Student Academic Affairs

Returning to Good Academic Standing

If you're on academic probation, then you probably already know what doesn't help you succeed in college-level studies. To find some ideas of what will help you succeed, please read the suggestions below from students who learned the hard way. They were academically dismissed, and then asked to think about what would help them return to good academic standing.

Take responsibility for your actions.

Stop blaming instructors for assigning low grades: instead, accept that you earned the low grades, and accept that it's your challenge and responsibility to earn better grades. Read each course syllabus and understand what the instructor expects. Don't wait for someone to explain it to you.

Think of being a college student as your job. If you're on academic probation, then you've just been written up and you're on the verge of being fired. It's up to you to prove that you deserve to stay.

Go to class.

Not going to class is the regret most frequently mentioned by academically dismissed students: in hindsight, they realize the importance of showing up and participating in class, even if attendance is not required. One of the biggest transitions for first-year students fresh from high school is understanding that even if no one else makes you go to class, you should still acquire the self-discipline to do so.

Buy your textbooks.

Textbooks can be expensive, and a continuing ISU initiative is to make classroom materials more affordable. Nonetheless, there's no escaping the obvious: You put yourself at a tremendous disadvantage by not having  textbooks.

Do everything you can to gain access to the materials you need to succeed in your courses. Ask family members to buy holiday or birthday presents early in the form of textbooks. Scour the web for used copies. If you really can't afford to buy, talk to classmates about sharing a copy, or to your instructor about having a copy on library reserve. (P.S. Instructors are not required to do this.)

Study more than you think you ought to.

Another big transition for first-year students fresh from high school: You have to study more in college if you want to do well. In high school, many students got by -- or even excelled -- with a minimum investment of time. In college, however, the standard rule of thumb is to study two hours a week for every hour spent in class.

Use a study planner and block out definite study hours for each class. Don't wait for an assignment to be due, but begin working on announced requirements in advance. Review reading assignments, taking notes in outline form. Ask yourself questions about what you've been learning, and then write out the answers. For each class, prepare a question to ask the instructor, either during class time or afterwards.

Study better than you've done before.

We'll be honest: this tip doesn't come from students like yourself. It's from Dr. Stephen Chew, award-winning professor at Samford University, whose research passion is learning how people learn. He's posted these YouTube videos that summarize his findings and that will help you study more effectively.

Invest in yourself: watch these five videos, and apply Dr. Chew's findings to your own study habits. Here's the link: http://www.samford.edu/how-to-study.

Understand how your personal life affects your academic performance.

Many students will mention events from their personal lives as factors in their previous academic dismissal. Over some events we have no control: illness, accidents, deaths in the family. Some events, however, are matters of personal choice and can be controlled once you decide to prioritize academic success.

  • Make the decision that your academic performance deserves priority in your calendar. Schedule class and study time first; make the hard decisions that are necessary in order to return to good academic standing.

For students with family and/or work obligations, these can be very hard decisions. For example, how do you put class and study time first if you have young children or a full-time job? The solutions to these dilemmas are not easily found, and they require a lot of hard work, soul-searching, and creative problem-solving on the student's part. What our academically dismissed students tell us is that the first step is admitting that what you've done in the past does not work, and, as hard as it is to find another way to juggle all your priorities, you must find a better solution.

  • For those life events beyond your control, get the help you need.

ISU's Student Counseling Center offers confidential services that can help you deal with stress, grief, loneliness, or other emotional states that can affect your GPA. Don't wait until you've failed all your courses before you decide to seek help.

Acquire the skills you need to succeed.

Many academically dismissed students wish they'd understood more about time management, reading textbooks effectively, taking notes, and preparing for tests. If you feel that you could benefit from learning more about any of these areas, you may wish to ask your advisor about possible suggestions or investigate the many online resources. (For example, the University of Central Florida's College Level Study Skills Inventory found here.)

Be proactive in getting the academic support that you want and need.

While the primary responsibility for returning to good academic standing is yours, support is available on the ISU campus. It's up to you to take advantage of this help.

  • Meet with your instructors
  • Take advantage of any class- or department-sponsored tutoring or study sessions
  • Meet with your academic advisor
  • For Math classes, take advantage of the free Math tutoring available in Root Hall
  • For written assignments, use the Writing Center
  • Contact the Center for Student Success about tutoring or supplemental instruction. Also ask about being assigned a student mentor, who can coach and inspire you with every suggestion on this page (and more!).