Keeping Track Of Your College Grades

Keeping Track Of Your College Grades

Professors are sometimes, well, less-than-transparent with grades, but you can at least help yourself out with a spreadsheet.

In high school, checking your grades is often easy, facilitated by websites such as PowerSchool. Individual assignment scores are listed out, and your current percentage in each class is clearly visible. In college, that whole system can break down. I’m sure there’s some variation from Uni to Uni, but if UPJ and the courses I’ve taken there are any indication of the general sentiment in the U.S., figuring out your college grades at any static moment can be challenging.

Some courses have very simple grading systems. An introductory science class, for instance, might consist of three exams, with the first two worth 30% of the grade and the last worth 40%. In that case, determining what your grade is after the first two exams is easy. Average the scores from the first two exams, then divide by 0.6. Unfortunately, most courses will probably not work out this neatly.

I like to know how I’m doing in all of my classes. It might seem like it should be natural to have a solid idea of where your grades lie without having to actually do any math, but the truth is, it can often be deceiving to the mind. An assignment worth 5% of your total grade is nearly insignificant, even if you scored a 50% on it. Seeing a low score on any assignment can be disheartening, yet it need not be devastating when one has the full context of their grade before their eyes.

While you can certainly calculate your grades mentally or with paper and pencil, I recommend a spreadsheet for the job. Spreadsheets are great. I have one spreadsheet, titled “Grade Estimates,” for all of my course grades from my first four semesters. To give you a visual indication of what this spreadsheet looks like, I’ve screenshotted one of the courses from the sheet and pasted it below.

This box for Writing for Digital Media contains a few different components. On the left, the four graded areas are named as they appear on the course’s syllabus. In the middle, the weight for each area is typed in number format. On the right, I type out the percentage that I received in number format. Any time the exact percentage for a graded area is uncertain—for instance, if a professor marks a paper with an A- but doesn’t indicate what an A- actually represents numerically—I write my best guess and fill that cell as yellow. In the case of the yellow cell shown here, I actually calculated my Digital Writing Exercises grade as an average of four scores, with three of them known exactly and the fourth being estimated. If you want an even clearer representation of your grades, you could always use four separate rows in such a case. I’m content to simply look at my formula bar in this particular scenario.

The bold percentage estimate in the bottom-right of each box is definitely the most difficult part of a Grade Estimate spreadsheet. In my example, my formula box reads: =((AX2*AW2)+(AX3*AW3)+(AX5*AW5)+(AX4*AW4))/(AW2+AW3+AW5+AW4). Because all of the grades are filled in, I could simplify my formula, but that would somewhat defeat the spirit of my spreadsheet. While this formula may look complicated, it really isn’t too bad. The parts to the left of the divisor here are products of each weight times its corresponding grade. As these little multiplication problems are added to the formula, the weights from the formula need to be placed on the right side of the divisor. For instance, if you have an assignment worth 15% of your grade and you earned a 90% on that assignment, you would end up with 13.5% on the left side of your formula. If on another assignment, worth 25% of your grade, you earned an 80%, you would have 13.5% plus 20% on the left side of your formula. The right side of your formula would then read 15% plus 25%, and the math would become 33.5 divided by 40 for a resulting percentage of 83.75%. When using such a formula, you need to make sure you get your parentheses in the right places. If you use them incorrectly, often your formula will fail to work or succeed in terrifying you until you realize that you couldn’t possibly have a 4% in that class. Always double-check your numbers and formulas. Remember that.

Maybe I’m a strange sort of guy, but I really enjoy playing with Excel, so keeping up with my Grade Estimates spreadsheet is fun for me. Hopefully, even if you don’t find spreadsheeting fun, using this method for tracking your grades can ease your college stress by showing you just how wrong you can be in trying to divine how your classes are going without actually crunching some numbers. And fun colors on your spreadsheets are always great, right? Right…?

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything

I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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The Best Decision I've Ever Made was doing Scientific Research

It opens up so many doors, and teaches you so much more about life then just what you're researching/


Growing up, I have always been interested in science and why things happen the way they do. I've always asked why, and I've always wanted to dig deeper into some questions and topics. This is a natural part of life that many people do, and honestly more people should do throughout their lives.

Asking questions is something that can lead to change and to more answers and clarity. How? Simply through research and finding answers to these questions by ourselves.

In high school, I took a Science Research course, and I took it for three years. I researched a question I had always wondered about, which was how to predict severe weather more accurately. I was scared of it, and I wanted to find a solution to better protect/prepare myself and the people around me.

I didn't quite find the answer I was looking for or any answer for lack thereof, but I learned some incredibly valuable life skills and values. One of them being how to easily overwhelm Microsoft Excel by putting a million data points (I am not exaggerating) and trying to make into a graph.

Jokes aside, one of the bigger lessons I learned through scientific research is how to persevere through something that is tough. Meteorology is not a common interest nor is it a populated field, so getting someone to mentor me in this project was incredibly difficult and getting data for my experiment was even harder. It's kind of weird how something that impacts all of us and everything doesn't have a lot more people in the field.

Also, it's complex and there isn't a lot of uniformity to it. It's hard to find control variables and to find things that stay constant throughout because the weather is one of those things that are constantly changing. That's not fun when you're trying to run an experiment and trying to see what causes something to happen.

This ties into another lesson I've learned through scientific research, I learned how to problem solve and how to be resourceful. My experiment was difficult to run because I only had access to a few places to get data. I had to use things that gave me a million data points because I had to use things that documented every minute for an entire year.

It was a lot, and it was difficult. However, with the help of mentors and teachers, I persevered, and I learned how to make the most of the limited resources available to me. I learned how to analyze these new graphs that I've never analyzed before.

I learned how to read in between the lines and interpret things that weren't clear. It was hard, but now I can apply these skills to everything else I do in life. I learned more than what was related to my topic in science research.

Scientific research is an imperative thing to do because it teaches so much more than just your topic matter. It can teach you about life, and it gives you life skills that you will need to use in almost every other aspect of life. I know it has given them to me.

The best part about scientific research is that it can lead to a breakthrough. You can change the world by asking a question and running an experiment on an answer to that question. It's so weird that something that seems so simple (it's not that simple, but anyone can do it), can have such a profound impact.

Research can be done in anything, it can be done things that aren't heavily science-based like marketing or it can be a scientific approach to ballet. If there's a question or a gap in anything, then there is a way to find that answer. That could be running an experiment of your own.

If you have the opportunity, do research. It will change not only your life but the lives around you because it could lead to a breakthrough. That breakthrough could be something that our world needs.

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