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Need Advice - Bad grades

WorriedMom1313WorriedMom1313 2 replies1 discussions. Posts: 3 New Member
edited December 2012 in Parents Forum
Hi,

DS1 started college (well-respected state school) with 26 AP credit hours and had great grades the first year (ie 3.8 avg). He's in one of the tougher engineering majors. Spring of sophomore years his grades dipped to 2.5. He made TWO D's and they had to be retaken. Then this fall (junior year) he retook one of those classes and got a D again! His gpa for fall is just under 2.0. His overall is somewhere just above 2.6/2.7 I think.

The problem is he swears he understands the material - says he helps other kids understand it. He doesn't know what goes wrong on the exam, but he never does well. There are typically only a mid-term and a final in his courses. I asked if it was test anxiety, but he says no and when I talk to him after an exam he's always positive he did well.

I'm at a loss. He's very smart. He has cut back on his EC's though he still has one that takes a good bit of time and he loves attending the sports events.

His advisor is an abrasive woman and he dreads dealing with her. I have made him promise to make an appt before school starts to ask her advice. I wonder if he could make an appt with the professor where he got the D to see if he can help him understand where he goes wrong. This is a large school and I'm not sure if the profs will meet with past students for this kind of thing.

This has definitely ruined my holiday. I just feel like even if he changes majors he'll carry these awful grades that will drag down his gpa. I would appreciate any advice!!!
edited December 2012
16 replies
Post edited by WorriedMom1313 on
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Replies to: Need Advice - Bad grades

  • WorriedMom1313WorriedMom1313 2 replies1 discussions. Posts: 3 New Member
    FYI, I'm not new to the forum, but to protect S1's privacy using a new screen name.
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  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6626 replies139 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,765 Senior Member
    Is the D class he retook an engineering course? Can you share? It's hard for us to evaluate without more info...
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76108 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,771 Senior Member
    When he gets the test papers back, does he understand the reasons why his answers were marked down? If not, does he ask the instructors of the courses to explain?
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  • bovertinebovertine 3274 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,303 Senior Member
    Were the classes he recieved the 3.8 in new classes or repeat classes where he already knew the material? Just wondering.

    I'm not sure what his major is, but in EE I thought the material got significantly harder after the first year. I read on this forum where people post that the material got easier in upper division but that certainly wasn't my experience.

    I'll just say that IME (in EE at least) there was really no such concept as "understanding the material." That phrasing is sort of a red flag to me. Sure, there were always a few geniuses who could just listen to lectures, work a couple problems, and ace the exams. For me and most people I knew, to do anywhere near reasonably well you had to work problems. Lots and lots of problems. You can't read and highlight chapters, and you can't check out solutions and tell yourself you understand them.

    Work the problems assigned and then work more. Work every problem there was an answer for. Work them without looking at the answers and then check the answers. Then work the problems without answers. If you do that, unless the professor throws a complete curveball onto the exam, you can't help but be prepared.That's the only way I got through.

    Not sure this is your son's problem, but it's possible.

    BTW - Don't worry too much. Yes, it's conerning. He should be able to do better and hopefully will, but even if he graduates with slightly less than a 3.0 he will probably still be able to find employment. We've been hiring and I know some of these kids have less than 3.0. But a higher GPA is better of course, and most places he will need 3.0 to get into grad school if he wants that.
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  • WorriedMom1313WorriedMom1313 2 replies1 discussions. Posts: 3 New Member
    Yes, the class he's received two D's in was OrganicChem2. He will have to retake. The only class he retook from high school was the first Calculus. All his other good grades from the first 1.5 years were on new material.

    I realize that it's hard! I just don't know when you decide to "punt" and move to a less challenging major! And at this point, if he does that he'll take all these awful grades with him!
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  • momfrommemomfromme 2591 replies78 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,669 Senior Member
    If his relationship with his advisor is not good, he should get a new one. Often these are assigned through the department.

    There is a time when it's best to switch majors. This may not be the time. He could try the courses again and do lots of problem sets and go to tutoring sessions, which should be available.

    However, he could also think about what else interests him, should he wish to change. It's not at all unusual to do this. A friend's son just switched from Chemical Engineering to Political Science and really loves his new major.
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  • SteveMASteveMA 6020 replies59 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    It's obvious he isn't understanding the material as well as he thinks he is. I would suggest working with the prof to get a better understanding of the material. I would assume the prof has office hours or something to work with kids that need extra help.

    O-Chem is a weeder class for many science majors. If he can't get past that class, it would be time to think of another major.

    What are the other classes he took that he got the 3.8? I would assume they were core classes, not science/engineering related since he took them freshman year. Most college calculate 2 GPA's, in your major and overall. His major GPA isn't high enough to stay in that major right now. Don't be surprised to see a letter to that effect come your way soon, if your son hasn't gotten one already. He may be put on academic probation and will have to come up with a plan to work with someone to bring his grades up.
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  • rushedmomrushedmom 622 replies7 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 629 Member
    I think he should speak with the professor he just had and gain any insight he might have. Did he get a tutor for the class? If he does decide to stay in this major having a tutor to review problem sets might be helpful. Math based classes are really about repitition.. With hard work he can pull his aveage up pretty close to a 3.0. He might want to see about other majors though and the ciriculum required.
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  • skrlvrskrlvr 779 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 790 Member
    I just want to add that my S's experience in engineering is exactly as bovertine has described, and he's an EE major as well. 4 EE classes in a term, 10 hours a week at least in the problem sets for one class, plus class time, plus reading, plus also some lab work, etc. Very little sleep as an upperclassman. And it's problem sets, problem sets, problem sets. He does problems sets on his own, but also gets together with friends, and they all go to office hours and work out problems while the TA or prof is there as a resource, then when office hours are over, they continue to try to work out problems, either on their own or as a group. Before a test, the profs make old tests available with solutions, and he does those before exams.

    Also, like your S, my S doesn't always do that great on the exams, despite feeling he really understands the material. He practices with the old exams on his own, and does fine, but then on the real test itself he doesn't necessarily do that great. It's not anxiety, either. He says that he can solve just about any problem as long as he has enough time, so the problem for him is the time constraint on the exams.

    I agree with others that it's time to talk to the advisor, and if he doesn't have a good relationship with his advisor, he needs to find a new one. Also, he should talk to the professor of the classes he didn't do so well in. My S did the same in one class he was struggling in, and it was good having that talk with his prof and advisor and he got a really good perspective. He ended up pulling it out in that class. In order for my S to have success in this major, he needs to use every available resource the school has offered (no tutor so far, but the group he's with take the place of that).

    I also do this with students sometimes if they want, but he should bring his exams to the prof and go over them problem by problem. That, too, can give him some insight.
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  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot 1537 replies12 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,549 Senior Member
    When I was in college, many many moons ago, it wasn't freshman year that tripped up most students. It was sophomore year. Sophomore year was the "weeder" year for ceramic engineers at Alfred University in the 1980s. You should ask your son if this is the case at his university.

    Does he like his major? If so, I would not have him drop the major over a few, not that essential classes. I just checked with my husand (BS-EE from RIT in the stone ages) and he never even had to take Organic Chem. Your son just needs to pass those classes with a C-. Have him retake. He will be able to get a job with a GPA that is on the lower side. There is a lot of respect out there in the hiring world for anyone who can complete the EE curriculum with a degree.
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  • bovertinebovertine 3274 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,303 Senior Member
    Yes, the class he's received two D's in was OrganicChem2.
    Okay. I am going to slightly modify my earlier comments. My first degree was Biophysics and I took a year of O Chem. THe first half was reasonable, but I don't think I ever took a more difficult class than the second half of O Chem. I bombed once, retook it and I barely made my way out of there. Granted, I was a bit unfocused then, but AFAIC, that subject somehow seemed different than any of the other subjects I was taking, which were all upper division Physics and Math at the time.

    I saw a link to a UCI professor giving an online O Chem class who states basically what I said about problems - to work them constantly and keep up, to go to classes and discussions. All that's true. But I'm not fully convinved everyone is wired to understand O Chem fully. And there are just so many different reactions and mechanisms and structures, they can throw almost anything onto an exam, IIRC. Working problems is a necessary but maybe not sufficient activity. Of course maybe it's my personal experience.

    Anyway, I think rushedmom's advice is good. I think he could earn a C or even better but he probably needs to talk to people who can steer him correctly, I will say it sort of depends whetehr the issue is just this class or several of his classes.
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  • bovertinebovertine 3274 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,303 Senior Member
    I just checked with my husand (BS-EE from RIT in the stone ages) and he never even had to take Organic Chem.
    I suspect the OP's son may be getting a Chem E or BioE degree. Most EEs don't take O Chem. I mentioned EE in my post because that was my experience with engineering.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76108 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,771 Senior Member
    SteveMA wrote:
    What are the other classes he took that he got the 3.8? I would assume they were core classes, not science/engineering related since he took them freshman year.

    Due to prerequisite sequencing, the beginning of a chemical engineering or bioengineering degree program (the engineering majors that would require organic chemistry) probably looks something like this:

    Semester 1: calculus 1, general chemistry 1, introductory engineering, H/SS
    Semester 2: calculus 2, general chemistry 2, physics 1, H/SS
    Semester 3: calculus 3, organic chemistry 1, physics 2, H/SS or engineering*
    Semester 4: linear algebra, differential equations, organic chemistry 2, engineering*, H/SS

    *or biology for bioengineering
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  • collegeshoppingcollegeshopping 1802 replies135 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,937 Senior Member
    Did he have a game plan going in the second time? My D also goes to a large Uni, but even in her classes of 400 plus, the Chem professors have office hours and she has smaller TA discussion group. Did he attend his TA sessions and did he utilize all the office hours he could? IMO, failure to untilize office hours is the biggest mistake kids make. It shows the professors that you care, and it amazing how much my D has learned from the one to one time she gets durning office hours. I feel pretty confident that a student that ends the year with 68 or 69 at my daughter's University would more than likely be given a mark of a C- instead of a D+ if they consistanly went to office hours and were at least doing everything they could to master the material.
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  • psychmompsychmom 1809 replies15 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,824 Senior Member
    I wonder if he is experiencing more anxiety than he is letting on or perhaps even realizing. Your S sounds like a very bright kid who was cruising along until hitting a speed bump sophomore year. You mentioned he helps others, but it seems he has difficulty receiving help, especially when he feels his advisor really isn't in his corner.

    I think he needs to build a supportive network, utilizing all the resources mentioned in the previous posts. There should be scheduled "check-in" points along the way. It sounds like a lot of this work is practice, practice, practice...this can be tedious. Maybe he could connect with a study partner and meet regularly. He could be relying too much on getting concepts but not doing enough practice work. Wonder if there are other distractions or lack of sleep too.

    Best wishes to him and hugs to you.
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