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Academic Probation and What Students and Mentors Can Do

No student enters college with a goal receiving academic warnings or being placed on academic probation. However, the reality is that many students will struggle academically and may find themselves at risk of being on academic probation and losing much-needed financial aid. 

In this article, you will find information and resources to understand academic probation and what students can do, including submitting appeals, to address it.

Read on to find out more, or skip to the suggestions for what to do if you find yourself on academic warning or probation.  

What is academic warning, probation, or dismissal?

Each university's policy is different, but academic warning or probation - are both warnings that the student’s performance falls below the institution’s requirement for “good academic standing”.  Academic standing is most often measured by GPA (grade point average), but may also be determined by academic progress, or the number of credits completed.  It is possible, at some schools, that a student may have a decent GPA, but may have dropped or withdrawn from too many courses during the semester. 

Many schools expect students to maintain a 2.0, or C average, although the acceptable GPA may be slightly lower for first-year students.  Academic dismissal is more serious - it means that the student has already been placed on warning and/or probation, and is now at serious risk of being kicked out of the college.  

Students may find themselves on academic warning or probation for a number of reasons.  Some students are unprepared for the difficulty of college work.  Some students have poor study habits and time management skills. Some students may be negatively influenced by peers or by campus culture.  Students may be unmotivated or in a course of study that is too difficult or doesn’t interest them.  Some  have not become engaged in their campus community and feel isolated.  For some students, poor academic performance may be related to emotional health. 

What happens if you're on academic probation?  

Students must make Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) to maintain eligibility for financial aid. As with academic probation, SAP varies by college, and students that do not make Satisfactory Academic Progress are in danger of losing their financial aid.   

While academic probation is more serious than a warning, they are both serious, and should be seen as official acknowledgement that the student is  in jeopardy of being dismissed if the difficulty persists. Students usually have a certain timeframe, often one semester, to raise their academic performance. 

What to do if you get an academic warning or go on academic probation 

Students may feel afraid, embarrassed, or afraid of being judged, but college is different than high school, and many people struggle with the transition.

First, students can check out this video as a reminder that they are not alone.

Second, it's crucial that that students think about the successes you've had so far and build on them. By reflecting on their success and considering how they can apply their strengths to their approach to academics, students can begin to develop an action plan. 

Most importantly, students and mentors need to understand the academic appeals process and best practices for submitting an appeal. 


Why students should seek help from their academic advisor, mentor, and Program Manager

Academic advisors can help students consider

  • whether to retake a class to raise your GPA. (One caution here, retaking a class at another institution – for instance, over the summer – may not help your GPA as many colleges will transfer credits, but not grades.)
  • how to create a balanced course load, with a mix of difficult and less challenging courses.  
  • whether to consider taking a lighter load for one semester, perhaps taking 12 credits instead of 15.  Although this may necessitate taking a summer class at some point, it may allow you the opportunity of concentrating on fewer classes and doing well.
  • if your college has a pass/fail policy, and whether you might want to take advantage of it.  

Advisors, mentors or Program Managers can:

  • help students set reasonable long and short term goals, and plan the steps to reach goals.
  • identify on campus resources that can help students academically, and with the adjustment to college.    
  • help students carefully and honestly consider what habits may have contributed to their current situation.  
  • Think about and prioritize your responsibilities in and outside of school.  Can you maintain your job?  Should you consider a different dorm or room if that is possible?

Academic probation is an uncomfortable situation, but it can be turned around.  If you successfully see this as the warning that it is intended to be, and analyze what has created your difficulty, you will make the changes necessary to determine a positive outcome.  

Adapted from collegeparentcentral.com