Grades and Stress: College Professors were Students Once Upon a TimeFirst off, full disclosure: I was once a college student. Shocking, yes, I know, but every professor that you know has sat in your shoes in some form or another. Now you might be studying online while juggling work and family, or maybe you go part time or to a community college or are studying something entirely different than your professor, but the reality is that when it comes down to stressing out about grades, every professor has sat in your shoes, whether it was a few years ago or during the Stone Age.
What does that mean for you, the college student?
Most likely your professor has rose-colored memories about their time in college, especially those that chose to pursue their careers in academia and higher learning. Your professor was the kid in college that not only enjoyed learning about business or humanities or biology or computer science so much that s/he decided to spend the rest of their life in the pursuit of imparting knowledge on the topic and burying themselves deep in research.
You know the kind - the over-achieving student who made everyone else look bad by turning in a 25 page dissertation for this week's short essay on Socrates. That kid. And now that kid is teaching you!
If you are stressing about your grades or feel that the instructor is being unfair, remember that your professor is human when you communicate with them.
3 Excuses You Never Email to Your Professor
"It's SOOO UNFAIR that you mek us do soo much WRK!!!!!! My last techer gaeve me 100% aon all myassignments ."
Firstly, please take a moment to spell check your work. Yes, you may be texting or using a voice-text translator, but make sure that the e-mail makes some sense. Secondly, in common Netiquette (or etiquette for the Internet), ANYTHING IN CAPS IS CONSIDERED YELLING!!!!!!!!!! See how rude that was? Would you go up to your boss and scream your demands in his or her face? Do you treat your loved ones this way? (And if so, go take some anger management classes). This type of communication puts anyone on the defensive.
"My computer stopped working after my great-great aunt's brother-in-law died last week while I had a cold and then my girlfriend accidently erased my file before I got in that freak snow-blowing accident and ended up in the hospital for three weeks which is why I haven't done any work for the past two months in your class. Can I make it up?"
If you have an upcoming conflict or genuine issue like an ongoing illness, please contact your instructor before assignments are due or at the beginning of the course.
There are some issues that may need additional help from the school's disability office that can help you pass the course and have extra time to complete work. If you let your instructor know up front, you can work together.
Usually you might have to take an exam early or have extra time to finish a paper, but piling on excuses (even if they are true) well after assignments are due looks like irresponsibility even if it is not.
If you have a genuine accident or unforeseen emergency (like a death in the family) contact your academic adviser and your professor (or have a family member do this for you). They can work together to help you through this time.
If you have technical issues, call your university tech support.
With libraries, free wifi at coffeehouses, and everyone and her grandmother having access to a tablet, smartphone, or laptop, there is no excuse for skipping work because of technology, and most professors will see it that way.
The Tough Professor
In the case that you have one of the those professors that expects you to complete a thesis while you are on your deathbed, then you can choose to complete the work regardless, take an incomplete, or drop the class. We have all had those professors that believe that their class should be more important than any other class or family or work or anything, and you need work around them.
The Online Professor
If you take classes online and your instructor is skeptical, contact your academic adviser. Realize that online instructors like myself receive dozens of excuses and do not have the benefit of verifying what you e-mail, but if you work with an adviser they can contact your instructor if you actually do need an extension or additional help.
"I'm paying for this class with my money. I'm contacting my adviser. Thanks for making
In this economy and the growing sentiment that college is not worth it, some students feel that if they pay for a class then they deserve an "A" regardless of their work ethic. Private and public colleges that have been accused of being paper mills especially seem to attract students who believe that they can simply "pay" for a degree, and maybe that is true at some places. But here is some genuine advice:
If you cannot afford to go to college now and are not ready to take the time and work that it takes to earn a degree, then maybe you should wait until you are ready.
Yes, a college degree over the course of your lifetime will earn you a million dollars more and help you get further in your career. It will set up an academic legacy for your family and your children. It will establish a track of academic success.
But you cannot earn a degree if you do not have the time, resources,
and work ethic necessary.
Be smart about your education. Don't go into $150,000 in student debt to be a writer, instead take a few classes at your community college, join a writer's group, and self-publish. The same goes for any career that is volatile or not well-paying like education, social work/psychology, and the humanities. The economy has changed, and about 50% of current college grads end up unemployed.
Don't drown yourself in student debt if you cannot pay it back in less than five years (some experts recommend even less than that).
If you genuinely cannot finish your work and are stressed out about the financial commitment, meet with your academic adviser and discuss options available like withdrawing from classes, going part time, taking a lighter load, taking classes with a different professor, changing your major, or even transferring to a more affordable community college. If you academic adviser sounds like a salesperson pressing your to take more classes, then you need to reconsider the college your are attending. Academic advisers should have the student's interest at heart, not meeting the freshman quota for that year. And most have access to resources to help you succeed.
So next time you are stressed out because of grades and work, just take a moment, breathe, and consider your options. You might be surprised how easy it is to work with your professor and pass the class.