What to Do If You End Up On Probation

No one goes to college hoping to get put on academic probation. 

However, many students, especially freshmen, find it difficult to deal with the freedom that college life affords. It can be easy to oversleep and miss a few classes. A few missed classes turn into some bad grades on tests and papers. Before they know it, a percentage of students find that they have made too many bad final grades.

At many schools, this will be followed by a period of “academic probation.” 

What is academic probation, and what will it mean?

Many students have only a vague understanding of what academic probation is, and they end up crashing and burning out of college because they did not take immediate and appropriate action to address the problem.

Being put on academic probation means that your grades are too low. Many schools require students on probation to take seminars or attend required homework hours. 

Your school may also require you to present each of your professors with a form to sign. This form asks the professor to comment on your progress in that course. He or she will, if possible, give you a grade on your work so far and note how many absences you have if he or she takes attendance. On these forms, your prof may also make a comment about your attitude or ability in the course. 

If you end up on probation, it is not the end of the world. However, you do want to have a strategy for surviving probation and, importantly, getting off of it.

The most important thing to understand about academic probation is that most schools only give you so many chances to improve your grade point average. The word “probation” here likely means that you get one or two semesters to bring those grades up. If you don’t, you can be dismissed from the school. 

Take these steps to get off probation

Landing on academic probation does not require you to lobotomize your personality. You may have little difficulty getting off probation is you follow these directions to the letter:

First, read all the instructions that your college sends to you regarding your probation. Make sure you understand what is expected. If anything is unclear, go to your student services office and ask them to explain it. 

Next, if there is assigned homework time or workshops or seminars, do NOT blow them off. Get there on time and be respectful to the supervisor or educator who is in charge. If you have an assigned homework period–usually in the library–use it to study for your classes. Avoid the temptation to spend the hour on Instagram.

Attend classes religiously. This is not a good time to skip classes–even if your profs are not taking attendance. You really don’t want somebody writing “Well, this is the first time I’ve seen him all semester on your form.”

It’s a good idea to introduce yourself to all your professors, preferably at the end of class on the first day, and let them know that you are on probation. They will find out later when you ask them to fill out a form, so it’s best to disclose this up front. Shake your prof’s hand, make eye contact, give him your name. During this conversation, be sure to say something like, “I made some poor decisions last semester that landed me on academic probation, but I’m determined to work really hard this semester and turn things around.” 

Do not not talk about grades or say that you are going to make an A, because some professors find that presumptuous. If you are not comfortable doing this after class, or if your prof is in a rush to get somewhere, drop by his office and have this conversation.

When you need your form signed, meet with your professor after class and ask him to sign the form. Be sure that you have a writing implement for this purpose. Many profs lecture with powerpoint presentations and there’s no real reason for them to carry pencils and pens to class. 

If your professor is one of those rare birds who gets to class several minutes early, you can take care of this before class. Do NOT interrupt your professor in the middle of a lecture or workshop and present him with your probation form. 

Read your professor’s comments carefully. If he has suggested a problem, like “Turns papers in late,” you must completely address that problem with that professor. Your prof may make a note of how you are using class time like, “He should be taking notes” or “Needs to get off Facebook and pay attention.” You must immediately start (or stop) doing whatever that note indicates. 

If the grade your prof assigns is below a C, you also need to take quick action to improve your grade. Visit your professor’s office during office hours and ask how you can improve your work in the course. Do NOT talk about grades. Instead, ask how you can do better quality work. Express an interest in learning all he has to teach. Tell him about how you are a visual learner. But do not say, “I need to make a B in this class” because that strategy can backfire.

You can still have a social life, but slow it down

Academic probation is the right time to hit the books and slow way down on the parties. You can revisit the beer keg when you’ve brought your grade point average back up to a 2.5 or better. 

That said, academic probation does not mean you can’t go to any fun events or parties. But you will want to organize events wisely, not impulsively. If your social life has, so far, revolved around beer, plan meetings that allow you and your fellow students to brainstorm on the work assigned in classes. Or schedule a group of friends to attend a lecture for extra credit. 

This might be a good time to meet friends who take academics seriously. Ask these friends what events they are attending, and see if you can tag along. 

In order to gather safely with your college friends, consider using the KVA Plan. With KVA Plan, it is possible to organize important events, like study sessions and extra credit lectures, safely. 

In conclusion, academic probation does not mean the end of your college career. It is a warning and a wake up call. Take immediate action to improve your grades and study habits. If you do so, it is likely you can get off probation and still be on schedule to graduate in four years. 

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