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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Stop Saying You're a Broke College Student

I've had a job since 16, and my money life is thriving.

It's supposed to be funny when someone says "I'm a broke college student" but I think it's stupid. Here's my unpopular opinion.

I've had a job since I was 16. My first day of work was the first weekend after I started my sophomore year of high school. It wasn't too difficult- I was literally only working on Saturdays and Sundays. The shifts were 4-7:30/8 pm on Saturdays and 11-2:30 on Sundays. I wasn't making a huge amount of money, but it paid for my gas money, and that was all I needed. So the first year I had my job, I was spending any extra money I had on food, movie tickets, and clothes.

Then reality hit when I knew I needed to start saving up for college. I started putting money into my savings account, and eventually I had built up enough money to buy a new old car. I know, it wasn't college tuition, but I needed it.

My first year living in the dorms, I figured out a system. I was putting $150 each week in a savings envelope, and each month I knew I had to pay $160 for my car payment. The rest of the money I made I put in envelopes for a new purse, clothes, vacation. I had a system going, and I didn't spend extra money on useless things unless I was rewarding myself. In case you can't do the math, that's at least $600 in my savings account each month, and most people can't figure out how to put away $100.

Now, as a sophomore in college, I watch people trickle into class with to-go food, to-go coffee, smoothies, and candy from gas stations or the shops on campus. Then I hear those same people complain about being "a broke college student." I'm sorry, but you're not a broke college student. You're a college student who pays for things you don't need, with money you have that you shouldn't be spending. You don't need to get Starbucks 3 times a day. You don't have to go to pitcher night at the local bar. You don't need to spend money on those things, but you do. And at the end of the month, you're broke, and begging your parents for money.

So, in my unpopular opinion, you're not a broke college student. You're a dumb one. Make a budget, give yourself some spending money, and stick to it. You'll thank me later.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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11 Tips For a Great Semester

The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens.

1. Have a nice workspace/desk

I recently made this change and I feel 100% better.

2. Dress well

Personally, if I go to class looking like a bum, I feel like a bum. Dress for success!

3. Go to bed at the same time every night

Getting enough rest can really impact the rest of your day. Aim to get 7-9 solid hours of sleep each night this semester to avoid accidentally being grouchy at someone.

4. What am I doing for this upcoming week?

What are my goals this week? What’s going on this week? What do I need to work on for this week? If you go into your week blind, it never really works. I’ve done this before.

5. Don’t lose your class syllabi

This one paper has literally all of the due dates, test dates, readings and homework assignments on it. Make sure you always know where this paper is because you will be looking at it constantly, so don’t lose it.

6. Ask questions

If you’re in class and you have no idea what the professor is talking about ask, or email them! It’s good to ask questions because then your professor knows you care about their class so it’s a win-win situation. You ask questions plus the professor knows you care equals good grade in the class.

7. Take good notes

I can’t tell you how many times over the past semester I would look back at my notes and what I wrote didn’t make sense. Learn what type of learner you are to figure out how to take the best notes for yourself. I either write everything out by hand which takes forever (especially when the professor flies through the lecture) or I print out the notes and just write on those papers so I can actually listen to the lecture.

8. Get some homework done in between classes

In my schedule, I have a lot of time gaps in between classes just waiting around for my next class to start. Take advantage of this 30 minutes or 2-hour gap and work on some homework. You’ll thank yourself later.

9. Don't overload yourself

I’ve made a rule with myself to only do homework Monday to Friday. That’s because if I work super hard during the week on my work then I can have the weekends off as a mental break. There are a couple exceptions to my rule like if I have a 5-page essay due Monday then yes, I’ll work on it during the weekend or if I have tests coming up the next week then I’ll be studying.

10. Don't procrastinate

If you’re avoiding something, just get it done and over with. If you have a really difficult essay to write and then a bunch of easier assignments; start with the hard assignment first to get it done. It’ll take the most time and then you’ll feel relieved when you’re done with it.

11. Don't give up

The moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens.

Just keep going.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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