‘Grade Grubbing’: Are Students Going Too Far?

Grade Grubbing: Are Students Going Too Far?

The urge to chase every point, to negotiate for every extra half mark: Business school students are wired to strive for excellence, and these things are second nature.

It’s called “grade grubbing,” and a recent survey conducted by Intelligent.com found that it occurs all the time.

Of 288 high school teachers and college professors surveyed, a staggering 80% said they are willing to accommodate students’ requests for grade changes – in other words, accommodating the requests is almost the norm.


Students inquire about grade changes for various reasons, but the most common justifications they provide typically stem from trouble in their personal lives, class difficulty, unfair grading, or sickness.

When it comes to the frequency of grubbing, the report shared that 44% of educators say students “somewhat” or “very often” ask them to change their grades to a higher score even when they did not earn it. Additionally, 24% say this happens “every so often,” 25% say “rarely,” and 6% say “never.”

How do educators feel current students compare to generations past? Well, just under half – 45% of the surveyed teachers and professors felt grubbing was amped up this year, 31% thought it was about the same, and 7% weren’t sure.


As for their feelings as to why they think students are grubbing, 73% say they believe this is due to a sense of entitlement, 65% say it’s a lack of willingness to work hard, and 48% cited setbacks due to the pandemic.

“It’s important to understand what’s behind students’ concern about grades – and it’s more than a feeling of entitlement,” says Gayeski. “Most college students in the U.S. have some type of scholarship, and it’s typical for them to be required to maintain a 3.0 (B) average– some scholarships require an even higher GPA,” says professor and higher education advisor Diane Gayeski in the Intelligent.com report.

“Just one C grade (which some professors feel is ‘average’) can put a student in jeopardy of losing their scholarship and having to drop out of school, essentially wasting the money and time they have already invested. Also, many professions such as medicine, social work, or accounting require a graduate degree, and most graduate schools won’t accept anyone with less than a B average,” explains Gayeski.

How far does grade grubbing really get you if your goals are to get an MBA? Karen Marks, founder of North Star admissions, says that in some circumstances, grade grubbing really isn’t necessary — especially for those hoping to get a BBA or MBA.

She tells Poets&Quants, “This time of year, I have a lot of consult calls with potential B-school applicants who are trying to assess whether or not they are competitive for their dream schools. Frequently, people are overly worried. Even if there are issues that need to be addressed, candidates can still get into the most competitive business schools.”

“Depending on the circumstances, and on the rest of their candidacy, lower grades are NOT a deal-breaker. I have worked with many, many clients who were successfully admitted to M-7 schools, some with full scholarships, despite having sub 2.5 GPAs.”


While many B-schools do not require a minimum GPA for admission, they still do look at an applicant’s undergraduate GPA – but they typically do so in relation to the other aspects of their application. Other areas of the application hold weight as well.

“Ask most admissions committee members and they will tell you that it’s the sum of many pieces—there is no one ‘most important’ part of the MBA application,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, writes. “It’s the essays, interviews, and recommendations that ultimately reveal the person beyond the paper. Compelling essays, recommendations, and interviews can provide context for a low GMAT score or GPA. But the reverse is not true. Strong numbers will never make up for weak essays or a disorganized, negative recommendation.”

Rather than focusing only on getting top marks, students should focus on getting work experience under their belt prior to applying to B-school.

As a marketing professor at St. Mary’s College of California, says, “Work experience definitely matters, as it should. If someone had experience in a high growth area or (is) doing something game-changing and innovative, that is and should be a plus.”


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