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What to do: Disappointing first semester

runningmom2runningmom2 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
Trying to wrap my head options, etc., anticipating a discussion with my son re: his first semester grades
Background: Honor student in HS (almost all A's over 4 years), lots of AP classes, lots of AP credits. In an engineering program at a large state university 300 miles away -- out of state tuition.
He told us at Thanksgiving that he didn't think he'd get a 3.0 this semester because he had a really bad test grade in his calc class that was dragging him down. He finished finals and came home the weekend before Christmas. Said he thought he'd done okay on finals except for his Chemistry class, but at that point just wanted to forget about it. We haven't pushed for him to discuss grades, and he's preferred to not think/deal with it during the busy-ness of getting ready for Christmas, having family over, etc.. He checked his grades last night and was crestfallen: 2.13. Worst grade was a D+ in Chemistry. Said he'd expected more like 2.8 or 2.9.
So, we all slept on it and will re-engage today. He said last night he feels lost and powerless, has no idea what to do ... so obviously some guidance is in order. This is all new territory for us too, so it's the slightly-less-blind leading the blind.... Seems like as a first step he should call his advisor and find out what his requirements and/or options are (e.g., does he have to retake Chemistry?). He's in a first-year engineering program that requires a GPA of 3.0 to guarantee his choice of specialty, so obviously he needs drastic improvement next semester to get that. He knows that -- said last night, "I'm just going to have to get a 3.9 this semester...." Not sure that's realistic, given how things went this time.... He's on a partial scholarship from DH's employer that pays $ toward 8 semesters over a maximum of 5 years. So, wondering if it makes sense for him to withdraw from the spring semester and save the scholarship $ while he works and takes some CC classes to get his act together/refocus/build some confidence, vs. spending another semester of the scholarship on what will be a risky endeavor at best. He is on "probation" in his engineering living-learning community because his GPA is below 2.5, so he'll be required to participate in a program designed to help boost struggling students.
He is definitely bright enough/capable of doing the work, but it obviously wasn't happening last semester. We'll try to delve more into the "whys" today.... Thoughts, words of wisdom welcomed....

Replies to: What to do: Disappointing first semester

  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 13,214 Senior Member
    I wouldn't suggest leaving college at this point. Often, courses in an engineering curriculum are taught as two-semester sequences, with the first half available only in the fall and the second half available only in the spring. So if he leaves, he may not be able to get the courses he needs if he comes back after one semester.

    The program designed to help struggling students sounds like a good idea, but he should also be taking advantage of all of the advising and tutoring services the college has to offer him. He needs to find out what these are, and an e-mail to his advisor sounds like a good start.

    Some discussion about what went wrong and what could be done better next time might help. For example, was he one of the many students who don't go to office hours or help sessions when they're confused but just assume that they can figure out the material on their own? Did he miss a lot of classes? Did he study passively, just reading through the material, rather than actively trying to solve sample problems? Did he think that doing the problem sets was enough, without additional study? Did he get too heavily involved in other activities -- social or extracurricular or work -- and not devote enough time to study?

    All of these are possibilities, and all can be corrected.
  • Mom2aphysicsgeekMom2aphysicsgeek Registered User Posts: 4,499 Senior Member
    Does his school offer grade replacement? Every school has its own policies, but I think some schools allow you to retake a course and the original grade says on the transcript but does not factor into the GPA. That might be a way to help bring up his GPA if he could bring up his chemistry grade.

    Did he use the school's tutoring services? If not, that is definitely something he needs to learn to use.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 16,676 Senior Member
    IMO it is too early to pull out but he should absolutely take advantage. Of any tutoring or support. He should also meet with. His adviser and find out how the grades impact. Him going forward and find out. If he needs to retake the D class
  • 4Gulls4Gulls Registered User Posts: 503 Member
    All good advice you've gotten. Have him meet with adviser. Take advantage of "academic probation" help plan. I'm sure he is not the only student who is in this boat. Calc / Chem / Physics college-level can all be a killer. What is his schedule for Spring? Is it manageable? Can he do a little research on who the professors are in advance? 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. I'm not sure how reliable Rate My Professor is, but some schools have their own class review/rating systems you can access. Bottom line: see if he can adjust his Spring schedule in advance to make it manageable. His GPA is not insurmountable. I've heard of many, many kids who fell short first semester / freshman year and came back with a vengeance. Good luck - and try not to stress too much. (easier said than done I know)
  • powercropperpowercropper Registered User Posts: 1,699 Senior Member
    Great post JustoneDad. While I babbled on and on, JOD got right to the point.
  • BTMellBTMell Registered User Posts: 1,232 Senior Member
    We found with both boys that college is so different from HS. Agreeing with momofthreeboys above that he should look into tutoring/support services. Also, be sure to attend any study session the prof holds. My younger son had a really hard semester this past semester and has learned to study each subject each day - that way having to cram is hopefully lessened. I don't think pulling him out next semester is the way to go. But it sounds like he needs to learn study skills. Meet with his advisor and if there's an academic skills center type of place, that too. I think too, living away from home for the first time (if that's his situation) is a big deal too. Keep us posted - I know you're concerned!
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,899 Forum Champion
    Do rule out depression which often flares when kids go away to college. The red flag to me is that your son seemed to be in denial about what his real outcome for the semester would be.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,748 Senior Member
    edited December 2014
    He knows that -- said last night, "I'm just going to have to get a 3.9 this semester...." Not sure that's realistic, given how things went this time....
    I see this type of magical thinking in my students all the time. Proceed on the assumption that this is not going to work. What grade did he get in the calculus course, and has he taken any physics course yet?
  • JustOneDadJustOneDad Registered User Posts: 5,845 Senior Member
    4Gulls wrote:
    same class taught by a different one can be piece of cake while the prof you got doesn't curve, piles on the work...
    This isn't a problem that can be addressed by cherry picking professors.

    Not saying this is or isn't the same, but I remember my first college CHEM exam. 113 points total, right? Upon return, I have a big red "27" on my exam. While I am trying to absorb that, I can see that the student in front of me has a "-9" (NEGATIVE NINE) on his paper and he is confused. Bang! Up goes the hand and the question is "What does nine wrong translate to in scoring points?"
    Answer: "That IS your score."

    The bottom line is that when expectations are so far off actual results, you have to scramble to readjust perceptions.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 16,676 Senior Member
    Sorry about my phone and its silly need to create sentences through random punctuation when I push submit. His adviser should know whether he should retake Chem. Some engineering schools require a C or better before proceeding in the sequence.
  • ZBD5421ZBD5421 Registered User Posts: 429 Member
    I agree with Mom2: make sure your son is in a good place, mentally. No one wants to talk about it, but you need to address with him. My oldest son had this problem. He went down every year, and though he managed a fairly decent average GPA by graduation, if we had seen the warning signs we would have pulled him out for a semester so he could wrap his head around the life changes he was going through. Have a frank conversation with your son about how he really feels about school. If he has another disasterous semester, he could end up on probation and that would be really hard to come back from.
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