Featured Image

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.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro


For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.



High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.

Anthony Vidal

Anthony Vidal

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress has helped me in a series of different ways when it comes to finding scholarships and learning information about different universities. I actually found my dream university through CollegeXpress and am working on getting there.

Maria  Fernanda

Maria Fernanda

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress is always telling you with time to spare when to apply for certain scholarships, what they require, and if you’re eligible or not. They also provide helpful tips for both incoming college students and current college students, such as what to absolutely have in your dorm.

College Matches