Ask a Professor: How to Appeal a Grade in College

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Ask a Professor: How to Appeal a Grade in College
portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
Published on November 3, 2021


Can you change your grade? Once a grade hits your transcript, it looks official. But colleges offer a process to appeal your final grade.

A grade dispute requires multiple steps. Students must first meet with their professor. They can then appeal to the department chair or a dean. At some schools, students must put the request in writing and provide evidence to support their desired grade change. If these steps don't work, students can file a formal grade appeal form.

Students wondering how to change grades need to understand the policies at their school. Colleges can turn down the request simply because the student didn't follow the appropriate procedure or filed too late. But a grade appeal can help students correct errors and potentially raise their GPAs.

Should You File a Grade Appeal?

If you're questioning how to change your grades, disputing a final grade usually isn't the easiest option. Students must follow a specific process within a certain time limit.

At some schools, students need to file an appeal within 10-30 days of receiving the grade. Colleges ask for specific evidence, including graded assignments and the grading policy, to determine whether the grade should be changed.

In cases where professors apply unfair standards, do not provide a grading policy, or base the grade on something other than academic performance, students can often resolve the dispute with the department chair or a dean. However, if a student feels the grade was unfair but cannot provide specific evidence, appealing the grade will likely fail.

In many cases, students can avoid a lengthy appeals process by taking steps during the semester. If grading policies aren't listed on the syllabus, talk to your professor about adding them. If you find out two students receive vastly different grades for similar work, reach out to your professor immediately.

If you're unable to resolve issues directly with your professor, you may need to contact the department chair.

Students concerned about their final grade often have better luck addressing the issue before the term ends. Asking your professor about extra credit opportunities and attending office hours can result in a better outcome than disputing grades after the term.

How to Change Your Grades on Essays and Exams

College professors sometimes make errors. If you believe your professor made a mistake when grading an exam, paper, or project, reach out to your professor first.

Professors sometimes lay out their grade-change policies in their syllabi. For example, some professors will regrade an assignment but reserve the right to lower the final grade. Others may require students to write an explanation for why the assignment deserves a higher grade.

If the professor refuses to change your grade, students can reach out to their department chair, who often has the final say. However, colleges may not let students dispute their grade on a single assignment.

How to Appeal a Grade in College: 4-Step Guide

Once professors enter your final grade, it goes on your transcript. But it's not too late to dispute a grade in a class. That said, before you submit a grade appeal, make sure you have a solid case for why the school should change your grade.

Step 1: Check the College's Grade Change Policy

Every college sets its own grade-change policies. And the process for how to change your grades depends on the school.

At many schools, students must follow procedures in a certain order to change a grade. Colleges may only allow grade changes for certain reasons, including errors, arbitrariness, and prejudice.

Step 2: Contact Your Professor

After the term ends, students can contact their professor to ask for a grade change. Lay out the reasons for the change as clearly as possible. If you think the professor miscalculated your grade, ask for a breakdown of your grades on tests, papers, participation, and other assignments.

Professors can file a grade change form to update your grade. However, if your professor does not agree with the grade change, you should move on to the next step.

Step 3: Contact the Department Chair

Before filing paperwork to dispute a grade, students should make an appointment with the department chair. Department chairs mediate disagreements between students and faculty. Bring evidence to support the request, including graded assignments and grading policies stated on the syllabus.

If the department chair agrees, they will typically reach out to the professor and initiate the grade change. Students can continue the appeal process even if the department chair disagrees.

Step 4: File Grade Dispute Paperwork

After trying to resolve a grade dispute with the professor and department chair, students can still file grade appeal paperwork with their college. At some colleges, students should reach out to an academic dean or a student affairs administrator at this stage.

Students must make a strong case for a grade change. During the grade dispute process, students explain whether the final grade was due to an error or to discrimination. Arbitrariness in assigning grades, as demonstrated by a lack of stated grading policies, can also help an appeal.

A dean or committee evaluates grade change appeals and issues a ruling. Some schools also let students appeal that ruling to the provost's office.


Featured Image: Deepak Sethi / E+ / Getty Images

Curious about the benefits and drawbacks of the pass/fail grading system? Use these tips to decide when you should take a course pass/fail. The definition of a good GPA can vary depending on the school, discipline, and employer. Learn what a good GPA is in college and high school. When should you drop a class and when should you stick with it? Learn about the consequences of dropping a class and your alternatives.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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