I am currently a fourth-year undergraduate at a prestigious university (top 10) and am finding myself in a difficult situation with a professor and do not know how to proceed.

For context, I was unable to complete two of a professor's courses because of health issues related to my documented disability. On both occasions, the professor allowed me to submit my assignments at a later date. I took these courses in Spring 2022 and Winter 2023 and received grades of a B+ and A-, respectively.

However, the professor submitted these grades only this month without providing any feedback. Moreover, he took a year to grade my performance in one of his courses.

I found the B+ grade anomalous since I dedicated a whole summer writing the papers for the course, and received a third of a letter grade lower than I did for his most recent one. In my opinion and the opinion of others (peers, family, etc.), those papers were some of the best I have ever produced, and I intended to use one of them as a writing sample for future job prospects. Lastly, I have never received a grade lower than A- in my entire college career, and I plan to apply to law schools.

I sent a grade appeal letter to the professor asking him to review the papers to determine whether they merit a few additional points or, at the least, provide feedback so I can understand some of the papers' serious flaws.

He has not responded to my appeal letter after a week and a half. I sent him a follow-up email with the same result.

At this point, I do not know how to proceed and would appreciate some advice.

P.S.: I cannot meet with my professor in person because I am currently at home since I have completed all the courses necessary to graduate. I also acknowledge that a B+ is an excellent grade, but please understand that grade appeals are a part of the learning process.

  • 2
    "grade appeals are a part of the learning process" -- that's a new one. Commented May 23, 2023 at 14:49
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    It seems like you are imagining that there is a meaningful, objective difference between work that merits an A- and work that merits a B+. In reality, there isn't. I do agree that you are owed at least some response from professor. On the other hand, taking a while to get back to you sounds par for the course to me if he's a busy professor. I recommend patience. Note also that your classmates presumably did not have the opportunity to spend several months writing their assignments, so it's a bit strange when you use this to argue that you might deserve a better grade. Commented May 23, 2023 at 15:45
  • To add to @AdamPřenosil comment, I frequently hear of professors taking a month to respond to things. My own perspective to add, that isn't full enough for an answer, is that there is a chance that since you had months to prepare this, the professor may have gone more strict on some aspects of grading. Mistakes like spelling, grammar, or ambiguous language may have been graded by the book for a paper having such a long preparation time. How long is the standard time given for that paper? How much longer were you given?
    – David S
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 22:28

1 Answer 1


You know that thing you do as a student, in which you have a lot of assignments to do and exams to study for, and triage which ones to do first? You get the easy stuff out of the way, the stuff with short deadlines, etc., then slowly go down the list until you get to the really hard stuff that you don't even know how to get started on? Well, professors are also people, and they do the same thing. Your situation is a sticky one from the perspective of the professor: mandated extensions because of documented disabilities involve the university disabilities office and a bunch of ambiguous regulations (lots of use of the word "reasonable", which could mean anything), grading essays (grammar issues aside, a subjective task), and lack of clear deadlines. Once the semester is over, your professor is very likely to be trying to catch up with all of the stuff they could not get done during the semester. So they might want to get to your email, it's just that the email is going to the bottom of the pile.

Professors have broad discretion on how to assign grades, and nobody of authority is going to read your written submissions and argue with a professor over a B+ vs. an A-. One thing would be a multiple-choice exam with clear answers where the correct answer was marked wrong. Another thing are essays. The fact that your friend and family think it's good work says nothing about the actual quality of the work. The fact that they say it's "some of the best I have ever produced" is just an annoying, meaningless statement. You and your family don't get to assign a grade, the professor does. Not to say that grades are not assigned on your personal improvement.

Another thing most students don't realize is that it takes a lot of time to provide detailed feedback, and that sometimes it feels that we are spending more time on feedback than the student spent writing the thing in the first place. Moreover, giving feedback is good practice, but is not required. If I suspect that the student is the litigious kind, I just don't give feedback to the student but keep notes about the reason for the grade on my files, in the unlikely case I have to explain the grade later, which never happens anyway (we are talking about end of semester projects here, I always give feedback on midterm projects, to help the student improve on following assignments.)

None of this is to say that we get to assign grades in a capricious way, or that we don't care about student learning. Many (most?) of us took teaching jobs because we love teaching, seeing our students grow, and we love talking about the details of our academic disciplines. We know how important grades are to our students, and it's one of the most difficult parts of the job, that of judging other's work and knowing that whatever we do will affect their future.

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    Thank you for your response! This gave me some perspective. Sometimes it's difficult for students, such as myself, to understand what it's like on the professor's end. I'll definitely be more patient.
    – John Doe
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 21:34

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