Advising Freshmen on Probation

A student is placed on academic probation each semester that his or her overall GPA drops below 2.0.  Students are taken off probation when they raise their GPA above 2.0.  Freshmen who are on academic probation in the spring are at risk for falling behind or worse, for failing or dropping out of college.  Below are general guidelines for advising students on probation.


Know the common factors that contribute to freshmen probation:


Poor study habits: the student may have poor grades in all or in a number of courses.  Ability may not be the issue as much as motivation, self discipline, time management.


Ability: the student may have done poorly in courses that require certain skills.  You should ask if the student is in the right major and how he or she could benefit from tutoring. Motivation or study habits might not be the issue as much as aptitude. 


Adjustment: the student may have done poorly because he or she was having trouble adjusting to college.  These may or may not persist.


Employment: it is very common for students to work while they go to college, and many work a lot of hours.  While students may need the money, you should help them see that working too many hours is counter productive.  They loose far more than they gain, both economically and educationally.  If it’s not possible for a student to reduce the number of hours/week they work, you should explore the possibility of reducing the number of course a student takes, keeping in mind the student’s financial aid will be affected if they attend part time (below 12 credits).


Choice of major: often students select a major based on wrong information, parental pressure, pressure to select a major, or any variety of reasons that do not reflect a mature and self aware choice.  Students’ performance may be tied to doubt about their major choice or pressure they feel to pursue something that does not interest or suit them.


Meet with your advisees on probation.  The most important thing you can do is set up an initial meeting with students when they return to campus.  Many won’t know what it means to be on probation or won’t take it seriously.  Many won’t understand the implications or what they need to do to regain their good standing.  Help them understand the nature of probation and the consequences.  You might do a GPA calculation exercise so they can see what’s needed to raise their GPA over 2.0.  


Discuss with your advisee the reasons for his or her poor performance.  You might use a self-assessment questionnaire to help students identify the factors that contributed to their performance in the previous semester.  Since you really began this discussion in UNV 101 when you covered self-assessment, your conversations can be an extension or continuation of what you discussed the previous semester. 



Discuss a plan for recovery.  As you help students identify what factors contributed to their poor academic performance, you can guide them toward a plan for doing better.  It takes a number of semesters to regain good academic standing, so students should be encouraged to think both short and longer term about what they need to do.


Students who indicate they did not manage their time properly or didn’t know how to study effectively for exams or procrastinated a lot or “don’t know what happened,” are candidates for study skills tutoring.  Students are typically resistant to the idea that they “don’t know how to study” so you may need to spend some time helping students understand that college demands new approaches.    


Students who are still having difficulty adjusting might be encouraged to visit the Counseling Center so they can identify and deal with the issues they are having.


If students believe they are weak in certain skill or subject areas, have them identify what courses they anticipate they will have difficulty with and have them find out what the tutoring hours are for those subjects/areas. 


Have students identify at what point in the course, i.e. difficulty with homework problems, a C on the first quiz, etc., they will decide they need to seek tutoring.


Students who are weak in certain skill areas may need to consider changing their major.  Some students will realize this on their own while others will not. Students should be aware that they need to maintain a 2.0 GPA in their major as well as overall to graduate.  You can refer students to Academic Resources where they can discuss with an adviser possible majors.


Sometimes students who don’t have a major lack direction or motivation.  You might suggest students see an Academic Resources adviser, since advisers are trained to counsel students who are still exploring options and deciding on a direction.


Students who did poorly because they missed too many classes need to commit to attending class.


Stay in contact with your advisees on probation.  You should meet at least once more in addition to an initial meeting with your probation students, preferable 2-3 weeks following this first meeting.  You should ask questions about their plans for recovery, what choices they are making, how they are doing in the classes, what they are doing differently or the same, if they are going to the Tutoring or Writing Center.