The Stages of Death and Dying


At the end of every semester, I notice that college students experience the same stages as described in the Kubler-Ross Model of Death and Dying. These stages, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance are very noticeable. However, these stages aren’t encountered as a result of the end of the semester due to having a great class that will be ending, or having an outstanding professor (I like to think so but alas, no this isn’t the case) nor does it have to do with having excellent classmates. The reasons behind these stages are Grades!

Throughout the semester, there is never a time in my course when you don’t know what your current grade is. It’s really simple actually, FOLLOW THE SYLLABUS, and it will tell you everything that you need. However, as personal responsibility is dying a slow and painful death, some modern college students find it easier to just deny that they aren’t performing up to expectations.

This stage is quickly followed by Anger, as their exam grades, quiz scores and term papers are being returned and they realize that they are in deed in deep trouble.

Bargaining comes next with the typical, “Is there anything that I can do to get a better grade?”. Some students strictly mean in terms of classwork, others mean in terms of the world’s oldest profession, either way the answer is No. For the entire length of the semester, they knew exactly what needed to be done and when every assignment was due.

Depression is soon to follow, and usually looks like this, “But I’ll never get into XYZ program with a GPA of (insert number lower than the minimum requirement here).” Whereas I am empathetic that you will never receive your Master’s degree in Advanced Theoretical Physics or Underwater Basketweaving, there is nothing that I can do for you at this point. Usually, this stage lasts quite a while and begins to bounce back and forth with Bargaining as the comments of “Well I couldn’t be in class for such and such a reason or I had work for another class so my absences shouldn’t count against me” seem to fly around.

Eventually, Acceptance. This stage usually occurs after the final grades are submitted and the student realizes that no matter how hard they try, how many excuses/stories/fabrications they can come up with, that nothing will change that letter that appears as a symbol of the lack of work that they put in for the entire semester.

A perfect illustration of this is below. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

 (Insert Course Name Here) T/Th 12:30-1:45

Hello Prof.,
I was wondering if you could please let me know what my grade is for the semester. I know I missed 4-5 of the quizzes as well as some class days, which hurt my grade I’m sure. But I’d still like to know if I could salvage it or what grade I would need on the test to help my overall grade. My thanks in advance.
(Ah yes, you missed 5 of the requisite 10 quizzes plus several days in a course that every day we are doing some type of activity that typically can not be made up, I’m sure she has an A in this course. Oh wait, upon further review, No. She doesn’t)

Define salvage? With a 100 you will have a solid C. Currently you have a 70.8 and are dangerously close to a D.

Oh and our class was Tues/Fri. If you thought Thursday that may explain your absences.

(Imagine that, if you show up to class when you are supposed to, on the scheduled day of class, you might actually have a much higher grade)

Student: Is there anyway I can make that 70.8 into an 80, without the final exam grade to salvage my grade? I made a mistake on the subject header; I meant Friday. I cannot explain my absences at this late stage, I failed to explain my situation earlier. I just wanted to know if you would allow me the opportunity to get a better grade.
(Notice the bargaining. Apparently in this student’s mind, I can wave a magic wand, and suddenly create 9.2 points on their final grade to boost them up one full letter grade.)

I’m a bit confused. Bear with me for a moment as I attempt to process what you are asking me for.You would like me to somehow, mysteriously, come up with 10 points on your final grade, without you taking the final exam which is worth another 20 points, in an effort for you to get a B? Am I understanding you correctly? You skipped 5 of the 10 quizzes which were all online, allowed double attempts on them to get the best score possible and would be reused in the exams. I could be wrong, and please correct me if I am, but looking at your grades and activity level it does not appear that you even remotely put effort forth in this course to earn a B.

If there is any underlying factors that I should be made aware of for consideration, you may now tell me, however no promises will be made that anything can be done to help you.

(So yes, they are directly asking me to manipulate their grade as they put forth next to no effort this semester for whatever reason. As you can tell from my grading scale, it is nearly impossible to fail my course. I had to add in the nearly impossible portion for the modern college student will find a way.)

No, I apologize. Perhaps I was unclear. I am asking if I can boost up my grade, not specifying the amount. I thought you asked what I wanted. I understand that I missed the quizzes even with the option of a second attempt. I am currently taking the exam, I did not mean that I would not take it. I just want to know if you’d allow me to boost up my grade, if possible.
There were a numbers of things going on this semester I did not account for. Car trouble, which I solved mid-semester and a family emergency that put me in the position of spending a lot of time outside the state & with very little opportunity. Honestly, it was a major distraction. I have no way of proving with medical records the extent to which my aunt needed me, but financially it was unaffordable to hire outside help. I had no way of explaining without proof, so I said nothing an tried to do what I could.
I am only asking if you would, allow me to make up some points. If it is not possible, I understand. I just thought it couldn’t hurt to ask.
(Thank you very much, May I be in charge for a while? At least this particular student isn’t asking for the 9.2 points directly, just indirectly. No, you are correct, it couldn’t hurt to ask, it merely prompted me to create this blog. Between this student and the others who are going through the same stages of academic death and dying, they inspired me to write.)
Oh yeah, this particular student went forth and bombed their final exam, so a B and a C are no longer an issue to them.