We've all been there. You've studied for five hours straight and none of the midterm info is sticking. You're pretty desperate. You have no idea what to do. At this point, you might view getting chummy with your TA as the best way to cop that sought-after A.
Before you nab a job for bribe money or begin perfecting your fake cry (side note—all this free time could be spent studying), stop. The tricks to make your TA like you might be more obvious than you think.
To help you help yourself, we here at Spectrum tracked down a real live TA (!) to get the down n' dirty on getting in good with TAs across the board. Our particular interviewee has been a TA for three different science classes, so she's had ton of experience. Since she's *technically* not allowed to spill the beans as a TA, we've granted her magical anonymity.
Do: Use your brain
Try your best to do the work assigned, and don't bullshit through it. You're probably not as good as you think you are, and shit-spinning usually makes you look dumb. It's hard to do all the readings, but you can at least do the important ones. Maybe even offer an intellectual comment or two during discussion—it won't kill you to end a painful silence, and it might even bump up your participation grade.
Don't: Use your phone or laptop
Your TA has minimal sympathy for you when you ask them to bump your grade, especially when they know you've spent the lecture looking at pictures of golden retrievers on your laptop.
Pro tip: Those weirdos sitting way, way in the back who you think are slackers? Surveys have found that they're actually TAs, and they're sometimes on the lookout for phone thumbing and online shopping. In some classes, they're even obligated to report you to the professor for using your phone in class or using your laptop for non-note-taking purposes (which will negatively impact your grade further… duh).
Do: Know how much control your TA has over your grades
There are some aspects of your grade that you know your TA controls—grading problem sets, recitation quizzes, etc. This will usually be explained explicitly by your professor or outlined in the syllabus, but it never hurts to ask. However, there are some aspects of your grade that are murkier.
If your TA knows you've been coming to their recitation and trying hard to work with the material, they're more likely to advocate on your behalf to the professor if you're on the fence for a particular grade. If you haven't, then, well, tough luck.
Don't: Think your TA has total control
Even if your TA grades your midterm, they usually have a strict rubric that they have to follow—they can't just give you additional points because you bring them cookies every day. Although they might put in a good word for you with the professor, they can't make or break your grade. That's left up to the professor, so don't shoot the messenger.
Do: Blame yourself (if you aren't asking for help)
If you know you're struggling in a class, do something about it. You shouldn't struggle silently, and TAs don't want you to. If you email your TA or go to their office hours, they'll know that you're making an effort and think better of you as a student (and, consequently, try their best to help you improve!).
Don't: Blame your TA
If your TA doesn't like you, 99.99 percent of the time it's because you are doing something wrong. They really aren't out to get you, and they (surprise) actually want you to succeed.
There are no cheat codes to hacking a class. Ask for help when you need it, and don't be an asshole. The TAs are just trying to do their job.
Victoria Yang is a SEAS first-year and Spectrum staff writer. She hopes her TAs will read this article and bump her grades. Reach her at email@example.com.