is to attempt your homework and review your notes from class and from readings and identify as clearly as you can what you do not understand.”
  • For more details on what to anticipate from office hours, check out the full article from Cornell: What are office hours?
  • It’s a great ice breaker to ask your teacher to demonstrate a problem. They will show you their step by step method and may even tell you, “This one is on the test. SHHH.” It’s happened.
  • And if you don’t know anything in the class you’ve chosen to attend for, come with 20 questions. Teachers may say come back every day. If so, go back every day. They clearly want to help you.

For more advice on how to use Office Hours to the fullest, check out UNC: Chapel Hill’s Learning Center tips: Using Office Hours Effectively – Learning Center

Step 2: Ask for good, ole, tried and true extra credit.

It’s important to remember this is a controversial move. Some teachers despise extra credit, while others are very open to giving you opportunities throughout the semester.

  • It truly depends on the teacher. However, I have seen multiple teachers change their mind on this hot button issue throughout the school year. Especially if you are seeing a teacher regularly for office hours, they will often budge. Remember office hours show your commitment to doing well in their class. That’s what extra credit is too. It’s meant to be that extra boost for the students devoting themselves to the material.
  • So why do teachers hate this one so much? Because many students wait to ask for this one to two weeks before grades are due. So? Why is this a problem? Because usually teachers are cramming in all of their grades and trying to get them in on time for the students. Adding extra papers, projects, and assignments isn’t helping them in ANY way. It’s actually doubling their work.
  • Why not think ahead then? Ask for extra credit the minute you see your grade faltering. Right after you tank the group project or the paper goes horribly wrong. ASK. Not out of the blue. Email them. Communicate! Go to office hours. Explain your worry about your grade. Ask, “What can I do to improve my grade?” I guarantee if you put in the time and effort your teacher will have mercy and give you a chance to earn those points back.
  • And don’t you DARE tell me that’s never going to happen. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen a teacher give a kid a project mid semester to help them get their grade up. I’ve seen a teacher that hated extra credit give 20 points to a student for coming to office hours regularly. I’ve even seen a teacher let a student retake their final exam.
  • It really boils down to respect. Remember that this teacher is a person and wants to be appreciated. Show them kindness and they will in turn show you some right back.

Step 3: Beg for retakes!

Retaking tests, quizzes. Redoing projects, assignments. It really is that simple.

  • Listen, we all have bad days. We have all suffered from the pretest stress that creeps into our sleep. We have all woken up exhausted, sick to our stomach, and dreading the test before us. If you fail something or even get a C, I’d say it’s fair game. Just ask. What’s the absolute worst your teacher can do or say? Maybe they will laugh at you. Maybe they will say, “NO!” But how will you know what they might say if you never ask.
  • This is where the office hours really come in like a white knight in shining armor…“Picture a student who feels a strong personal connection to her teacher, talks with her teacher frequently, and receives more constructive guidance and praise rather than just criticism from her teacher. The student is likely to trust her teacher more, show more engagement in learning, behave better in class and achieve at higher levels academically” (American Psychological Association).
  • To read the entire article on building teacher student relationships, visit APA’s website: Improving students’ relationships with teachers
  • If you already have that solid relationship retaking a test won’t feel like such a big ask. It will feel like you asked your superior for an opportunity to improve. And if they’re already seeing you improve in class they will 100% want to see you continue that growth.
  • If you think this is also an urban legend, you are mistaken. I can assure you that students are constantly being offered retake opportunities. Often this happens when the teacher sees the abysmal score you never imagined you could produce and they know you can do better.
  • They may give you a lecture on how you didn’t study and all that gibberish, but just take it in stride, hang your head low, and play up the puppy dog eyes.
  • Now let me be clear, you can’t ask for tons of redos and retakes. If this is becoming a regular occurrence, it’s important to address these issues before you flunk the next exam.
    Don’t just accept that you’re a “bad test taker.” Check out our latest blogs on handling test anxiety before and even during the test:
    Test Anxiety: Dealing With Stress Before Your Test Day
    Test Anxiety: Dealing With Stress on Test Day
    Test Anxiety: Dealing With Stress During Your Test
  • Also remember that teachers only want the best for your academic career. If you DID study and it was still an epic fail, then examine what you did closely. How did you study? Ask your teacher genuinely…”How should I be studying? This is what I did. It didn’t seem to work very well.” This kind of open communication is key.
  • Once again, teachers are friends, not demons. Say it with me in the back.

End your semester with the grade you want and not the grade you’ve accepted. Plan ahead and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You most likely have a team of supporters behind you just waiting to cheer you on.

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