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Background:
After an academic dismissal from an undergraduate program, I have been working towards improving my GPA (as well as my own academic habits) at a community college, in hopes that after receiving an associates degree, I can move forward with to earn a bachelors and hopefully enter a graduate program. I know that I still have a ways to go before I am prepared enough to re-enter a university, but I feel that it's something within my grasp.

Grades for the fall semester were posted today, and in two out of the three classes I took this semester, I got an 'A'. This is a pleasant surprise, since I have had to miss a few classes and was worried about my performance on assignments overall. However, I got an 'F' in my third class. This makes me a little distraught as well as confused. I know my shortcomings, and I believe that I should receive the grade I deserve, regardless of the extenuating circumstances that tend to pop up in my life. I've earned my fair share of poor grades - 'F's included, and I have never disagreed with it because it reflected the work (or lack thereof) I put in.

That being said, I am uncertain that my performance deserves an 'F'. I don't think that I should be getting an 'A' or a 'B,' and even a 'C' seems excessive if I did not meet what is required, but the failing grade doesn't sit right with me. I am considering emailing my professor, and if it comes to it, following the procedures for a grade appeal, but that makes me more worried than another 'F' on my transcript.

The Question:
Is going through a grade appeal, or even just emailing the professor to inquire about how the score was reached, worth it? I'm worried that the mere mention of being incorrectly graded will hurt my future. If I try for an appealed grade and fail, will that be reflected on my transcript? Given my already rocky academic history, I'm worried that I will come off as indignant and that I do not possess the skills required of me.

In the broadest terms and applying to students of any level (ranging from undergraduate to graduate to everything else): Can a grade appeal that is not granted affect a person's transcript, reputation and/or perception throughout their academic career?

  • If you do lots of grade appeals, it will be remembered and may be reflected in any references that are wrote for you. I would not expect one unsuccessful grade appeal to have any effect provided you go about it in a nice way. – Ian Dec 18 '15 at 11:50
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Can a grade appeal that is not granted affect a person's transcript, reputation and/or perception throughout their academic career?

I have never heard of a school that lists grade appeals on a student's transcript, and to me that sounds about as logical as listing on your transcript that you wore the wrong shirt color. But that doesn't prove that such a school doesn't exist, so only a professor or staff member at your school can give an authoritative answer to that question. Why don't you ask them?

As for affecting your reputation or people's perception of you: well, any interaction we have with other people has some potential to affect our reputation or people's perception of us, so the literal answer to your question is "yes." It's reasonable to worry about that a little bit, but on the other hand if we all spent too much time worrying about such things, we'd never get very much done. In your case, what I suggest is that you go to your professor (or email him) and explain that you are surprised by your grade and would like to understand why you got an F, among other reasons so that you can learn from the experience and do better next time. Ask if you can review your final exam and possibly go over it with him to understand what you got wrong. Don't sound like you are assuming that you deserve a better grade or that the F grade couldn't possibly be correct, since that could come across as entitled, arrogant, and possibly delusional. If you ask the question in such a way, I don't see how you can possibly leave a bad impression with the professor -- this is a reasonable request that most professors hear all the time and are usually happy to help with.

  • +1; approaching the professor in a non confrontational way is the best opening. – Davidmh Dec 18 '15 at 9:06
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Of course emailing the professor is worth it!

Mistakes happen. Talking to the professor seems like the first step. In my experience, professors are happy to help students understand their grades.

If it wasn't a mistake, you still need to know why you got a bad grade so that you can learn. What is interesting though is that you are shocked by your grade. Did you not get any feedback or any grades throughout the semester? Did the professor give you a syllabus with information about how grades are calculated?

If you think there was a mistake, then talking to the professor should remedy that (bring any evidence you have, such as all your graded homeworks, quizes, and exams). If that doesn't work, then each university has their own appeal process and you should look into that and find someone to talk to (e.g., the chair of the department or the dean of students).

  • The class was a session IV class, which only means it was an 8 week course that relied on being an online and in-class learning experience. However, we didn't get the syllabus until almost half way through the course. A lot of other things worked against the class. The books for the course weren't in the bookstore for some time, the professor was unprepared for most of the course (it wasn't his fault; he was asked to teach the course last minute, was told at first it was a normal sociology course so he prepared for that, but it was a social problems course which requires different material) … – Shmoo Dec 18 '15 at 0:46
  • (pt 2) and he did not have access to post quizzes and other material until later on. There was just a lot of mismanagement that happened, mostly thanks to it being a community college in a state not known for fabulous education spending. IT issues happened, and in all three of my classes. This is not to be an excuse, just explain that there was little feedback available for course work. – Shmoo Dec 18 '15 at 0:53
  • @Shmoo It sounds as though the class was in trouble from the start. If you hit that again, consider dropping the class before it can affect your GPA. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 18 '15 at 4:27
  • @PatriciaShanahan I'll keep that in mind come January. I should get in the habit of hedging my bets when it comes to courses and drop ones that seem to be heading south sooner. – Shmoo Dec 18 '15 at 4:32
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    @Shmoo That sounds like a bit of a mess! I would definitely try talking to the professor though and share all your concerns, including everything you mentioned in the comments. – Austin Henley Dec 18 '15 at 4:40
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You should ask your undergraduate office about this; I suspect the answer will be that the appeals process won't be reflected anywhere, since this is not an academic integrity issue.

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Take the list of problems to the dean and ask that your F be converted to a W (withdrawn).

I made this request once, on behalf of a young man in my community who was having severe personal and family problems, landed in jail (long story), and flunked all his classes for that semester. I did this so that once the young man got to a better place in his life, he would be able to try again with school if he wanted to. Naturally, the young man wrote a letter authorizing me to work with the dean on his behalf.

Your justification for the request would be quite different from the one I presented on the young man's behalf, but it would be quite justified.

Leave out all the stuff from your first paragraph. It's not relevant to this request. Just say that you found the course frustrating due to all the problems that you outlined, and were dismayed to find that your gpa and transcript suffered as a result of many things that were beyond your control.

Rationale for my answer: the department and the community college are responsible for the quality of the teaching. If you wanted to be really assertive about this (which I don't recommend in this case), you could even ask for a partial tuition refund.

Community colleges are a wonderful institution. But sometimes they need a little nudge towards getting better organized.

What you will be showing by advocating for yourself in this way: that you care about your education. That is nothing to be embarrassed about.

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