How to Deal With a Bad Grade

We all know that feeling: logging onto CourseLink seeing that dreaded yellow dot, and bracing yourself for the worst before you can finally bring yourself to click it. Sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised, but other times your heart sinks as you realize that all of those late nights at the library haven’t actually paid off. You put your heart and soul into that essay but your TA just didn’t see its magic. Or maybe you didn’t have enough time to study for that midterm and your performance was less than exceptional. Whatever the reason, the feeling of getting a bad grade just sucks. So how do you deal with it? Here’s the five things you need to do after receiving a disappointing mark.

1.Step away from the computer

If you just got a bad mark back, your emotions are likely all over the place. You’re disappointed in yourself, you’re mad at your TA, you’re sad about school, and you’re worried about your future in this course. Your first instinct is probably to write a strongly-worded e-mail to your TA demanding a regrade. Don’t do it! Give yourself at least 24 hours to relax, calm down, and get your mind off of school. Spend some time with a friend or watch a movie to distract yourself. One grade doesn’t define you! The worst thing you can do to yourself is dwell on a poor grade, so take some me-time before you decide what to do next.

2.Read your feedback

We often feel shocked to receive a bad grade because we spent a lot of time and effort on an assignment. Only people who do assignments last-minute are supposed to do poorly, right? This isn’t always the case. The quickest way to lose marks on an assignment is misinterpreting the instructions or forgetting a significant component. It’s possible that the reason for your disappointing grade wasn’t because of the quality of your work, but because you didn’t fulfill the criteria your professor was looking for. Before you accuse your TA of marking you incorrectly, carefully review the feedback they have given you and compare your assignment to any guidelines or rubrics provided. 

3.Ask any questions

Once you have carefully reviewed your feedback, there still may be sections where you require more clarification. There’s also the possibility that you disagree with your feedback and want to bring up your concerns with your TA. Now is the time to ask any questions you may have about your grade. It’s important to be very careful about how you go about doing this. Never directly accuse a TA of marking you unfairly. Remember: even though it may feel like it, TAs aren’t trying to sabotage your grade. They were undergraduate students once too! Be courteous and professional, clearly address your concerns, and ask for any additional feedback they may have for you. Make it clear that you want to do well in this course and you aren’t simply asking to be handed a higher grade. Sometimes your TA will increase your mark by a couple points, but other times you might have to just accept it.

4.Get extra help

If you have realized that the reason for your grade was because you simply didn’t understand the course material, now is the time to make some changes. Have you been attending class? Have you been doing all of the assigned readings and practice questions? If you’re on top of your studies but you’re still struggling to get a grade you’re proud of, make the effort to get extra help. Go to office hours, find a friend to study with, or consider hiring a tutor. If you ever need clarification on an assignment, don’t be scared to e-mail your TA or the professor. You’re paying for your education, so get the most out of it!

5.Fight back!

As much as it sucks to get a disappointing grade, it’s an amazing learning opportunity for the future. Don’t let a bad grade slow you down, let it fuel your motivation to work harder! Thanks to the feedback provided by your TA, you now know exactly what they’re looking for on future assignments. This is a powerful tool that some students in your class don’t have, so use it to your advantage! Keep this experience in mind as you move forward in the course. The best feeling in the world is when you click that little yellow dot on CourseLink and realize that all of your hard work has finally paid off.