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What to do: Disappointing first semester

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Replies to: What to do: Disappointing first semester

  • runningmom2runningmom2 14 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 15 New Member
    Appreciate the perspective and advice. He was independently successful at home during HS, *but* he still had plenty of external structure in that he had school all day long, sports practice every day and Saturday, etc. ... so not loads of free time to manage. Agree this is not insurmountable and he's certainly not the first kid to flounder his first semester at college; just trying to be sure we consider all the potential paths.
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  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN 3256 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,267 Senior Member
    Discuss expectations about attendance. In my college classes, the D students seem to think skipping classes is the norm when in fact many of the successful students have near perfect attendance. The D students sometimes miss an entire week after a midterm or major assignment and seem surprised when I want to discuss it with them.
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  • powercropperpowercropper 1637 replies66 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,703 Senior Member
    My D throws in Dance Classes and last semester took Basic Nutrition to get some easy As. (plus dance is a physical exercise and a stress reliever) Helps balance the tougher classes in her BioChem major. It might not solve all the issues to look at rearranging classes/professors for the spring semester, but could ease things up a bit in addition to other study options. And a successful semester could boost his confidence going forward.
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  • runningmom2runningmom2 14 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 15 New Member
    Yes, we will talk about that ^^. I've gotten the impression before that he is reliably going to classes, but perhaps there is some "denial" there too....
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  • redpoodlesredpoodles 2078 replies32 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,110 Senior Member
    Welcome to the "weed out" classes. He is just going to have to buckle down and focus harder.
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  • DmitriRDmitriR 838 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 838 Member
    Appreciate the perspective and advice. He was independently successful at home during HS, *but* he still had plenty of external structure in that he had school all day long, sports practice every day and Saturday, etc. ... so not loads of free time to manage. Agree this is not insurmountable and he's certainly not the first kid to flounder his first semester at college; just trying to be sure we consider all the potential paths.

    He may be able to recreate that structure with an on-campus job, extracurricular activities, or even just tutoring/group study sessions.

    I totally get what you mean by that 'external structure' and while it sometimes feels counterintuitive (if you have free time wouldn't you study more?) for some of us actually having that structure where having a small amount of free time helps us stay focused but having too much and we end up wasting all of it on things that we don't enjoy and aren't necessary.
    What we've learned is that the prof can make a huge difference - same class taught by a different one can be piece of cake while the prof you got doesn't curve, piles on the work.

    That may be true, but in my experience you have to bring a lot to the table though. The grading style of the professor can make some difference but I'd be shocked if those tough engineering 'weed-out' courses would ever go well for students without strong academic skills and discipline to push through them. The difference between an A and a D is probably not solely or mostly due to the prof 'piling on the work' for these classes, and depending on the program it may not always even be possible to choose between professors or make too many modifications to the schedule (some engineering programs can be rigid and it's hard to make too many changes without endangering your ability to graduate on time).

    I would definitely focus more on the intrinsic factors for this student, working on ways to improve his performance and preparation for these classes. If he can get that nailed down then he should be OK regardless of the professor's grading style.
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  • funfatdaddyfunfatdaddy 354 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 356 Member
    Academic fit is very important. Some kids can get lost in huge lectures with professors who are more into research and publishing. These students end up dealing mostly with TAs. Accents by some engineering professors can be hard to understand for some students and they end up teaching themselves from a textbook. Some kids are better suited for a smaller school where there is more interaction with their professors. My DS would have been lost at a huge school and excelled at a school where his classes averaged 19 students with his gew big lecture having 35 kids. My DD on the other hand is thriving in large lectures that require a number of TAs. She would have been bored by a small school. Some say a large school can get smaller but a small school cannot get bigger. I beg to differ as my son Had the opportunity to study on several continents and really grew into his own at a smaller school.
    Good luck to you and your son. He sounds like a great kid who will figure it out.
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  • KnoxpatchKnoxpatch 343 replies8 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 351 Member
    Nothing more to add but support. :x
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  • saintfansaintfan 8182 replies92 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 8,274 Senior Member
    I ran into two issues first semester freshman year which it took me too long to identify. I really needed glasses and could not see the board well in Calc and Chemistry large lecture halls. In a small HS classroom it didn't manifest as an issue but when I really needed to see well and follow to understand I couldn't. I took it as "this just doesn't make sense" at the time. I ended up retaking the classes and did very well when I could actually see. The other issue which I only identified when my son was diagnosed was likely ADHD. When things got hard enough that I really needed to be able to focus and learn new material and grind out problem sets I felt like I just couldn't make my brain focus. When I retook calc I had a small classroom and sat in the front row to focus.

    My larger point is that there are things like these and others that will only really become a problem in that big, self directed lecture hall environment. I would try to vet out anything that might be making it harder for him.
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  • Tperry1982Tperry1982 1568 replies6 discussionsForum Champion Yale Posts: 1,574 Forum Champion
    I agree with the gym. My D who was a volleyball player and an all around athlete was always complaining about being lethargic. After gentle prompting, she started playing intramural sports and going to the gym. She feels much better physically and mentally. It helped a lot first semester.
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  • bookreaderbookreader 1953 replies53 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,006 Senior Member
    My daughter is a tutor at her school and she has two kinds of students come in for help - those at the top of the class and those at the bottom of the class. Which underscores that tutoring is really for everyone.

    You've gotten lots of good suggestions but I'll throw out one more that I don't think I saw yet. Encourage him to do the problems in the textbook - even if they are not required by the professor. Many professors have said that they see a correlation between the grades of students who do the problems and those who don't. Some professors will offer extra credit for doing the textbook problems as a way to motivate students to do them but not too many. But it really is valuable to do the extra work even if you don't get graded on it. It's just another way to learn the material.
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  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang 18182 replies155 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,337 Senior Member
    Yes, I don't like to call those freshman classes "weed-out" classes but my son did say that almost 50% of the kids at his uni fail the Chem class and Calc II.

    I don't like to call classes "weed-out" classes unless the teacher intentionally fails X% of students, no matter what student performance is seen in the class. Typically, the lower level engineering classes, rather than being weed-out classes, are hard classes that demand a lot of studying, for most students. If the student either is not able to do the work, or is not willing to put in the amount of effort required, then the student will fail, but not because the teacher wanted to fail them. In math and physics classes, there's no substitute for working the problems. And for most students, that takes time.
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  • MassmommMassmomm 3821 replies78 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,899 Senior Member
    He may just need to learn how to study. Lots of good students coast through high school because they can, then get to college and find this "strategy" doesn't work. My first semester grade report was horrendous, I recall with shame more than three decades later, but when I told my parents, they had the grace to laugh and recount their own stories. Don't make a big deal out of this. If he needs to change majors, that's okay. Help him to see this as an obstacle, not a big high wall.
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