Academics Going to College

Academic Problem Solving

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There are various problems you may face regarding the courses you are taking. Below are some examples of academic problems and some information about how these problems can be handled. Remember to use all available resources to help you deal with such situations. You are not alone and you have recourse.

Dropping a class

Once in a class, you may realize this is not a course you can succeed in or that it is of no interest to you. You may find the class is too difficult or that your first grades are too far below what you expected. You have the choice of dropping the class.

Be aware of the policy for dropping a class to protect yourself. The earlier you drop, the better. Some schools will allow you to drop a course without financial penalty in the first week. On the other hand, you may lose part of your tuition after attending for only a few days. There are often sliding dates that outline how the money you will lose is pro-rated. For example, after two weeks you might lose one-third of the class cost. After five weeks it may be 50%. At some point you will lose 100% of your tuition money.

In addition to financial penalties for dropping a course, you should know there are academic penalties. The policy in this regard is usually more lenient. You may have until the eighth week or the tenth week to decide to drop before the course will be noted as a failure on your record. If you drop the course soon enough, it may not be part of your academic record at all, or your record may note a drop without failure. If you do not drop your course before the deadline, it will be noted as a failure and figured into your Grade Point Average (GPA). Check the college catalogue for the policy your college follows, and do it soon.

Failing a class

 You may fail a course. You should know there are ways to deal with a failure. The best way of erasing a course failure is to retake the class. But the most important thing to keep in mind that you should always seek academic help in order to prevent failing a course. Their professionals are always ready to help you with some hard assignments you can’t cope with.

If you do fail and choose to retake a course, although your failure is a permanent part of your record, the grade for the last time the course is taken will be computed into your GPA and the previous grade will be voided.

Note: If you retake a course because of a poor grade, please understand that only the last grade will be part of your GPA. For example, if you had a “D” but fail the course the second time around, your GPA will be computed with the failing grade.

Academic Suspension

You may be placed on academic suspension if your semester grades are not high enough. Most colleges have a sliding GPA for suspension; that is, for freshmen the threshold is lower—maybe 1.5. As you continue in college, the threshold will rise; for a junior it may be a 1.8 GPA. If your grades for the semester fall below the college requirement, you will be placed on suspension, usually for a semester, after which time you may reapply to the college. Sometimes you will only need to be in touch with your academic dean and the registrar to complete the necessary paperwork.

The best way to endure a semester suspension is to review your academic and vocational options, work, rest, and prepare mentally to return to college. You could also take a refresher course at a local college, but you will probably not be able to transfer the credit for this course back to your own college. Either way, readmission is usually automatic, although you may have had to fill certain conditions like taking a remedial course, which you will have to prove you have done before readmission.

You may also appeal a suspension. You start an appeal by requesting an interview with the academic dean. If you attempt an appeal, you should describe any unusual circumstances that may have caused your poor grades. These might be family problems such as divorce, personal illness, or a roommate problem that affected your studies. Not only outline the reasons for your grades but also take a pro-active approach. The dean will want you to own your problem and have a plan to correct it. S/he will not allow you back for another semester of more of the same. Be sure, then, to include a plan to set things right. And, make it specific; saying you’ll improve is not enough. Propose that you will move into a single room, show that you are enrolled in a study skills course, plan to give up three of your four activities you have been involved in, or decide to work a job fewer hours.

A disputed grade

It may be that you receive a grade you feel is unfair or incorrect. Indeed, it may be a simple mistake. Either way, plan to see the professor assigning your grade right away. It is always easier to solve a problem if both people have a clear memory of it. Meeting with your professor in person is more effective than email. However, email may be your only option. Be sure you outline your argument on paper clearly. It will be easier for you to speak with the professor and you will be less likely to leave important facts or ideas out. You will also impress the professor with your preparation. You should also speak and argue civilly. This will again sway the professor more than emotional language and assertions. It would be helpful, too, to remember this professor is human. S/he, if painted into a corner may get defensive and be less likely to concede your point.

If you do not have any success dealing with your professor, you can appeal to the professor’s department head and maybe eventually to the academic dean. Usually, there is also an appeals process outlined in your college handbook. You should know, however, that because of academic freedom, faculty has final say about grades. In the long run, it may be best to deal directly with your professor.