No college student heads off to college with the plan to be placed on academic probation and face potential dismissal. Few parents, when they drop their student off for college in September, expect that their student will struggle to the point of being placed on probation. But the reality is that, for many students, their academic work warrants the college officially notifying them that they are in danger of being dismissed. Parents can be a tremendous asset, or can potentially make matters worse, when this happens. Here are some suggestions about how you, and your college student, can cope with academic probation.
We’ve made some earlier recommendations of books that make good reading for parents of college students. (See our Recommended Reading and More Recommended Reading lists.) But there is also plenty of good reading available for college students – or about to be college students – to help them navigate the college years. If you’re looking for a gift idea for your college student or high school senior, consider one or two of these books. Some are light-hearted and written for college students to enjoy, and many are full of helpful hints and tips for successfully transitioning to and surviving college. They cover everything from general advice to cooking, money management and career advice.
For some college students, the more the work piles up, the more they put it off. Sometimes the toughest part of the battle seems to be finding where to begin and actually digging in. As students get overwhelmed, especially near the end of the semester, they freeze and wait until it is almost too late (or really too late) to get their work done well. As parents, we may need to remind ourselves that students don’t necessarily want to put things off until the last minute, they may just have difficulty knowing where to begin, or they may not understand exactly how much time or work is required to complete the task.
While college parents must remember that students need to learn their own lessons about time management, parents may be able to help students beat the Procrastination Monster by offering some suggestions – and then stepping back. Of course, helping students learn to deal with procrastination early in the semester would be best – before things begin to pile up. But facing the monster at any stage is helpful.
For many college students, the final push of the semester is an extremely stressful time. This is the time when many students realize that their time-management skills may not be the best. This is the time when students realize how much reading is left, how many papers are still unfinished (or not yet begun), how much material will actually be covered on a final exam. Students are overwhelmed, tired, sometimes sick, and often nervous or downright frightened.
During this stressful time of the semester, parents need to be supportive, but give a student some “space” to deal with his issues. Students will react to pressure differently. Some will rise to the occasion – and even thrive on the adrenaline of the final push. Others will fall apart, have a meltdown, – and then pull themselves together and tackle what they need to do. Some may forge ahead as they have all semester, almost oblivious to the added pressure at this point. Others may crumple under the stress. Parents need to be prepared for anything.
As college parents seek to find the right balance for the end-of-semester time, we’ve gathered a few earlier posts that may be especially helpful. Remember that your role is supportive and that you need to let your college student cope in the best way that she can. It is often difficult to stand back and watch as your college student struggles, but this is part of the independence that your student needs. She may make some choices that are helpful and some choices that are not particularly wise. She will learn from her choices either way.
From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students. There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years. We’ve created lists of recommended reading. Check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.
In this review, we’ll take a look at a book by one of the leaders in the field of college parenting programs. You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here If You Need Me) by Marjorie Savage is subtitled Mentoring Your Child During the College Years. This book is written by someone who has spent years working with both college students and their parents. As both a college parent and a college services professional herself, Savage is able to understand both the world of parent concerns and the world of college. She helps parents understand the new world their student is entering and also helps them take a new look at their child as he/she enters this stage of life.
Your On Your Own is a combination of common sense, reassuring and helpful advice, strategies and tips for parents and students, and straight talk about sometimes uncomfortable subjects. It is clear throughout the book that Savage brings to her writing a tremendous amount of information and personal experience from working with both students and their parents. She not only provides useful information and food for thought, but she intersperses her information with anecdotes and illustrations. Many parents will read this book and see or hear their own experiences or their own child’s experiences echoed in the stories included.
Colleges and universities want their students to succeed. Whether the institution is a highly selective ivy-league college or an open enrollment community college, schools want to see their students accomplish their goals. Unfortunately, not all students enter college with a level playing field. Some students come to college with qualities that will make it more difficult to succeed. Colleges often work hard to identify those students who may be academically “at-risk” so that they can help them to overcome potential difficulties. Understanding some of the factors that may place a student at-risk, as well as some of the strategies that colleges may use to help these students will help parents to better support these students.
Who is At-Risk?
It is important to understand that not every student who fits into an “at-risk” category will truly be at risk. Many students experience significant academic success in spite of tremendous hardships or difficulties. However, research has identified some factors that may create difficulties for students. Some of these factors include:
Are you familiar with NSSE (pronounced “Nessie”)? As a college parent, you may have looked at some NSSE results when your student was choosing a college. Or you may have heard from your college student that he has filled out a NSSE survey at his current school. More than likely, however, you may not be aware of NSSE. NSSE stands for the National Survey of Student Engagement, and as a college parent, it might be helpful to know something about it.
NSSE is an approximately ten year old, eighty-two question survey, conducted each year by researchers from Indiana University, which measures how students spend their time at college and what they gain from their college experiences. Over the life of the survey, more than 1400 colleges have participated at least once, and over 2.4 million students have been surveyed. Each year the survey is distributed to first year students and seniors at schools who choose to participate in the program. The results for 2009, released recently, come from students at more than 600 schools. The results of the NSSE survey are intended to help schools identify areas that may be improved in order to help students become more engaged in their learning.
Most college students eagerly look forward to Winter Break as a welcome respite from their college life. Whether your student has adjusted well to college life or is still struggling to find his place, the break from school and the chance to rest and regroup is welcome. Although some schools may break just for the holidays, many colleges have a break that extends through mid-January or even until the end of January. Once your student has been able to sleep and recover from final exams, once the activity of the holidays is over, the rest of Winter Break may loom ahead.
Some schools may have a January Term or Winter Intersession Term. This winter session may be optional or it may be required. Obviously, if your student is required to attend or chooses to attend an intersession term, then Winter Break will be shorter.
No one likes to make mistakes. We know we may not be perfect, but we try not to make too many mistakes – especially what we might consider “stupid mistakes”. College students don’t like to make mistakes either, but they will probably make some – perhaps many – mistakes throughout their college career. It is difficult, as a parent, to watch your college student make what you might consider avoidable mistakes. The problem may not be the mistakes themselves, but the attitude that both parents and students have toward their mistakes.
Making mistakes is a way of learning. We may make mistakes when we try new things, or stretch our limits. Others may have made the same mistake before us, but we may need to make the mistake ourselves in order to learn from it. It doesn’t matter what others have told us, we need to have the experience ourselves. College is, in many ways, practice for life. College students may stumble and fall at times – sometimes in small ways and sometimes in more serious ways – but, hopefully, they will learn from their mistakes and become wiser. As college parents, we can help our students make sense of these experiences.
This post is not about specific mistakes that students make in college, but rather it is about how parents can help college students accept their mistakes as a valuable part of their college experience and learn from them. Sometimes the mistakes that students make in college may be very serious, and have serious consequences. It is important that parents consider carefully when to intervene. (Hint: it may not be as soon as we think.) Parents need to continue to find the balance between letting go and allowing their student to make a mistake and bear the consequences, and intervening when the student’s health or safety may be at stake.
Most students go to college to learn. Most know, or at least soon discover, that their academic work at college will be different than the work that they did in high school. They are expected to spend more time studying and there is a higher level of thinking demanded. But the college years are also about other kinds of learning. Often much of this other learning happens outside of the classroom. College offers students opportunities to pursue old interests and to discover new interests. Unfortunately, too many college students pass up some of the opportunities that they have in college because they are too focused on either their academic life or their party life. Many worry that getting involved in activities or organizations on campus will distract them from their academic pursuits rather than enhance their academics.
Your college student is learning to find her own path during college. She will need to make her own choices. But as a college parent, you can encourage your student to take advantage of the many opportunities available on campus. Help her think about the benefits of getting involved in groups and activities that the college offers. Here are a few things to suggest that she consider.