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Callista
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13 May 2012, 11:36 am

As some of you might know from my recent complaints, I had the usual spring burnout last month. Same as every year--six months of hard work, and then the brain just doesn't cooperate anymore. This year I didn't push myself too hard to try to "overcome" it. I dropped two out of three classes (thankfully before I had to pay for them), stayed home for two weeks and did basically nothing, and am back on my feet much earlier than I usually am when this happens.

The issue here is that of course I missed two weeks worth of one of my classes, the one I didn't drop, Research Methods. I was able to get a re-take on the test I missed, and got 39/40 correct on it (class average was a C (non-Americans see asterisk below) so I know I'm learning as much as I usually do and it's not just an easy test). I've also talked to the guy who runs the lab--a grad student, nice guy generally--and he's let me make up the labs for half credit. Well, okay, let's put it this way: I had to have help to talk to him. My advisor from disability services basically escorted me over and prompted me through it. Otherwise I would never have been able to talk to either the prof or the lab GA by myself, not on the amount of energy I had left just coming out of burnout.

It's the half-credit on labs that's the problem. I've calculated it out, and I'm way too close to a B overall for comfort. I'll have to do very, very well indeed to get the A I need, and I really can't guarantee that I'll get perfect score after perfect score like I'd need to accomplish that. I love the class, I like the statistics, and I love research; but if I mess up on a test, get stuck on one mental trail and can't get off it, make stupid mistakes due to inattentiveness, or just misinterpret instructions, I'll get stuck with a "B" in one of the more important classes in my major. And while a "B" is great if you don't want to go to graduate school, it's not so great for me.

So... I'm considering asking the professor if I could do some work for extra credit. The thing is, I know that the disability services people won't be helping me on this one. They're busy to the point of exhaustion and it's non-essential. But I would really love it if I could get a project to do which would give me a few points of breathing space--maybe analyze a journal article, design an experiment, or learn and demonstrate a statistics program. Something like that. It's extra work for the prof, and extra work for me; but in the long run I really think it would help because I'd no longer have that worry that the A I need is going to be nearly unreachable.

Anybody ever asked for extra credit like that? How did it go? I'm asking the prof to break rules and go out of his way for me; but I'm not asking for a grade I didn't earn... But I have no idea how to approach him. Any advice?

*American grading scale goes A, B, C, D, F, best to worst. D and F are usually failing, B and C are the most common. In general, if you want to get into grad school for a doctorate, you need to have almost all A's, with a few B's mixed in on nonessential subjects.


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EstherJ
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13 May 2012, 12:45 pm

I asked a professor for extra credit this semester.

Granted, it wasn't very much needed to make an A, but it was close enough that I decided to ask.
I find that professors are more willing to help than to hurt, and if they see you are working hard and are capable, they usually will go out of their way to help you, or at least do something.

What I did was I just was honest - I explained my issues and simply asked. But I included some major points, which you should include IF they're true for you:
1. I was hardworking, not a slacker, and not trying to beg.
2. I showed that I am honest, not trying to get a free pass.
3. I was open about my challenges and said that while I didn't deserve the extra help, I would really appreciate it and will be cooperative.
4. I explained my future goals, but more importantly, I explained that I am actively getting help for the issues that are in my way; i.e., being responsible instead of using the problem as an excuse.

Lastly, I was respectful.
My teacher gave me the credit needed to make an A, because I was so close. BUT, I talk with a LOT of professors, and I know that they are willing to work with students who are honest, committed, and hardworking, and who care about mastering the material, not just getting points. I doubt a teacher would turn you down.

It never hurts to ask, but you have to do it the right way. Be honest and cooperative, open, respectful and willing, and any teacher worth their salt should see that you're a good student that deserves help.

And no, you're not asking for a grade. You're asking for a chance to show better work; a little bit of a buffer because you DO have some issues. You don't seem like a lazy, cheating, begging, sorry excuse for a student, and professors appreciate good students and are willing to help.
One day, when I'm a professor, if a student comes to me with something similar, I would give them the same break.

I say go for it. Good luck!