STUDENT SUCCESS & Things Good Students Rarely Say

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 9/4/15.

“I hope this is more what you want.”  

This can imply that the student is writing to the please the professor rather than to meet the assignment’s requirements. Rather a student’s purpose should be to learn and apply something, not just meet arbitrary requirements of an assignment. For professors, the purpose is not assignment competition or professorial penchants (which this statement seems to imply), but rather learning and applying something new. Better: “I have given extra effort to applying and learning from this assignment.”

“I hope this is better than my last paper.”  

Hope has little to do with an assignment, but effort does. I realize students are saying they are “hoping” they did better, but if they did better they usually know so.  Here is a way students can convey this more logically and clearly.  “I’ve given more effort to this assignment.”

“I’ve included extra in the assignment. Please let me know if this is what you are looking for.”  

Again this implies that the student is trying to please the professor, rather than seeing the assignment parameters as designed to increase the student’s learning.  Focusing on the professor can be an informal fallacy (e.g. false exit), rather than the student taking responsibility to dig deeper for more knowledge.  Better:  “I’ve added this element and I think it better addresses the assignment’s parameters.”

“I have an A so far and I don’t want to earn less. Is there anything extra I can do to get a higher grade?”

This can imply that the student is focusing on pride in their accomplishments and not the purpose of their assignments (i.e. learning and applying knowledge). Seeking a high grade is often a subtle way to impress friends and fellow students.  Better: Don’t say it, just check your pride and stay humble in prayer and thanksgiving.

“Are there any extra credit assignments I can do to earn points I missed?”

Sometimes students fail to do assignments on time, hoping that toward the end of the course they can do extra work and make up the missed points.  But, they often don’t realize that learning is rarely as robust when done in hindsight and after other students have discussed a topic.  Better: Immediately after you get behind, complete as soon as possible any extra credit assignments.  Note:  I GIVE EXTRA CREDIT ASSIGNMENTS EVERY WEEK (not shouting, just for emphasis). This is because I realize working-adult students have job and life challenges.  So, each week I provide extra credit assignments. Therefore, do extra credit assignments in upcoming weeks, to make up for points lost in previous weeks.  And almost all professors, this one included,  grant penalty-reduced extensions for students with extenuating circumstances.  Just let us know as soon as feasible.  Better:  “Over the last two weeks something happened to me.  And, this was the first opportunity I had to tell you. I will give extra effort to upcoming assignments.  Also, because of these extenuating factors (describe, but adhere to FERPA guidelines) I would like to ask for an extension of ## days in which I will (explain your makeup assignment).

“Something came up last week and I want to ask for an extension.”  

Again, sometimes it might take a week or more to notify a professor of one of life’s interruptions.  But let your professor know as soon as feasible.  Often there are things we can do (at least pray for you 🙂 that will help you through life’s difficulties.  Better:  “I just had a life challenge occur and here is my proposal of how I handle the assignments.”  Tell us how you think you can make-up the assignments. This tells us you understand the assignments and have the tactical mind for making plans with challenges occur.


“No one ever asks you what grades you earned.  They ask you what degree you earned.”  

This is what I often tell my students.  So if life’s difficulties come your way, don’t try to maintain a high grade … maintain as much learning as you can during those difficult times.  And at least earn a passing grade. In the end you will have the learning and the degree (which both will speak on your behalf).

Unedited and to be continued …