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Explaining Academic Probation and What to Do About It

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 6/21/2011

Going to college isn't always easy. Sometimes, it can be hard to keep up. When that happens, grades can drop. If they get too low, you can end up on academic probation. Don't panic. Getting out is just a semester away.

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    The exact parameters of academic probation vary from school to school, and even from program to program within a college or university. Most schools provide a webpage explaining academic probation and the specific criteria that trigger it. Generally, students are placed on academic probation after failing to meet the minimum academic standards for a specified period of time. Minimum academic standards are most often measured in terms of grade point average. Academic probation can be triggered both by a GPA that for a single term that is too low, or if the student's cumulative GPA drops below a minimum threshold set by the university or college.

    academic-probabtion-get-off-by-studying The most common standard for being put on academic probation is having either a cumulative or single term grade point average that drops below 2.0. At this point, the student will likely receive an academic probation letter.

    At many schools, being on academic probation is nothing more than a warning from the administration that the student's grades need to be improved. A student who does not improve their grades sufficiently to raise their cumulative GPA, or semester GPA, back above the minimum threshold during the next term or semester are subject to possible dismissal from the program or institution.

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    What Can You Do?

    At some colleges and universities, a student on academic probation is required to take additional actions during the time period they are on probation. Often, students are required to repeat certain courses in which their grades were not sufficient.

    In other cases, the requirements for exiting academic probation involve additional academic advising, tutoring, or regular meetings with professors or administrators. These requirements are in addition to improving the student's grades. Such requirements are not meant to be punitive. Rather, they are a way to ensure that the student is receiving the necessary aid and structure needed to succeed at the university.

    Many students panic upon receiving notice that they are on academic probation and wonder what to do about being on probation. The term sounds particularly harsh thanks, in part, to its parallel of familiar terminology from the criminal justice system. However, getting off academic probation is not difficult provided the student can improve their grades for the following term.

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    Tips For Getting Out of Probation

    • Attend all required meetings or advising sessions. If these sessions must be scheduled by the student, do so early in the term to avoid the rush of students trying to squeeze them at the end of the term.
    • Select lower-level and introductory courses for the following semester. These classes not only are easier to get higher grades in; they also typically require less homework which will give the student additional time to use for upper-level or more difficult classes.
    • If you must repeat a course, take the class with a different professor the second time around. There just might be something about the first professor that made learning the material difficult.
    • Avoid taking classes with pass fail grades. Although this may sound easier, most programs do not count Pass or Fail grades as part of the GPA which means that they cannot be used to help your average.

    Academic probation is not a pleasant experience. However, it is not reason to panic. Assess the situation and calculate what grades must be achieved to remove the probationary status. In just a semester or two, academic probation will just be an unpleasant memory.