The Student Connection

Tips for getting off Academic Probation

Traffic Signal Stop Caution GoThe numbers are frightening. Researchers have found what many parents fear — and often don’t hear until too late: About one in three college freshmen are on academic probation after their first semester. The reasons range from overwhelming workloads to staying up for too many all-nighters in the days before finals. Academic Probation is serious situation, often affecting students’ abilities to register for classes and impacting financial aid. Kathleen Gillespie, PhD. of The Student Connection details the story and explains the steps to take to get off Academic Probation. Readers will note a method for “identifying one’s successes” in order to repeat what works and make success into routine.


 

Tips for getting off Academic Probation

Evidence Based Findings

One of the greatest challenges facing higher education in the United States is student retention.1   College administrators are working harder to improve graduation rates to ensure that revenue from tuition is not lost from students who drop out or transfer. 2 Student retention is being impacted because the number of incoming undergraduate students has risen dramatically who are unable to successfully achieve and maintain good academic standing.3  Academic standing is measured by GPA, academic progress, and the number of credits achieved.4  In a study conducted in 2006 by researchers at Santa Monica College. Santa Monica, California and California State University at Northridge, the number of first-time freshmen on probation identified was 35% after their first semester.5

Why is this happening? What does the research say?

Some students may have an acceptable GPA but have experienced too many academic challenges in one semester. Academic challenges are like the canary in the coal mine. They are early behaviors that indicate the student’s academic standing is within one semester of falling below acceptable standards. Academic challenges are measured by a wide variety of indicators. Historically these are developmental milestones. However, given the prevalence of students in higher education who experience academic probation academic challenges are now beginning to emerge that reveal many students are under-prepared for the rigors of remaining in good academic standing. 6,7 These indicators typically include (but are not limited to) the student being caught unaware and unprepared to face one or more urgent academic deadlines they should have been able to anticipate. The result is an exceptionally high level of student stress and frustration which the student attempts to resolve with ineffective and potentially health damaging strategies which can include last minute reliance on all-nighters for two or more subsequent nights.

More Evidence

In a study conducted by Fairfax Public Schools, college freshman were interviewed who had earned academic warnings or had been placed on academic probation.8 The students interviewed included high-achieving students from academically challenging high school programs (which debunks the notion that all students who do well in high school will automatically do well in college). The causes of college student underachievement were examined individually and several key factors were identified. These key factors included inadequate study skills, poor time management, and internal versus external motivation.

Additional research has been conducted on why a growing number of undergraduate students are unable to successfully achieve and maintain good academic standing. This research includes the impact of Millenials – those born in or after 1982.9 This study suggests that the values and motivations of Millennials play a definitive role in student retention.  For example, Millennial students tend to be well aware that there are academic rules and regulations but consider it a challenge to find a way around academic rules and regulations. Investigation into this area reveals that students on academic probation tend to have performance-avoidance goals. As a consequence, students with performance-avoidance goals exhibit “maladaptive patterns of learning that sabotage their ability to succeed in school.” See 3

Relevant Strategies

While by no means an exhaustive literature search, several studies point to a range of interventions that can be tailored to the needs of each college level student willing to confront their inability to achieve and maintain good academic standing. See 4

  • Monitored probation. Monitored probation consists of regularly scheduled meetings with an academic advisor and/or a student advocate. See 7 Monitored probation goes beyond traditional probation in that the student is required to provide evidence of their efforts and work toward achieving good academic standing.
  • Agree to rules of engagement. According to Neil F. Williams, distinguished professor, Eastern Connecticut State University, rules of engagement identify the expectations regarding what kind of conduct and actions will and won’t be tolerated. 10
  • Complete an academic skills inventory.* Completing an effective inventory of academic skills raises the student’s awareness of sophisticated academic strategies required for college success.     See 6 As explained by Stanford University, the academic skills “that got you here are not necessarily the ones that will help sustain you, and discovering new ones is not always an intuitive process.”11
  • Reflect on what you could have done better. Reflecting on one’s past experience is a time honored tradition for making sense and meaning of one’s life. Living through difficult rites of passage is the backbone of hero archetypes in all human societies.  For students, reflections are a time-honored way to move successfully from one experience into the next. The focus is on developing a “deeper understanding of the relationships with and connections to other experiences and ideas. It is a systematic, rigorous, and disciplined way of thinking with its roots in scientific inquiry.” 12

 

Tips for Reflecting on What You Could Have Done Better:

Think of the reflection exercise in three parts. The first identifies how you corrected an academic problem you encountered during the semester (i.e. the strategies you implemented to ensure the work, study, and/or assignment(s) were completed on time.  The second consists of re-tracing your steps back to see where you could have made better decisions. The third part is where you identify how you will ensure effective decisions going forward.

 

Sources Cited*

1a Borysenko, K. (2014, April 10). Five Critical Issues Facing Higher Education Leaders in 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://www.eduventures.com/2014/04/prioritize-focus-evolve-five-critical-issues-facing-higher-education-leaders-2014/

2 Mrs. Brigid Godvin, Academic Success Coach & Co-founder of The Student Connection.

3 Sullivan, J. R., & Guerra, N. S. (2007). A closer look at college students: Self-efficacy and goal orientation. Journal of Advanced Academics, 18(3), 454-476.

4 What to Do If Your College Student Is on Academic Probation. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://collegeparents.org/

2009/11/29/what-do-if-your-college-student-academic-probation/

5 Tovar, E., & Simon, M. A. (2006). Academic probation as a dangerous opportunity: Factors influencing diverse college students’ success. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 30(7), 547-564.

6 Rivas, E., Johnson, K., Alexander, S., De Guia, A., Brookstein, T., Howell, M., Mueller, S. (2012). Students on Academic Probation – Statistics and Strategies. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://sa.berkeley. edu/sites/default/files/Academic Probation Handout.pdf

7 Arola, K. (2007, April 1). Academic Probation Research And Program Review. Retrieved January 13, 2016, from http://www.pine.edu/ student-services/counseling-services/academic-probation-research.pdf

8 Balduf, M. (2009). Underachievement among college students. Journal of advanced academics, 20(2), 274-294.

9 Rivera, B., & Huertas, M. (2006). Millenials: Challenges and implications to higher education.

10 Williams, N. F. (2007). The rules of engagement: Socializing college students for the new century. In ”National Teaching and Learning Forum Newsletter” (Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 1-4).

*An effective academic inventory goes beyond traditional skills taught in college-level study skills courses. While those courses provide an excellent foundation, an effective academic skills inventory should provide students with new ideas to try, offer encouragement, provide reinforcement for the strategies the student is already using, and update the student with the latest strategies other students find highly effective.

11 Stanford Undergrad Study Tips Resources (n.d.).  Retrieved January 13, 2016, from

https://undergrad.stanford.edu/tutoring-support/academic-skills-coaching/study-tips-resources

12 Rodgers, C. (2002). Defining reflection: Another look at John Dewey and reflective thinking. ”The Teachers College Record,”104(4), 842-866.

 

Tips for Reflecting on What You Could Have Done Better:

Think of the reflection exercise in three parts. The first identifies how you corrected an academic problem you encountered during the semester (i.e. the strategies you implemented to ensure the work, study, and/or assignment(s) were completed on time.  The second consists of re-tracing your steps back to see where you could have made better decisions. The third part is where you identify how you will ensure effective decisions going forward.

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