This month we have a note from Kathy Stone, Director, for our new Center for Academic Support.
Midterms came out last week, and for a lot of freshmen it's an eye-opening experience. No matter what your student may think about college, one thing is for certain: he or she knows that grades matter. And when those grades aren't quite what were expected—as is often the case (this isn't high school any more), our Center for Academic Support is here to help our students get back on track.
What you can do to help:
Since grades go to the students and not to the parents, it might be easy for you to assume that no news is good news, but trust us, that's not always the case.
Although your student is responsible for his or her grades, you have a responsibility to ask about them, and we can't stress enough the importance of you talking to your student about his or her academic progress. If you established early on that you expected to see and discuss grades at the end of each term, you're a step ahead. But if you didn't, there are still ways to start the dialogue and get your student to talk to you.
1. Don't be judgmental; instead help your student understand how to use grades as a measure of progress, to keep track of accomplishments, to be aware of where there are difficulties.
2. Don't ask questions that can be answered with yes, no, okay or fine. if you simply ask how their grades were, we guarantee you'll hear "fine." Instead, find the time to sit down and talk about how the semester went, what classes were easy, which were hard, and how the grades reflected those circumstances.
3. Remember that grades for freshmen students are quite often lower than expected. The leap from high school to college is a big one, and a whole new way of studying and managing time has to be learned. So, don't panic when they're not what you'd hoped. Instead, talk constructively about ways in which your student might make improvements.
4. Take a look at the entire picture. Lots of low grades might mean a difficult time
transitioning to college life, issues in your student's social life, or time-management difficulties. One bad grade probably indicates a subject that is especially tough for your student. Make sure you know what you're trying to improve.
5. Make sure your student knows that once in college, he or she isn't making good grades to please you, but to gain the learning needed to do well in life.
6. Encourage your student to look for patterns. Are the bad grades all in early morning classes? In classes with lots of writing and papers? In his or her major?
7. Help your student come up with solutions to correct the problem, like meeting with the professor, making an appointment with a professional advisor or with someone from our center, requesting a tutor, using a time-management planner, joining a study group, or going to bed earlier.
8. If grades are good, don't take them for granted. Congratulate your student on his or her hard work.
Hard as it may be to have a discussion about grades with your student, it's important. This is an outstanding opportunity for you to encourage your student to look honestly at his or her behavior, identify where there is a problem, and come up with a plan to improve, and that's not just a good skill to have for college; it's an important skill for life.