Tips for Confronting Your College Professor

Aug 15, 2007

Not happy with your grade? Want to confront your professor? You better have a game plan. According to a recent survey, most professors do not take kindly to being pestered about their grading system.

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UC Irvine Professor Survey

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To get an idea of what professors think when confronted by students who think they should have gotten a better mark, Wan-Ju (Iris) Franz surveyed 22 professors at UC Irvine for his study Grade Inflation under the Threat of Students' Nuisance.

According to Franz, 72.7 percent of survey respondents agree with the statement: 'Students' complaints about grades are annoying.'

What does this mean to you? Well, if you plan on confronting a professor about a grade, it means you better be very careful how you approach the situation:

Take a Minute

It may be best if you wait a day before confronting your professor about a grade. Many professors have this policy in place anyway. This policy gives you time to calm down instead of storming into a professor's office in an infuriated state. It also gives you time to really think about whether or not you really deserved the grade you were given. Is it the professor's fault or your own? Did you meet all the requirements she was looking for? It's often easier to blame somebody else than to take the fall yourself.

Remain Calm

If you still feel that the grade is unfair after a day, remain calm while you're talking to your professor. Becoming angry may make your professor refuse to hear any of your points because you can't control your temper. It also makes you look like an unprofessional, and possibly psychotic.

Be Polite

Manners count when trying to get what you want. However, it's easy to forget your manners if you're feeling hurt. Try to watch your tone of voice as well as your body gestures. These subtle (and not so subtle) gestures speak volumes.

Avoid Comparisons

Try not to compare your professor to other people. For instance, don't say, 'My sister, a grad student at Stanford, thought my paper was good.' This essentially translates to 'My sister is at a better school than you, so she knows more than you.' Instead of this behavior, try asking politely why you were given that grade and then ask how you can improve. Many professors love to hear that students want to improve. It makes them feel like they're doing a good job.

Be Diplomatic

Try to confront your professor in a diplomatic way, so you can get the results you want. Remember your professor is a person too, so he or she will want to be treated with respect.

Good Luck!

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