Monthly Archives: May 2008

I want to get an "A"

Paula Scher in her book “Make it Bigger” makes the point that design is less about styles and theories and more about the personal and corporate political forces that surround getting things done. Knowing how to navigate those waters is a life skill that applies in almost every profession.

The end of the school year brings students pleading for exceptions to deadlines, grading policies and a host of other complaints. The arguments that are the least effective are those that include the “I really want to make an A” component. What most students fail to realize is that this is almost universally going to negate any other argument they make.

No teacher at the university level is going to be positively influenced by the statement that you want to make an A. That gives the impression that you don’t really care about learning, only about your GPA. From the point of view of teachers who have dedicated their lives to studying a subject, the best way to influence them is to convince them that you are interested in the material and that you have learned or mastered it. If you want an A, the most convincing argument is that you have excelled, going beyond the mere minimum requirements and brought some creative insight to your understanding of the subject. This is almost universally the best way to convince someone that you are deserving of an A. To focus on the grade alone is rather short-sighted. Professionally, no one is going to care all that much whether your GPA was a few points higher or lower. In fact, in all likelihood, telling them what a mean and unreasonable professor you had to contend with might gain you some points over the dweeb with the perfect 4.0.

Showing that you read the text, did some outside investigations, checked out a few optional books, made connections between subjects, found some aspect of the subject that interested you and followed up on it — those are the ways to navigate the academic waters.