Five Steps to Help Your College Student Turn Around a Poor Semester

Perhaps your student has received his midterm grades and is worried.  Or perhaps your student has talked with his professors and has been warned that things aren’t going well.  Or perhaps your student simply knows that he hasn’t done what he needed to do so far this semester and things look bleak.

However your student determines that the first half of the semester has gone poorly, he may be wondering whether it is too late to turn things around.  Your student may share his situation with you or he may worry about how you will react.  Encourage your student to share his situation honestly with you.  Help him understand that you want to do whatever you can to help him have a successful experience.

Depending on what the cause of concern might be, your student may still have time to salvage at least some of his classes.  Here are five steps you can encourage her to take to turn things around.

  • Contemplate: This is decision time.  Your student needs to begin by thinking carefully about whether it matters to her that she save things and do well this semester.  Some students discover that they simply do not want to be in school, are not ready for college yet, or have other circumstances in life that are preventing them from doing well.  Your student needs to think about whether she wants to forge ahead or take a break at this point.  Your student may also need to give thought to options.  Is there a possibility of withdrawing from a single class?  Taking a course Pass/Fail?
  • Analyze: If your student determines that she needs a break and/or isn’t interested in moving forward, you may need to help her with the process of withdrawing from school for now.  However, if your student decides that she wants to continue, she now needs to analyze carefully what the problems are that are getting in the way of her success.  She will need to be very honest, at least with herself, about what has not been working.  Has she been attending class regularly?  Is she spending enough time studying?  Has she been completing all of her assignments on time?  Is she studying wisely?  Does she need a tutor?  Determining the specific problems is the first step to changing things.
  • Plan: Once your student has analyzed the problems, he will need to create an action plan to change things.  Continuing to do things the way he has and expecting different results will not work.  Your student will need to be realistic in his goals (perhaps A’s won’t be possible, but C’s might).  Then he needs to be very specific about what actions will move him toward those goals.  Does he need to spend more time studying?  How much time is enough?  When will he study?  Where?  How much time will be spent reading the textbook or reviewing notes?  Does he need to attend class more regularly?  How will that happen?  Does he need a new alarm clock?  Does he need to go to bed earlier?  What will change?
  • Energize: Now that your student has analyzed the problems and created a plan of action, he needs to commit to making it work.  A plan on paper means nothing if he is not energized and inspired by the possibility.  Chances are good that, in order to turn things around, the second half of the semester is going to involve a lot of hard work.  Your student will need to have the energy and the will to make changes.
  • Reach Out:  Your student may need you to remind her that she does not need to do this alone.  She will certainly have your support, but she needs to take advantage of all of the resources available to her on campus.  She should have a frank talk with her professors, visit the tutoring or support center, work with her advisor.  She may need to ask for help from her friends, residence hall staff, classmates, peers.  She can create a web of support that will serve as a safety net for her.

For most college students, the mid-semester time is a time of recharging.  The end of the semester is in sight.  Students who are doing well know that whatever they are doing is working.  They need to continue on the same path.  For students who may not be doing as well, the middle of the semester is a time for re-evaluating and trying to turn things around.   It may not be too late.  Parents can help students understand that although they may not be able to erase a weak beginning of the semester, they can still turn their experience into a reasonable positive experience.

Related Posts:

Helping Your College Student Avoid “How Do I Tell My Parents?” Fears

Should My College Student Consider Withdrawing from a Class?

Helping Your College Student Make Sense of Midterm Grades

Why Your College Student Should Talk to Her Professor If She’s Struggling

Helping Your Student With Goal Setting – And Action Plans


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