Lauren Richards Headshot

There’s a lot to love about college. Experiencing independence for the first time, having fun with friends and discovering your passions are just a few examples. Yet, when it comes to classes, few things get me excited as extra credit.

If I had to guess, I’d say every student is in the same boat as me. After all, who can pass up on a few extra points? However, not every instructor is open to the idea of extra credit, even though there are several reasons why they should be.

Not only do extra credit opportunities improve grades, but they also contribute to a positive, caring classroom environment. When an instructor offers extra credit, they let students know they want to maximize their chances to succeed. Even if most choose not to do any additional work for a better grade, as a student, it’s always reassuring to have that option available. At least in my experience, I feel more motivated and excited to be in a class where I have those academic cushions.

Extra credit also allows students to exercise greater agency, which is an empowering feeling. With extra credit as an option, students have more control over what their final grade will be. In this sense, these assignments also act as accountability measures, so someone has less of an excuse to ask for a better grade at the end of the semester.

One criticism about extra credit is that it creates additional work for the professor. While this may be true, extra credit opportunities don’t have to be extensive. They can be incorporated into existing assignments and tests, and be as simple or complex as the instructor wants. Ultimately, the amount of work that needs to be graded doesn’t rest solely on the student.

Others believe that assigning extra credit for trivial feats is useless and encourages laziness. However, extra credit assignments can be opportunities to promote enrichment and experiential learning. For instance, in my psychology of gender class, you can receive extra points for writing a paper about an event, lecture or discussion related to class material. In fact, extra credit tied to an event can motivate students to become more involved with extracurricular activities, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Education

By far the biggest criticism is that extra credit is nonexistent in the real world. Sure, these opportunities aren’t afforded in life outside the classroom, but extra credit done right imparts an important message to students — doing more than what is expected of you can pay off. When not taken to the extreme, this attitude can be highly valuable in the workplace, leading to better performance and promotions. 

When it comes to implementing extra credit opportunities effectively, there are a few recommendations instructors can follow. In order to avoid the laziness trap, instructors can grade extra credit activities for accuracy rather than completion, emphasize connection to class materials and offer a small amount of points per activity. Other important measures include assigning limited quantities and ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities. Or, if the idea of extra credit is still unappealing, dropping and replacing lower grades is another helpful practice.

In a time when mental health is a dire issue on campus, students need all the support they can get. While more mental health resources are necessary for change, there are ways professors and instructors can make college a less stressful experience. Offering extra credit or some other type of grade assistance can be one of those ways. I promise — our GPAs won’t be the only thing that benefits.

If you or someone you know is having a mental health emergency, the Counseling Center can be reached 24 hours a day at 919-515-2423. If you are in a crisis situation and need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

The Counseling Center’s website offers free online screenings, a plethora of self-help resources regarding mental health and wellness concerns and a comprehensive list of campus services available for those who need guidance. To view an exhaustive list, visit

If you’re seeking professional counseling or other mental health services on campus, visit the Counseling Center’s Getting Started page at to complete paperwork, set up an appointment and more.

Staff Columnist

My name is Lauren Richards and I am a second-year studying psychology. I joined the Opinion section in 2021 as I hope to spark dialogue around issues that matter.

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