You Ask, We Answer: How to Appeal a Grade

Dear Bevo,

In the fall, I earned an A- in a course. When final grades were released, however, mine read that I got a B+ when Canvas clearly said otherwise. I brought this discrepancy to the attention of my professor. They dismissed me by saying they will “deal with this after the holidays.” I never heard back from them, and my grade remains the same. I realize it is not drastic to go from a B+ to an A-, but I worry it could make the difference in getting passed up for a job, scholarship or in graduate school admissions. Should I contact them again, or is there another route I can take? How can I fix this and ensure that my GPA reflects my true efforts?

Sincerely, Disrespected GPA


Dear Disrespected GPA,

Fortunately, there is a grade appeal process — unfortunately, you have to start with your professor. According to Kendall Slagle, content strategist for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, students are advised to “talk with their professor, then to his/her department chair and/or dean’s office for questions related to grade appeals.” 

This means you should probably reach out to the professor one last time. If they are unresponsive, then you can appeal the issue by getting in contact with the department chair. When you reach out to the department chair, focus on the desired outcome rather than spending your email space blaming or accusing the professor. 

The University Ombuds Office reminded us that appeals are often unsuccessful because students are unclear or rude when they interact with the department. If the department chair fails to respond, you should keep going up the chain of command, sending concise and respectful emails first and making phone calls and visiting office hours if you do not get a response. 

Under the current appeals system, two tricky things must happen for a grade to be changed after it has been reported to the registrar’s office. First, the instructor must admit to having made a mistake. Second, the dean has to sign off on the final appeal. 

Also tricky: talking to professors about raising your grade itself. It’s best to approach it as a request, not a demand. Try recalculating your own grade from the information that is still accessible on Canvas and bring that evidence to the professor.  “It’s important to think about it, not only from your perspective but also from the faculty’s perspective: What is  the time (and) cost, and how they might be able to meet you in the middle?,” student ombudsperson Kouang Chan said. Keep your emails short and concise. When you meet with the faculty member, write down specific points of the course that you want to go over. 

If you’re having trouble going through the department, you can also reach out to the Student Ombuds Office and the Graduation Help Desk. Both resources are designed to listen to your particular situation and connect you with resources to resolve the situation. 

This isn’t an easy process. Most students have experienced unfortunate surprises at the end of the semester. One thing you can do is create a grade breakdown to send to your professor and other administrators. Calculate each individual grade based on syllabus guidelines and prove mathematically that you have an A-. This will make it clear to the professor and others that a mistake has been made. Good luck!

Sincerely, Grade-Grubbing Bevo