My College:
Academics

Strategies for Keeping On Track: Planning for Next Semester

Sue Ohrablo, Ed.D.


Well, it’s almost here! The end of a long semester, both for you and your student. Right about now, your student is most likely working like crazy to complete group projects, submit papers, and prepare for finals. Depending on the institution’s calendar, they’re busy trying to wrap up the semester before Thanksgiving, while others may have another month to go.

What should your student be thinking about in addition to the mountain of pressure they may be experiencing? Successfully completing the fall semester and making sure they’re prepared for the spring.

Because they may not be focusing on any long-term tasks due to the pressure to finish what’s in front of them, your support and assistance is helpful. Your gentle reminders and research can help ensure they’re on track and in good standing.

At this point in the semester, students should know the following. Ask your student the following questions, and make sure they know where to find the answers.

1. Have you registered for the spring?

If registration for your student has opened, the answer should be YES. If not, urge your student to register right away. Even if they are unsure or waiting on an advisor, tell them to register anyway just to get some seats. If the school offers a winter term between fall and spring, you and your student may want to explore that option in addition to spring classes.

Tools to help with registration:

  • Degree audit
  • Curriculum/program guide
  • Course schedule
  • College catalog

2. Are there any classes that you are in danger of failing?

Have an honest talk with your student, as I have witnessed too many parents being blindsided from news that their student has to repeat a course or that you have to pay extra as a result. Failing a course is not as devastating as it sounds, so help your student understand that it is not the end of their college career (or life) if they do end up failing.

Your student may be able to avoid failing the class through talking with the professor, accessing tutoring and support, or arranging for additional work. If failure is imminent, you may wish to ask if your student can withdraw. A “W” grade, while negatively impactful for financial aid, does not hurt your student academically.

Things to consider if failing or withdrawing from a class:

  • Financial aid: If you are receiving financial aid grants, scholarships, and/or loans, withdrawals and failing grades count against a student’s academic progress. Research the SAP regulations for your student’s institution.
  • Prerequisites: is the course required before taking another one? This is common with math, science, and English, to name a few. Your student may need to adjust their spring semester if they need to repeat a course.
  • Course requirements: Is the course required? What are the expectations for repeating it? What are the consequences of not repeating the class, if any? What are the benefits of repeating the class?

3. Have you met with your advisor?

Your student’s advisor is a great resource to keep on track. Your student should know who their advisor is, where they are located, and how to schedule an appointment or access assistance.

Some things you should know about advising:

  • Faculty advisors are usually assigned by major or program. They teach, conduct research, and have multiple responsibilities in addition to advising.
  • Professional advisors may be assigned in any number of ways, including term of admission, class level, location, last name, or academic program. Find out how your student’s advisor was assigned and, if your student is not happy with their advisor, ask if they can be reassigned.
  • Advising goes well beyond selecting classes. Even if your student is confident that they’ve registered for courses correctly, encourage them to meet with their advisor. Productive discussions about academic and professional goals, success strategies, and problem-solving all occur within an advising session.

4. Do you know the important upcoming dates and deadlines?

It is very common for students to get into real trouble due to lack of information about dates and deadlines. Make sure your student (and you) mark these important dates on the calendar.

The deadlines you and your student should know are:

  • Registration: What is the first day your student can register? When is the last? Are there any fees associated with late registration?
  • Withdrawal: What is the deadline to withdraw from a course this fall? Spring?
  • Add/Drop: When can your student make changes to their schedule? Are there any consequences?
  • Financial: When do I need to pay the bill? Are there payment options? What are the consequences of late payment? Are there fees attached to late payment?

Just as you may continue to struggle with pandemic-related stressors and are busy preparing for your student’s return and the holidays, your student is experiencing a level of stress unlike they’ve experienced before. Don’t be surprised if they are different than when they left for the semester. The transition home, even for a short time, can be stressful on the entire family.

Try to carve out a few minutes to talk with your student about their college experience and plans. It can help bridge the divide between their “old life” and their new one!

Dr. Sue Ohrablo (she/her) is a nationally recognized consultant, speaker and author in the areas of academic advising and student services. She has over 35 years’ experience in higher education, holding positions in advising administration, academic advising, career and personal counseling. Dr. Ohrablo holds a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership as well as degrees in counseling and psychology. She is the author of The Pocket Advisor: A Family Guide to Navigating College, and currently supports students and higher education institutions as the founder of My HigherEd Partner. Connect with Sue via www.myhigheredpartner.com or [email protected]

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