Failing your class? Be careful when approaching your professor

FILE- There is hope for students hoping to salvage a failing grade as the semester ends. (File/ The Daily Campus)

Students facing the prospect of a failing grade can still salvage their GPA but should be careful in how they approach a professor about it at the end of the year, said Kathleen Ragon, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut.

The first step is to assess the level of effort put into a class, Ragon said.

“The biggest thing that annoys professors and faculty is when students don’t put in the effort all semester and expect a grade change,” Ragon said.

Students have to remember they have access to a resource that answers any question they might have about a class, Ragon said.

“Students need to look at the syllabus, anything you might need to know about a class is in the syllabus,” Ragon said. “If there is extra credit or a policy on turning in late work, it should all be in the syllabus.”

Darcie Dennigan, an English professor at UConn, believes students should do anything they can in order to fix their grade.

“Approaching the professor at all takes a lot of courage, that means the student is facing down their mistakes,” Dennigan said.

With one week left in classes, the chance for significant changes in grades aren’t high, but finals can be an aid, Ragon said.

“Some classes have the final count as a large part of the grade, so there is a chance to pull a passing grade there,” Ragon said.

For classes that don’t have such an opportunity and further action is required, preparation is needed before moving forward, Ragon said.

“If you do decide to approach your professor and talk with them, go in with an understanding of what your own commitments to the class has been,” Ragon said. “Don’t go in there expecting that the professor will give you a passing grade. Your grades are earned, so you get the grade with the effort that you give.”

For students who are unhappy with their grade, Ragon suggests going back and reflecting on the effort they had put into the class.

“If you think your effort is genuinely not reflected in the grade, just try to be respectful when you contact the professor, whether it be in person or through email,” Ragon said. “Explain your situation and don’t approach it as though you expect them to change the grade.”

Communication with a professor is key in order to save a grade, but how that conversation goes is in the hands of the student, Ragon said.

“Never ask to just be given points, because I think some students don’t realize that the grades are calculated on a specific scale,” Ragon said. “Don’t do this especially if extra credit is offered, because you clearly had the opportunity to get those points.”

Although a change in a grade is not a guarantee, professors are often understanding and willing to help a student if they show effort, Dennigan said.

“I believe in the comeback, in second chances. Call it whatever you want but we’ve got to model to our students not only consequences and responsibility but also clemency,” Dennigan said. “Goodness knows I have asked the same from my own students for my failings as a professor very often.”

At this time of year, professors also acknowledge how high stress students can become and remind everyone to be mindful of themselves and others, Ragon said.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to community mental health services and all the other resources we have on campus,” Ragon said. “This time of year is crazy stressful for everyone and it’s always better to reach out if you’re feeling overwhelmed and just talk to someone.”


Naiela Suleiman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at naiela.suleiman@uconn.edu.