It’s a common, even ubiquitous experience: logging into Blackboard, clicking on the “Grades” tab and seeing nothing uploaded, even as the semester is approaching the finish line. Almost any student could attest that some professors are often slow to provide feedback or information on grades. This isn’t just stressful on its face – GPA is critical for graduate school admissions, merit aid packages and more. Professors should be more diligent about posting grades so students can have access to this information that is necessary to making decisions.
In an ideal world, college students would not have to watch their grades like a hawk – they would be able to perform to the best of their ability in their classes and let their grades fall where they may. But undergraduate education does not exist in a vacuum, and grades are an easy heuristic for graduate schools, employers or outside sources of scholarship funding to assess students’ aptitude. Students need to be, and are, pragmatic about their grades, taking certain classes and avoiding others to pad their GPA or consulting services like the University Writing Center to maximize their grades on assignments.
Many graduate schools weigh GPA highly when considering which students to admit. This is especially the case for aspiring doctors or lawyers – a high GPA is critical for most medical and juris doctorate programs. Even for programs where GPA is not a sink-or-swim metric, it may be a factor that is determinative for how much merit aid is doled out to an applicant. In that case, having a high GPA is less do-or-die for admission but could be determinative for being able to attend. And for graduate programs that are GRE-optional, whether or not students take the exam may depend on what their grades are going to look like by the end of the semester.
For all of these reasons, students with an eye toward future plans sweat bullets over every hundredths place of their GPA, where it will stand at the end of a semester and how specific in-progress classes will affect the score. That’s not ideal, but it’s the way it is. These goals are not served well when professors keep students in limbo for weeks, months or until after finals about how they’re doing in a class.
Not knowing where grades stand is not just a matter of being stressed. Having an accurate picture of one’s GPA is important for all of the above considerations – grad school, merit aid, jobs and more. All of these undertakings require long-term planning. Students generally do not decide to apply to graduate school on a whim. There is almost always a months-long run-up to pressing “send” on an application that is occupied by keeping grades as high as possible, gathering recommenders or speaking with career advisers. Without continuous knowledge of grades during this process, students can be making impactful plans and decisions based on incomplete information.
To be fair, no one should be unsympathetic to how swamped the average faculty member is – juggling research projects, teaching and grading is a herculean effort at best. That being said, plenty of professors have found the capacity and time to keep students informed about grades. There is room for the University and individual academic departments to step in here. A faculty member who is so phenomenally busy that they cannot find the time to post students’ grades should probably have a teaching assistant to lighten the load anyway, even without considering the posting-of-grades issue. Departments can pair more teaching assistants with professors, and the University should come up with ways of funding such an effort.
This is not a particularly difficult fix – and in the grand scheme of things, this is admittedly a minor grievance. Knowing grades as the semester unfolds would make students’ efforts at planning the future a quarter-turn easier. Faculty should improve their diligence about posting grades, and the University should provide any necessary support to make that happen.
Andrew Sugrue, a senior majoring in political communication and political science, is the opinions editor.
This article appeared in the April 4, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.