You Don’t Deserve an A


Everyone knows that person. The one who is a model student. Perfect grades, endless volunteer experience, etc. etc. They’re a student of model behaviour, at least, until an injustice has been delivered to them in the form of a B+. (Heaven forbid, amiriteladies?)  

If someone you know is upset that they didn’t get an A, it’s most likely for one of two reasons:
1. They’re disappointed in themselves because they know they can produce better work than what they handed in.
2. They were expecting an A, and somewhere deep inside, they think they should have gotten one because of who they are, not because of what they did.  

I am positive that #1 is something that every one of us can relate to. We’ve all handed in half-assed assignments and been disappointed in ourselves. The key is that the disappointment lies in ourselves and our own actions, not the grade itself. For some people, it’s the other way around. They’re more concerned about the grade than they are with the quality of their work, as if the grade is a tangible thing that they just deserve , and they fail to see that the grade is a direct consequence of their own actions.  

My question is this: why do these people think they deserve an A?
– Because they’re smart?
– Because they work hard and finish their assignments on time?
– Because they’ve always gotten A’s and who is this jackass professor to tell them otherwise?  

I hate to tell you this, but “that jackass” has a doctorate. You don’t have a doctorate. They know more than you do.
They’ve studied more than you have.
As much as you might hate it, they have the power.  

And they get to decide if your work is deserving of an A, according to their standards. So get over yourself.  

I emphasize “your work,” because there’s a certain crowd that might fly in and start shouting “grades don’t define you!”
They’re right. Grades don’t define you. Grades are just numbers and letters. They have no impact whatsoever on anyone’s personal value, but they are definitely indicative of the quality of a person’s academic work. When a student receives a bad grade on an assignment, it’s not a personal attack. The professor is not saying that “because this student wrote this sub-par assignment, they’re a bad person and should be treated as such.” They’re just saying that the assignment was not amazing and that there’s ample room for improvement.  

It’s important to maintain the separation between grades and personal worth, because the truth of the matter is that not everyone is cut out to be a scholar. Every person on this earth has different talents and capabilities, and not everyone is good at studying, or reading, or researching, or writing, and this is good! It’s how it should be! If everyone was a scholar, the world would have fallen into chaos a long time ago and we’d probably be dead. Not everybody has the natural ability to put together excellent assignments. That’s normal. What isn’t normal is to have a handful of students waltzing out of high school and into University expecting to receive A’s the entire time, and not having this expectation entirely crushed within the first few weeks.  

Now, this might seem shocking, but sometimes your work don’t deserve an A.
Assuming you’re the kind of person who has the academic capabilities necessary to score A’s, it still requires a certain amount of time and effort to achieve that level of quality. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you cut corners, your assignment is going to be bad. It doesn’t matter whether or not your half-assed work is ‘better’ than somebody else’s work, it’s not your best, and that’s bad workmanship. If you submit an assignment you rushed and manage to score an A, does that not cheapen the entire institution? If you know in your heart that you didn’t do your best but you scored well anyway, how can you even sleep at night? How can a system that rewards a student for a poor performance encourage anyone else to strive for excellence?  

The short answer is that it doesn’t.  

At this point, it’s probably good to take a moment and ask yourself, “Why did I come here? Did I come here to get empty validation in the form of a letter grade that has no impact on my value as a person? Or did I come here to actually learn some things about subjects I love, and improve myself in the process?”  

If you did happen to pay thousands of dollars for empty validation, I’m not quite sure what to say to you other than ‘Good Luck.’ and I hope you find whatever you’re looking for.  

However, if you’ve decided that you want to improve yourself as a student during your time here, the question you should be asking is not, “What the hell is wrong with my professor? Why didn’t I get an A?” but instead, “What is wrong with me? What could I have done differently that would have elevated my piece of work to a quality deserving of an A?”  

I should add that sometimes, even if you work hard – you go to office hours, you ask questions on how to improve, you study harder for your exams, whatever. It doesn’t matter the circumstance. Sometimes you’ve genuinely done your best and you still don’t earn an A. This is frustrating and it feels unfair. I am not discrediting those emotions. Instead, I am going to suggest that when things like this happen it can be a defining moment. Are you going to throw a fit, or are you going to acknowledge that while you did work hard, your best isn’t good enough yet, and find ways to try harder next time? It’s not fair, but the reality is that often, our best isn’t enough. However, If you’re continually striving to improve, eventually you’re going to get there. Even if you don’t manage to get to an A-level, you’re going to finish the year a better student than you started it, and it’s going to be so much more fulfilling.  

A note to the A-Students: Don’t become complacent. Just because you’re getting A’s doesn’t mean there’s not room for you to improve. Don’t limit yourself by complaining that your half-assed work didn’t get you an A.  

All of this is to say: You don’t deserve an A, but you can certainly earn one. Work hard this term, friends.  

Emily Ellis is a third year History student and Distractions Editor of The Athenaeum