How to Transition from High School to College...and Avoid Academic Probation

Many freshmen find themselves on academic probation after finding they can't adjust to college academics. Follow this advice to ensure that doesn't happen to you!

The transition from high school to college can be a tough one. Your professors will expect a lot from you and your work, and their teaching methods may be much different than what you are used to right now.

In high school, students can get extra credit, second (or third) chances, and help from their parents. In contrast, college students are expected to fend for themselves and will learn that missing an assignment, under practically any circumstances, is unacceptable.

For this reason and many others, a disproportionate number of freshmen find themselves on academic probation (a result of a GPA under 2.0) within their first six months of college. And academic probation is more than a scolding reality check; it’s the first official step toward expulsion, and it can impact your scholarships and ability to play sports.

You spend a great deal of time, effort, and money getting into college—it would be a shame to throw it away after a few short weeks on campus. Follow this advice to ensure that doesn't happen.

The first chance is the second chance

Part of earning a college degree is demonstrating the ability to be responsible and take initiative. Professors who teach freshman-level classes expect these qualities to shine. If an assignment is due on the 15th of the month, then it’s due on the 15th of the month. Period. Students should not expect an extension or offer excuses as to why the assignment was not handed in on time. The only exceptions to that rule are things like family tragedy, an illness confirmed by a doctor’s note, or a documented disability that would allow for extra time to finish assignments. However, reasons such as computer failure will generally not be accepted—the professor will simply say you shouldn’t have waited until the last minute. Freshmen should think of their first year of college as a full-time job; before giving an excuse to a professor, imagine an employee offering the same excuse to a supervisor.

Time management is key

The primary difference in time management between high school and college is the long-term due date. For the most part, even in AP classes, high school students will have assignments due the same week they are given. These types of short-range due dates encourage students to sit down and get things done right away. Once in college, students will be given long-range completion dates. For instance, an assignment given on the first day of class may be due two weeks later or even at the end of the semester. Most college students make the mistake of waiting to start the assignment until just before it’s due. But the professor allotted more time to finish the assignment because they know it’s necessary. They expect that students might have questions, could run into difficulties with their research, and will have multiple assignments to complete in other courses. Don’t wait to start a long-term assignment one or two days before it is due.

Some friends don’t have your best interests at heart

Going to college will introduce you to lots of new people with widely differing personalities. Some will be focused on being successful academically and will hit the books on a regular basis, while others will be more interested in campus life and socializing. Hopefully you can find a healthy balance between the two; however, it’s important to not compromise your academic and professional future for those classmates who may or may not care whether you flunk a course. Meeting people is one of the benefits of attending college, as is having fun with those new friends, but it’s essential to finish your assignments first.

Think of “Organization” as one of your courses

Many colleges offer a course for freshmen entitled “Study Skills and Organization” or something similar. This class is offered for a reason, and students who think they need guidance are encouraged to sign up. It probably won’t count toward anything more than an elective credit, but it can be one of the best classes to take.

Alternatively, students can work with a tutor or attempt to learn these skills on their own. Sit down over the summer and get organized before heading off to college. This might include making an appointment with your academic advisor; gathering materials for your classes ahead of time; and organizing your daily and monthly schedule.

Although high school is a challenge, it’s a different type of challenge than college. Far too many students are accepted to great universities only to find that they are struggling to pass their classes within the first few months. It’s worthwhile to ensure that the first semester goes well so you can succeed during and enjoy the rest of your college years.

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