What are you expecting as far as your student’s grades are concerned? Are you prepared to have the appropriate conversations with your student about academic performance? Regardless of whether or not it is all A’s, all D’s, or something in between, addressing grades should be a priority.

Try to keep in mind two important things:

  • The grades belong to the student—they are their responsibility. College officials cannot speak to family members about academic performance unless the student has a current, signed FERPA (Buckley Amendment) waiver. This isn’t easy to swallow, especially if you’re the one paying the bills. Waivers must be submitted each year by the student to the Registrar.
  • College is about so much more than grades.

For the student who has done well:

  • Celebrate! Getting good grades in college is tough to do, especially for first-year students and those who are balancing coursework with athletics, a job, or other co-curricular activities.
  • Discuss what your student learned this past semester. Which class was most engaging and why? What was he or she able to apply from classes to life outside of classes? Will he or she be taking any additional courses to further explore a particular subject area?
  • Review study techniques and other preparation strategies that worked well. What tricks did your student discover? Will the same strategies or something new be used next semester?

For the student who hasn’t done so well:

  • Students who earn a 2.0 or below (1.7 for first-year students) are generally placed on academic probation and have certain obligations that they need to address. The notification of probation status may come as a shock to students who receive it, but it is important to understand that it is intended to be constructive way to improve performance.
  • Explore the reasons for the performance. The why behind the poor grades is what is most important. Perhaps your student is struggling with a specific subject and needs additional support via tutoring or services from the ATTIC. Or, maybe your student spent too many nights goofing off and not enough nights studying. Regardless of the root causes, students will occasionally have a difficult time owning up to missteps right away. Other times they are genuinely unsure of where they went wrong. If so, give them some time to reflect, but make it clear to them that avoidance is not an option. Academic class deans in the Office of Advising and Co-Curricular Programs are a good place to refer a student who needs more guidance than you are able to provide.
  • Seek to understand. What’s done is done. It’s important to focus on fixing the issues so that this doesn’t happen again.
  • Brainstorm some strategies for improvement. Although college students are considered “adults,” they may still need assistance. It could prove very helpful to sit down and brainstorm together. Some potential areas to discuss include:
    • Daily study habits
    • Skill sets including note taking, writing, reading and test taking
    • Room set-up
    • Class schedule
    • Out-of-class involvements and responsibilities
    • Work/play balance, time management
    • Whether or not a learning disability might be coming into play
  • Once you have identified priorities and strategies, understand it will be your student’s choice whether or not to make the changes or work harder to pull up the overall grade average.

No matter what, let your son or daughter know that you are on his or her side. While getting good grades is your student’s responsibility, being confident that your support is always there will make a world of difference. You will be less likely to be surprised with poor grades if you maintain open lines of communication about class performance. Remember, college is all about learning. Sometimes, it’s the flops that teach the most.

Christopher Selena
Assistant Dean of Advising & Co-Curricular
Programs, Director of the ATTIC

Donna Krivoski
Director of Parent Relations