Thursday, January 3, 2013

College Student's Underwhelming Semester Grades

A blog reader asked me to address the issue of college student grade expectations. As a college professor of 25 years, I am excited and happy to address this issue, both for parents with current college students, and for parents whose teens will eventually be college bound. It is never too early to let your pre and present college students know your expectations.

At the start of every fall semester, I ask my freshman what their goals are for this, their very first semester at college. Almost all have the same goal: make dean's list! I used to be so excited by the enthusiasm of my students, but unfortunately I have become a bit more jaded. Why, because I think when my students make this pronouncement, they somehow think that just because they say it, that it will somehow magically come to be. Oh you mean you have to buy the book!!!! Oh, I have to bring a pen to class and take notes!!!!Oh I have to do the reading!!!!! Oh, I have to study for the exams and write my papers.!!!! Somehow this all seems so surprising and unexpected. I know, they did just finish high school and had to do all that, why now does it all seem like such a mystery.

Here is why. You are not around to remind, request, and roar about getting their homework done. After I ask my students for their first semester goals, I than ask what might get in the way of achieving those goals, and then one more step. What will your strategies be to overcome that obstacle? The most common obstacles students cite are: Facebook, twitter, tumblr, snap chat and snap video, video games, naps, friends, and ta da....GENERAL ISSUES OF PROCRASTINATION.  I am sure none of these are a surprise to you. I 'm guessing that you have struggled with your teen about just these things for years. Only now, you are out of sight, out of mind, and unless they understand that you have some specific bottom line grade expectations that are a pre-requisite for  paying their tuition, you might be dealing with what I am sorry to say a number of my student's parents are dealing with right now as grades have been sent home. Unfortunately out of the sixty students I had this semester I gave out 9 D's and F's and 17 C's or C-'s. And not one of these students said that that's what they were aiming for. I know when they started school, they were pumped, but real life got in the way, and they were unprepared and unmotivated to fight through it.

Here is what you can do to help. Think of your student as your scholarship student. Most scholarships are revoked if the student does not maintain a particular grade point average. As your student's "lender" you can set a standard that you expect your student to maintain, and if he/she chooses to give less effort then is required to do that, you revoke your "loan/scholarship." Your conversation can go something like this: "We get that starting college is a new experience, and that you will need to find your way and your own motivation to get your work done. We get that having fun in college is part of the deal, but tuition is way to expensive for you to party and sleep the year away. So hear is the deal, in order for us to pay your tuition we expect that there will be no grades below a C, unless there are extenuating circumstances that you have discussed with us during the semester. If your grades fall into the no=pay zone,you will need to take the following semester off, and take classes near home with C or better results, in order to return to school. We know you can do the work, otherwise they would not have accepted you, you just need to work out how to get it done.

This is a really hard consequence for everyone, but some students need an incentive to do what they need to do, and if they love being away from home, and love the whole college experience, and know they could lose it if they don't find their mojo, it motivates them.

We all need incentives and motivators. Being away at college is an amazing experience. It is easy to get caught up in living the life. I totally get it!!!!!

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