Going the Extra Mile to Impress Your Professors
Going above and beyond the requirements of an assignment, doing more than other students, is a great way to impress your professor and obtain better grades.
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Want a bit of insurance that could positively influence a professor to give you a top grade? Consider going the extra mile with your projects and assignments.
The idea is to go so far above and beyond the requirements of a given assignment that the professor has little choice but to give you an A. As an instructor myself, I have occasionally even awarded extra credit when a student turns in a project that goes far, far beyond what was assigned and what any other student has submitted.
Ellen, for example, was assigned to compile a journal of 10 contemporary artists for an art-history class. The journal was to consist of photocopies of a minimum of three articles about each artist, a bibliography listing additional articles, and an essay analyzing the synthesizing the work written about the artist. Most students turned in their journals bound in one of those report covers that costs less than a dollar. Not Ellen.
Ellen collected so many articles about each artist that her journal mushroomed into three volumes. To package each volume, she used a three-inch-wide, three-ring binder with an elaborate indexing system. Her bibliography for each artist was about 10 times longer than that of anyone else in the class, and she included color photocopies of some of each artist's best-known works. Ellen earned an A+ on her journal.
Clearly, some drawbacks can arise to going the extra mile; such excess can be both time-consuming and expensive. But as long as you've met all the requirements of the assignment, you almost have to get an A because you've clearly put more work into the project than your classmates have. Following the assignment is key, however; you don't want simply to do extra work but rather to complete the assigned requirements in greater depth.
When is it appropriate to go the extra mile? You may want to outdo yourself if your performance in the class is not otherwise stellar, and you want to be sure of at least one high grade. If you are building a "research stream" (a series of assignments and projects on a similar topic you care about that spans multiple courses), this approach serves the dual purpose of enabling you to complete the assignment, as well as building your personal reference library. For example, Ellen focused her over-the-top art- history project on women artists because she consistently attempted to research the "female angle" in projects for all her classes. Thus, in this project, she built an excellent collection of resources that she could refer back to in future assignments about women. This "research stream" approach is especially good for students considering grad school.
Final Thoughts on Impressing Your Professors
One more way the "extra-mile" approach can help is that your professors will begin to see you as a high achiever and will view your work favorably. The down side, however, is that you will raise the teacher's expectations and may feel you always have to overachieve to meet those expectations.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key academic terms by going to our College Success Glossary.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for EmpoweringSites.com, including MyCollegeSuccessStory.com. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). She curates, crafts, and delivers compelling content online, in print, on stage, and in the classroom. Visit her personal Website KatharineHansenPhD.com or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)astoriedcareer.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.