Should students ever feel “entitled” to good grades, or to having class requirements adjusted for them?
Comparing notes recently, we observed that a few of our students exhibit an entitlement mentality, as evidenced by messages such as these:
- “I feel that if I do all the readings and attend class regularly, I deserve at least a ‘B’ for the course.”
- “I worked really hard, so I should receive an ‘A’ on this project.”
- “I had a big stats exam last week, so I should be able to turn in my English paper a week late without penalty.”
Do you or your classmates make statements like these? How do you feel about these messages?
Several BYU Professors
I think that this “entitlement mentality” has become much more prevalent in recent years. I’ve had fellow students in my classes that seem to think that the world should work around them rather than vice-versa. My personal view is that this attitude is completely unacceptable, especially at a university level. Somewhere along the way, these people missed the fact that the world sets expectations and if they want to succeed they need to meet these expectations. An attempt to change expectations that apply to a large number of people shows selfishness, lack of discipline, and an inability to perform. When professors give in to these pleas for mercy, I think they are hindering the student’s growth and learning.
That said, I think most would agree that there are extenuating circumstances. If your grandma dies, you have a baby, or you go the hospital the night before an exam, then I definitely think the student should contact the professor to talk about what can be done. This contact should be made as soon as possible. Most of us are attending college not only to learn but also to open doors to future jobs. Students and professors should keep in mind that the corporate world will be largely unforgiving of someone who doesn’t meet expectations because they “had a hard week” or “just had too much to do,” especially given today’s job market. If you won’t meet the boss’s expectations, chances are that there are 12 people turning in applications who will.
One of the best things students can learn in college is how to handle heavy workloads, especially when things in life just don’t seem to go right. Learning this will probably help students to succeed more than a 4.0.
I have heard arguments like that all too frequently. Honestly, I think students can be so caught up in “making the grade” that they lose sight of what the university experience is all about, which is gaining an education (and, in the case of BYU, to share that education with others). To those who may think that I’m one of those people who just shows up to class, not doing any work, I maintain a 3.5 GPA in a very competitive major.
As a student, I understand how frustrating it can be to work hard on a project and not be recognized by my professor or TA for that work. However, if I really felt cheated out of a grade, I would hope to have a professor who would be willing to discuss the project or paper or test with me and help me understand why I received the grade I did. If I’m able to defend my work, I hope the professor would change my grade. At the very least, I would come out knowing how to improve my work for future projects or papers or tests. If I were a professor and a student approached me, civilly, about this kind of problem, I would like to think I would be willing to take some time and listen to him or her. But I’ve had my fair share of classes where I was more than satisfied to earn a B or even a C, and I was proud of that grade in those notoriously hard classes.
While I sometimes feel that professors make classes unnecessarily hard, I also realize that if I didn’t get the grade I wanted, I probably didn’t put the effort into learning the material and producing quality work. Since I realize that my grade reflects not only my effort, but also the quality of my work, I’m OK with that.
I enjoy learning. If people don’t want to learn, then what are they doing at a university? What are they doing at Brigham Young University? Do they feel that because they got into the university they deserve a diploma? Good work deserves a good grade; good effort is not always rewarded with a good grade.
I have heard arguments like these by classmates, but I do not entirely agree with them. Some students have to study for ten hours to get an A on a midterm, while others can study one hour and get an A on the same midterm. However, as you have pointed out, some people who need to study ten hours to get an A feel entitled to an A after one hour of study. I am personally the student who has to study ten hours, and I have learned to accept that that is just how I am, and if I want an A I have to put in the time studying. I think the rationale is that if certain things are done, then an A is deserved. I feel that is somewhat true in a high school setting. However, when I got to BYU I learned that here it is about the results of your effort, not how much effort you put in.
I don’t agree with the comment that since a student had a big exam they should be able to turn in a paper for another class late without penalty. Procrastination is not a good excuse. Personally, I am taking 18 credits this semester so I have run into the problem of having a lot of midterms and papers due the same week. I have had to learn to plan ahead in order to get everything done. If a student is having trouble keeping up with all of his assignments, maybe he should consider taking fewer credits next semester. Whenever I hear of people who turn in large papers late without penalty, it makes me kind of mad because in the past I have stayed up throughout the night to get papers done. I think that the bottom line is that if a student really wanted to get a paper done even though she had a big test that week, she could have. I know some people who have that same attitude that for some reason they can turn papers in late without penalty, but I think it comes down to a matter of fairness to the students who did whatever was needed in order to get the paper turned in on time.