How To Appeal Your Grade in Nursing School

5 Min Read Published August 26, 2022
How To Appeal Your Grade in Nursing School

There is a great deal at stake when it comes to nursing school grades. Most nursing schools allow students to retake only one course. After that, a failing grade can mean dismissal from the program. So how can you appeal a grade you know isn’t fair? Follow these simple steps when considering appealing your grade. 

When to Consider Appealing Your Grade

In most cases, it’s difficult to appeal grades based on personal hardships. Life changes like divorce or dealing with family member's illnesses are heartbreaking. Yet, they may not excuse poor performance or inability to fulfill nursing school requirements.

To win a grade appeal, students must show evidence that:

  • Discrimination or harassment occurred (based on race, religion, age, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or disability). For example, if all students over age 40 passed while all under 40 failed a course, that would be grounds for an appeal.
  • Grades were out of line with nursing school policies and procedures. Or, an instructor assigned a grade based on factors other than course performance. For example, if a professor failed a student because they did not like comments they made, that would be a reason to appeal.
  • Instructor behavior was unethical, unprofessional, or violated students’ rights. For example, if an instructor sold an answer key to half of the class, students could appeal their test grades.
  • The grade is inaccurate because the professor marked items incorrectly. For example, a clerical or arithmetical error.

Former Professor John Hare warns, “It’s difficult enough to prove that the professor graded you according to standards that weren’t in the syllabus. It’s more difficult to demonstrate that the professor graded you more harshly than other students. If you have no concrete, specific evidence on one of these points, your appeal won’t go anywhere.”

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When students have concerns about course content, teaching methods, or testing requirements, it is important to talk to the professor as soon as possible. By respectfully expressing the concerns it may be possible to prevent problems later.

Chain of Command for Nursing School Appeals

The first step in appealing a nursing school grade is to examine your basis for the appeal. If you disagree with a grade, be honest with yourself. Then answer the question, “why should you receive a different grade?” If your feelings are subjective (e.g., “I work hard and deserve it”), then it will be difficult to prove your case in the appeals process. You will need objective evidence that your score is wrong.

Next, look up your school’s appeals process because you should follow it to the tee. You must follow any instructions outlined in your nursing school’s handbook. Deviating from the procedure could hurt your case.

Also, keep a log of who you spoke to and when so that if the situation escalates, you will have a timeline of events to support your case. Some nursing school handbooks provide a form students must use to dispute a grade. Keep copies of any forms or documents you submit to create a paper trail.

In many colleges, there is also an informal grade dispute process to follow before beginning a formal grade appeal.

Although every school is unique, every college’s nursing department has a chain of command. If you cannot resolve a dispute with your professor or instructor, you will plead your case up the ladder until the case is settled. Most schools have a structure similar to this.

If you cannot resolve your grade dispute with your professor, you will meet with the department head. Suppose the department head agrees with your professor. In that case, you may have the opportunity to appeal your grade before a faculty panel. Ultimately, the head of your nursing school makes the final decision.

The Grade Appeals Process in Nursing School

Here is an example of a Grade Appeals process in nursing school.

  • Schedule a meeting with the instructor or faculty to attempt to resolve the dispute within three business days of receiving the grade.
  • If a resolution is not reached, meet with the nursing course director to attempt to resolve the dispute within three business days of the instructor meeting.
  • If the resolution is not reached, the student may formally request a hearing with a panel of nursing faculty within three business days. The instructor or faculty will be notified and have ten business days to respond. At the hearing, the nursing student may provide supporting evidence and discuss the basis for their grade appeal.
  • The hearing panel will decide and deliver it in writing to the student no later than three business days after the meeting.
  • If a resolution is still not reached, students may appeal the nursing faculty panel’s decision in writing to the Nursing Program
  • Director within three business days of receipt. The Director will review all documentation and meet with the student and involved parties to decide the appeal. The decision of the Nursing Program Director is final.

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Pros and Cons of Appealing Your Grades

Disputing a grade may benefit you, but it is not the easiest solution. Here are some of the pros and cons.


Appealing your grade may:

  • Raise your GPA if the appeal is successful
  • Correct errors in your academic record
  • Prevent you from failing out of a course or degree program
  • Allow you to progress in the nursing program


The grade appeals process may:

  • Take time and attention away from other responsibilities (like studying for other courses) because appeals are time-consuming
  • Increase your stress level and cause more worry
  • Result in a lower grade, if it reveals other items that faculty wrongly scored right

Appealing your grade in nursing school may not be the best course of action. Carefully weigh the pros and cons before moving forward with a formal appeal.

Alternatives to Appealing Your Grade in Nursing School

Nursing students who are worried about their grades should always communicate with their instructors. Keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to prevent grade disputes.

If you receive a grade you think is unfair, talk to the instructor to find out what you can do to succeed next time. Being proactive during the course by asking to make corrections, taking advantage of extra credit opportunities, and scheduling meetings with your professors for feedback will likely yield a better outcome than appealing grades after the fact.

The Takeaways

You have a choice when you receive an unfair or failing grade in nursing school. You can make excuses or take action. If you choose to appeal your nursing school grade, follow these takeaways.

  • Contact your professor or instructor first and do so quickly.
  • Follow your school’s grade appeals policy, including time frames.
  • Show solid evidence supporting your appeal.

Although appeals are difficult to win, your nursing program may change your grade based on errors, inconsistencies, or prejudice.

Sarah Falcone
Sarah Falcone Contributor

Sarah S. Falcone, BSN, RN, is a nurse and health content writer in Fort Worth, TX. She has worked in various settings, including Med-Surg and L&D, but home health has her heart. Sarah is a passionate advocate for moving advanced levels of care to the home, where her clients can safely receive medical treatments they need, with greater satisfaction and comfort. She focuses on patient experience, outcomes, and advancing clinical models using innovative technology to serve patients better. Sarah draws from 15 years of practicing patient care and nursing leadership, to share her own nursing experiences and expertise online. Connect with her on LinkedIn!

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