Understanding Academic Probation

It doesn’t mean your college student has to leave college—yet.

By Anne Vaccaro Brady 

Carnegie Library

At the end of the last semester, your college student may have received an email from their institution explaining that they were placed on academic probation. This situation arises most often in freshman year, as teens try to adjust to managing their newfound independence. Now you and your student may be trying to make sense of what was outlined in that notice and what’s next. Read on to learn more.

What is academic probation? It’s a warning to a student to raise their GPA, otherwise they will be asked to leave campus.

Why are you placed on academic probation? Most colleges require students to earn at least a 2.0 or a C grade point average (GPA) for each term (quarter, trimester, semester) and overall. Falling below a 2.0 for the term, but not overall, will still land a student on academic probation.

Dropping or withdrawing from too many classes also puts a student on academic probation because they haven’t met the required minimum number of credits for the whole term.

What are the ramifications? Student athletes become ineligible until their grades improve. Scholarships tied to a minimum GPA are rescinded or temporarily suspended, as is federal student aid.

How do you get off of academic probation? By meeting the specific requirements outlined in the email notification, which should have also detailed why the student ended up on academic probation in the first place. Usually a student has one term to improve.

In addition to reaching a specific GPA and/or number of credit hours in the next term, a student may need to take a seminar on academic success, schedule regular meetings with their academic adviser and/or document use of campus resources such as the tutoring or writing center.

The goal is to get your child to understand and take responsibility for how they ended up in this situation.

What happens if you don’t meet the requirements by the end of the term? In almost all cases, the student will be dismissed from the college.

How can a parent help? Should you? The goal is to get your child to understand and take responsibility for how they ended up in this situation. Once they give you those honest answers, you can guide your student on how to find more success this time around. But ultimately, they will have to do the work.

Together review the email from the college to confirm the objectives your student needs to reach and what actions they’re required to take as they work toward these targets. Then explore the resources available to them and behavior changes they’ll need to make. This can involve simple adjustments like:

  • Studying in the library or reserving a study room to avoid distractions
  • Working less hours at a part-time job
  • Dropping one or two activities
  • Socializing or going out less often
  • Taking advantage of the tutoring and writing centers
  • Scheduling regular check-ins with their academic adviser
  • Visiting their professors during office hours

It may also mean taking more serious actions such as seeking mental health counseling, staying on their prescribed medications and/or changing their major.

With your child’s permission, you might want to talk with their academic adviser to let them know you’re aware of the situation, and to get answers to any questions you may have.

Ask your child straight out if they want to stay in college, specifically this college, and what they’re thinking in terms of Plan B or C in case they can’t get it together in the next term. Discuss the financial implications of the situation. No parent wants to pay for their child to party another term away and students who leave college will need to repay their loans within months of stepping off campus.

Academic probation is often the wake up call a college student needs to get back on track.

Share your experiences and advice on academic probation in the comments section below.

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