Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Perfect" Student Discovers She Has A Lot To Learn

Dear Tazi:

I am finishing my first semester of college and I am not sure how I am going to explain my grades to my parents. I have always been a perfect student - perfect G.P.A., even with A.P. [advanced placement] courses, participation in sports and band, and a part-time job. School always came easy to me, so I never had to study hard. College is something altogether different.

I am living on campus, so my semester started off a little shaky. I thought the classes would be a little harder than high school, so I studied a little harder and spent a lot of time socializing and getting to know the people who live in my dorm. After my first round of tests, I realized that I needed to cut back on my partying and concentrate on my studies. Thankfully, there are laws that prevent the school from sending my parents my grades, so I was able to fib my way through explaining my midterm grades. I told my parents that my grades were not my best and let them think I had a few A-minuses instead of all B's and C's.

I have worked hard through the remainder of the semester and taken on extra credit work which has helped me to boost my grade to an A in four of my five classes. The last class remains at a B+. I have spoke with my professors and they have all told me that they are impressed with the turn-around in my work, and that if I keep up with my attendance and academic performance I will be assured an A in their class. The exception is the class where I have a B+; my professor has told me that the best I can hope for is an A-minus, since I earned a C on my first exam. I have begged and pleaded, but this professor is not budging - she believes that the numerical grade you earn is the grade you have earned, and counts nothing towards improved work over the course of the semester. It is too late to drop the class, plus it is a prerequisite to a class I need to take next semester, so I really can't drop it.

I have computed my G.P.A. based upon my prospective grades, and a single A-minus will drag me down from a 4.0 to a 3.93. How will I explain this to my parents? I just know they are going to be angry and upset, and will pressure me to move home where they can keep a closer eye on me. I really enjoy living in the dorm, and not because of the social scene. I like the independence of being able to come and go as I please without having to explain where I am going and when I will be back and if I have finished my homework. For the first time in my life I feel free, and I don't want to lose this feeling! Help!

Academic Disappointment

Dear Academic Disappointment:

I am hoping your signature is in reference to how you feel about your grades and not how you feel about yourself! A 3.93 G.P.A. during your first semester of college is no small accomplishment! As you have discovered, moving away to college is a big adjustment, and without the supervision of ever-watchful parents mistakes can be made. It was a very intelligent and mature move on your part that you recognized the effect your social life was taking on your grades and took steps to make amends. Now it is time to for a reality check: Nobody starts college with a 4.0 G.P.A. Each semester starts with a 0.0 G.P.A. and you work to raise it.

Think about things this way: You have a class with 10 assignments; each assignment is worth 10 points, for a total of 100 points at the end of the semester, with a traditional grade breakdown: 90 - 100 points = A; 80 - 90 points = B, and so on and so forth. If you do nothing all semester, you have not earned the 90 - 100 points required for an A; you have the same 0 points you started with - and that is an F. You did not start the semester with 100 points and work your way down to 0; you started with 0 and ended there, too. In your case, you completed your coursework and earned the necessary grades to go from 0.00/4.00 to 3.93/4.00. Now can you see all you have accomplished?

If your parents are expecting you to earn a perfect 4.0 during your first semester of college while living away from home for the first time they have unrealistically high expectations of you and you can tell them I said that! First, I would like you to be honest with them about your mid-term grades, though. Explain to your parents what you have told me - that your college career got off to a rocky start due to too much socializing and not enough studying; that you quickly discovered the error of your ways and took steps to rectify them; that you took on extra credit projects to boost your grades and that the efforts are shown in your final grades.

I would like to add that many professors are willing to drop a low grade if it is not a reflection of a students overall performance or if they show improved performance on a cumulative final exam. If your professor is not of this mind, I doubt you will be able to change it; however, pointing out to your parents that your final grade is not reflection of your overall knowledge on the subject may mellow them out a bit.


P.S. Try not to give up on socializing altogether! Social skills and the connections you make in college can be just as important (if not more important) than the grades you earn. My Mommie once got a job in her career field because a shy classmate turned Hiring Manager remembered how she gave him a pen after his ran dry before an exam. He remembered how she told him to keep it, that he would need it for his next class. He told her he liked her "forward thinking manner" and it was one of the reasons he was hiring her.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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