• Sofia Sulikowski

Just Ask

A one-step guide to getting what you want

"I got a 70 on my exam but I asked for points back and it became an 82."

I was speechless. Shocked. Appalled. One does not simply ask for a higher grade. In my mind, professors communicated their evaluation of your work, and there lies the end of the exchange.

I always pursued academic achievements with head-down studying. My brother, on the other hand, loved cutting corners and testing minimum inputs for maximum outputs. His methods didn't always work, but he viewed academics as a sort of high-risk-high-reward game.

I used to think the magic lay in his charisma; that because I wasn't extremely extroverted, I didn't have the cards to play. To clarify, he never cheated, but everything just seemed to go his way with less effort.

Now I know, his "effortless" wins entailed asking. Asking for study guides, extra points, accommodations, etc. Each shortcut builds upon past requests and like any other habit, becomes impactful over time. This natural inclination of his recently became a powerful discovery for me.

I've never had a problem with asking for help or participating in class. But I never pushed for more. If I didn't see a "student discount" sign at the register, they didn't offer one, right?


A polite question can unlock advantages at the low price of a small potential rejection.

Justina Chen's recent blog post inspired me to notice and reflect on my efforts. Living with my brother during quarantine opened my eyes to his proficiency asking for more. Recognizing the value, I began to follow suit. Each small "win" emphasized the insignificance of the risks and the value of the positive outcomes. When I was overwhelmed by online classes, I asked for extensions. One professor even let me drop a whole assignment. And when I wanted to meet a marketing operations guru, I asked my manager for an introduction.

A few weeks ago, I heard of the coffee challenge: the idea involves asking for 10% off your coffee purchase. Most coffee shops won't extend a random discount upon request, so the exercise builds tolerance for small rejections.

Challenge accepted. On July 25th, I asked the barista at The Thinking Cup for a discount.

His response: "What?"

I avoided eye contact but repeated the question.

He laughed awkwardly and shook his head no. I shrugged, paid, and moved on (#doitfortheblog).

I hope I never run into the same barista again, but the experience taught me the simplicity of asking for extra. All it takes is one sentence, email, or conversation to negotiate a more favorable outcome.

In the last two months, I've received a rent reduction, online services discounts, work day flexibility, and free samples. Success rate: 4/4. Cost: ~2 min of embarrassment. Method: just ask.

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