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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It's Time To Admit 'Natural' Intelligence An Outdated Idea

It's not about how smart you are, but about how hard you work.

Elementary school was a weird time. MAP tests, AR reading comprehension, PACT and PASS and virtually any other acronym you can think of for the standardized tests that ultimately distinguished whether or not you were considered relatively gifted. And, while in theory, this may or may not have prepared students for the rigorous curriculum of more challenging courses, I still have to ask: Is this really necessary at age 8?

Don't get me wrong, preparing kids with the highest quality education is what I'm here for... but it's also relatively difficult to decide who's "gifted and talented" and who's not.

Maybe I'm wrong, but with the rise of the gifted and talented curriculum in the early 2000s, came the plateau of the "honors kid burnout" in the 2010s.

Similar to the stigma of the participation trophy in kids sports, the establishment of a "more advanced curriculum" for students as young as 7 or 8 (I put that in quotations because, realistically, these courses were not significantly more advanced), in my opinion, unintentionally reinforced the idealized form of "natural intelligence".

Natural intelligence ultimately presents the idea that "smart" individuals should be able to learn or even simply have the knowledge, without the need to practice, memorize, or really study anything. You weren't considered "intelligent" if it took you more time to learn something, or you had to ask for help. Facts and memorization, intellect and intuition, came naturally and you either had it or you didn't.

This is problematic on multiple fronts.

The process of reaffirming elementary school students (again, this comes from my own personal experience and observation of those with similar experiences), and reinforcing the idea that they are "naturally" smart, gifted, or talented is great in ego-boosting throughout public school.


Entering into an actually academically advanced environment, whether it be Advanced Placement courses, or Dual Enrollment, or even as far as into college, there becomes a problem.

Students that have been told throughout a vast majoring of their lives that they were naturally gifted with intelligence have very early in life placed a negative association with studying, working hard, or having difficulty with something.

Students that have gotten straight A's throughout middle and high school simply by glancing at notes before the exam or by using common sense are have already been conditioned to associate something as simple as making flashcards or asking a teacher for help with failure.

Natural intelligence, natural talent, and virtually any idea that individuals have to be born with a skill in order to be significantly gifted is more often than not, counterproductive.

Making the goal of public education something as one dimensional as letter grades, and conditioning students to view them as more of a ranking system than as a showcase of hard work, does more than just discourage morale. It encourages efficiency. It encourages academic dishonesty. It encourages getting an A by any means necessary because, for someone who has been defined as "naturally intelligent" most of their life, they have no room for disappointment.

Children, especially in this day and age, need to be conditioned to view hard work as honorable, as respectable, and in no way a weakness, or something to be ashamed of. There are no "August Rush's" in this reality, but there are more than enough "Rudy."

Teaching kids that it was their hard work and their dedication that really got them that grade, alter how they view more than just grades. Encouraging hard work, diligence, dedication, and even something as simple as effort goes farther than just academics. Kids that are more encouraged to take risks and think creatively become kids that are more willing to try, regardless of the outcome.

Because life isn't really a grading system, but a test of skills and attitude.

It's not how smart you are, but how hard you work.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Steve Carell, Send Elisabeth to UMich, Not UW-Madison Because They Don't Know What It's Like To Be The Best

Why would you want your mascot to be a badger?

Steve Carell,

Thank you for blessing the University of Michigan campus with your presence on Tuesday.

Of course, our university's greatness speaks for itself, but in case you need more convincing that this is the best school for your daughter, here are six reasons we're better than UW-Madison (and every other school that wants to recruit Elisabeth).

1. How could UW-Madison have the craziest game days when we have the craziest game days?

Perhaps you've heard of The Big House. The University of Michigan is home to the biggest stadium in the United States (and second largest in the world), and every single game day it's filled with students, alumni, and die-hard Michigan fans who bleed maize and blue. Come sing “The Victors" and "Mr. Brightside" with us, and listen to James Earl Jones narrate the most hype pregame video before we chant “Go Blue!" Have I mentioned that we also have Harbaugh? UW-Madison just has a badger. 'Nuff said.

2. UW-Madison doesn't have the largest living alumni body of any university in the worldwe do

The Leaders and Best are everywhere. You could yell “Go Blue!" in the middle of a forest and I can almost guarantee someone will chant it back. The Michigan name is well-respected, and Elisabeth is guaranteed a vast network in any given field because once a Wolverine, always a Wolverine.

3. Our State Street is better than UW-Madison's State Street

Watch the streetlamps and State Theater sign light up S. State as you visit the M-Den for all of your Michigan gear needs. And don't forget to dip into Piada, Sava's, or Totoro for some delicious eats. Ann Arbor wasn't rated the best college town in the U.S. for nothing (sorry, not sorry, UW-Madison).

4. Wanna talk views? Try the Arb

Nichols Arboretum isn't part of our campus tours, but in this hidden gem, you'll find all of nature's best right on campus. Walk through miles of beautiful woods and go tubing down the Huron River in the summer. Come winter, though, find us sledding down some hills on dining hall trays.

Or the Diag

What is Bascom Hill compared to our glorious Diag? The crisscrossing diagonal walkways that give it its memorable name are always bustling with activity, from student activist groups to performers to dogs! You can't forget the dogs. I've walked out of Hatcher many, many times blown away by the sheer beauty of this school and its amazing students. Elisabeth will, too.

5. UW-Madison traditions got nothin' on ours

Being a Wolverine is walking through the fountain in Ingall's Mall at orientation and then again in the opposite direction once you graduate. It's happily waking up at 7 AM to tailgate your way to the Big House. Being a Wolverine is screaming "Mr. Brightside" at the top of your lungs at every game and party. It's never stepping on the M in the Diag, even when it's completely covered in snow, and painting the Rock on Hill Street in the pitch black, freezing cold. Being a Wolverine is spinning the Cube on your first visit to campus. But most importantly, it's the irresistible urge to shout "HAIL!" and "GO BLUE!"

6. No one, literally no one, beats the Michigan icons

President Schlissel is our king, Reggie the Campus Corgi is our wholesome teddy bear, Harbaugh is the crowning jewel, Tom Brady is the GOAT, and Billy Magic? Well, you'll just have to come to Michigan to learn about the utter brilliance of Billy Magic.

The University of Michigan is one of the leading universities in the world. Our students fight for real change on campus and in the world. They are incredibly talented and multi-faceted; Elisabeth will always have something new to learn from everyone she meets. Our campus will give her all the tools to become the next best Carell.

Steve Carell, make the right choice and send Elisabeth to the only school that will make her a Leader and the Best.


The entire UMich student body (but especially your biggest fans, Jessica Jung and Riya Gupta)

Cover Image Credit: Instagram | uofmichigan

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