When Your College Student’s Class Isn’t Going Well

There are many reasons why your student may struggle in a class.  It may be something that your student is, or isn’t doing.  It may be the professor and/or teaching style.  It may be the subject matter. It may be the transition to college, or to sophomore year, or to upper level classes.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the reason is.  If your student is struggling, or doing poorly in a class, you worry.  You want to help.  Perhaps he should come home more often so you can check his progress and his academic planner.  Perhaps you should call him every evening to make sure he is doing his work.  Perhaps you should speak to the professor.  Perhaps you should buy a duplicate set of textbooks so you can consult on the assignments to make sure he understands the material. (True story, it has happened!)  Perhaps you should just pull him out of school.

Wait! It’s time to take a breath.

None of these options is the answer.  You’ll still worry.  There’s really no way to get around that, but your student needs to find his own solutions.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t consult and help your student think through his options.  That’s part of your coaching role.  So here are some options to discuss with your student.

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Undecided, Undeclared, Open, Exploring: Your College Student’s Search for a Major

Many students (some say as many as 50%) enter college undecided about their major.

Many students who enter college as undecided experience stress and anxiety about declaring a major and/or finding a career.

Many students who enter college declaring a major are really undecided but have made a choice because they feel pressured.

Many parents of undecided students worry that their student lacks direction and will not find a meaningful career.

Many students, and their parents, are anxious about this seemingly indecisive status.

Who are these undecided students?

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Should My College Student Have a Job at School?

Many students head off to college knowing that, in addition to their academic work – and possibly their sports or other activities – they will need to have a job. The costs of attending college are high – and growing.  In addition to tuition and room and board, there are extra fees, expensive textbooks, and living expenses.  We can help our students think through factors to consider as they decide what kind of job they may want – and a major question of whether to work on campus or off campus.

Thinking about a job at college

The first, and most important, caution is for your student to remember that, if he is a full-time student, he has made a major commitment to his schoolwork.  Although he may be spending relatively few hours in class, a full-time student has taken on the equivalent of a full-time job.

A general rule of thumb is that students should expect to spend two hours on coursework for each hour that they spend in class.  So, for example, if your college student is registered for 15 credits (approximately 15 hours/week in class) then he should be doing approximately 30 hours of work outside of class – for a total of 45 hours of schoolwork.  Of course, this is an average and the demands will vary each week, but when considering how many hours per week he can commit to a job, he needs to be realistic about his schedule.  If he is playing a sport, or involved in some other major activity, he will need to consider that time commitment as well.  Several studies have suggested that students who work more than 20 hours a week may have a lower GPA.

Here are some factors your student should think about as he considers work opportunities.

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Help Your Student Stay “School Sharp” This Summer

Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer!  We all love them – especially students.  Although many soon-to-be or returning college students may be spending much of the summer working hard to earn money, the break from schoolwork and routine is welcome.  The problem is that all of that summer “laziness” may create some academic “haziness” when school begins in the fall.

Chances are good that your student worked hard during the school year and deserves a bit of a break.  But sometimes a little time spent thinking about school and the upcoming fall semester can give your student an edge in the fall.  Skills slide over the summer and a little work can mean that they may slide a little less.

Here are a few suggestions to share with your student to help her stay sharp and get a little head start for the fall. Encourage her to take the initiative and address potential weak areas.  Just a few hours can make a big difference.

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Three Tools and Three Questions to Help Your College Student Graduate on Time

On-time graduation is important, but it is relative.  For many college students, “on time” means four years to complete their degree.  However, other students (a growing majority in this country) need five or even six years to graduate.  There are many factors that can affect your student’s possible need for extra time.  You and your student should decide together, what makes sense for him.

Three important tools for keeping track

One of the keys to graduating in whatever time-frame your student has planned is keeping track of his progress.  Unfortunately, many students randomly take courses, or blindly accept the advice of others, without any understanding of why they are taking certain courses or what they need to do to complete their degree. Your student should listen to the advice he receives, but should be able to weigh it based on his own understanding of requirements.

So how does your student find out what he needs to do? There are three tools available at most colleges that can help him.  Your student should learn early in his college career what is available and consult these tools often.

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Four Year Graduation Goal? Here’s How Your Student Can Stay on Track

Good college students recognize that asking questions – the right questions – is an important part of learning.  Sometimes asking just the right question, at just the right time, of just the right person, can make the difference between success and failure.  If your college student is interested in graduating from college in four years, there is an important question that he should be asking at least once every semester: “Am I on track to graduate in four years?”

Nationally, only 37% of college students graduate in four years.  The trend is for the majority of students to take at least five years to complete their degree.  Colleges now calculate their graduation rates based on the number of students who complete their degree in six years.  So the question about being on track is an important one.

Four years isn’t for everyone

For many students, a five-year or six-year plan may make sense.  Some students know at the time that they enter college that they will need longer to complete their degree.  They may need a reduced course load, they may have full time or part time jobs or family responsibilities, they may have significant outside or extracurricular activities that take a priority.  But for those students who enter college intending to finish in four years, taking ownership of their progress is essential.

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Why College Peer Tutoring Works

Working with a good tutor can make a tremendous difference in your college student’s success. Having a tutor can mean that a student has a stronger grasp of the course material and may receive a better grade.

Most colleges offer tutoring or academic support in some form.  One commonly used form of student support is the use of a peer tutor.  Peer tutors are students who have strength in a subject area and work with students who are having some difficulty or need support.  Occasionally, parents worry that their college student is working with another student and not with a professional tutor.  They are concerned that the tutoring help will not be sufficient.

Although professional tutoring is very valuable, and can work well for many students, peer tutoring also has great advantages.  As in any one-on-one tutoring situation, your student will receive individual attention and support for his academic needs.  Some peer tutors may work with a student on several subjects, or the tutor may have expertise in one particular area.

Why Peer Tutoring May Be Helpful for Your College Student

There are unique advantages of peer tutors, and parents need to be aware that peer tutoring is used by many colleges because it is effective, not because it is “cheap labor.”  Peer tutors are usually trained; some are trained extensively.  They are not teachers with professional qualifications, they do not give grades or control curriculum, however they do have expertise in their subject area and some expertise in how to help other students succeed in that subject.

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Making the Shift from High School to College When Your Student Has Learning Differences

This is the first article by new College Parent Central contributor Lynn Abrahams.  Lynn specializes in college transition and success for students with learning differences.

When I think of the transition from parenting high school students to parenting college students, I am reminded of the Sunday when I first began to teach my son how to drive. The instant we arrived at the huge, vacant parking lot, the momentous shift occurred.  He clamored into the driver’s seat and I moved over to the passenger’s seat. All of a sudden, I knew that he had control of the car and I did not. I was terrified.

When your child first goes to college, you are no longer the conductor of his journey. You are a passenger – one with a very important role, to be sure, but no longer occupying the driver’s seat.

If your child has a diagnosis of learning differences, that shift may feel particularly challenging.

During high school, you needed to be involved in order to make sure your student got the services and accommodations they needed. The message in high school was, “be involved”. In high school, parents have access to student records and participate in the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) process.  In contrast, as soon as your child goes to college you may be hearing the opposite message.  In college, parents do not have access to student records, without a written consent from the student. In college, there are no IEP’s and it is up to the student to self-disclose to the Office for Disability Services. The message can feel like, “back off”.

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Is Your New College Student a Victim of “Impostor Syndrome?”

Poet Maya Angelou once said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, – uh-oh, they’re going to find out now.  I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

It is not unusual for successful people to doubt the legitimacy of their success. Many college students are no different.  Your student worries that she doesn’t belong at the college, she’s a fraud, the college made a mistake by admitting her.  She’s a victim of “Impostor Syndrome.”

One psychologist found that as many as 70% of people admit to feeling, at some point in their lives, that they are inadequate and don’t deserve their success.  So if the feeling rings true for your student, she’s in good company.  If your student secretly worries about her abilities, it may help her to know that she’s not alone.

What does your student feel?

It is important to realize that, even though you know that your student’s admission was deserved and you know that your student will do well, the fear and concern that your student feels is real. Logic may tell her that she deserves to be where she is and that she is just as qualified as her classmates, but the belief that it is all a mistake is not based on logic.

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Readmission to College After Time Away

If your student has been dismissed from college for poor academic performance, it can be a devastating blow.  Both you and your student will need to come to terms with the reality, evaluate what happened, and decide how to move forward.

Most students who are academically dismissed from college are asked to spend a certain period of time out of school.  That may be a semester, a year, or even longer.  The college recognizes that something went wrong for the student when he was enrolled and hopes that some time away will allow the student to address whatever issues interfered with his success.

Once you and your student have evaluated the situation, and perhaps taken some time away from school, your student may be ready to get back on track.

The decision to return

Before your student begins the readmission process he should be very sure that he is ready to return and to be successful.  Some students may be ready to return to school fairly quickly.  Perhaps the dismissal itself was all that it took for the student to have a “wake-up call” and he is ready to return with a new attitude and approach.  Other students may have significant and serious work to do during their time away.  Perhaps your student simply needs time to mature and understand the importance of college.  Perhaps he needs to find direction and motivation.  Perhaps he has serious health, mental health, or family/life issues that need to be addressed before he can return and be successful.

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