Questions Answered: I’m on academic probation; will I still get a job?

academic_probationQuestion: I am finishing my freshman year in college as a computer science major. I did really well in high school and have always been a good student (like 4.0 from sophomore to senior year in hs) but suddenly I am failing!! I am now on academic probation and if I don’t raise my gradse then I’d be kicked out! My classmates and parents tell me this will make it impossible to get an internship or get a job. Will this ruin my chances to get a internship or a job??? ~ Ju-won P., Portland, OR

Answer: First things, first. We need to determine the root cause of your failing grades. In the long run, employers care most about a continuous pattern of behavior. If this academic year is just an anomaly, (i.e., it never happens again), then the negative impact of this year’s low grades will be minimal. However, if you are not able to identify what caused your grades to drop this year, are not able to remedy the situation, and therefore continue with a pattern of low grades, then yes, your chances of finding internships and jobs will be negatively impacted.

There are many different reasons why grades can suddenly suffer. Here are just a few possible reasons why grades could suddenly drop and tips for pulling your grades back up.

1. Too much autonomy – As a first year student, you may be adjusting to having a lot more autonomy and not having teachers “nag” you about getting homework or assignments done.

  • Consider working with your school’s learning center to develop effective time management skills that will match your needs and personality.
  • You may also want to connect with a trusted friend or family member to act as an accountability partner to help you stay on task.

2. Homesickness – If this is your first time living away from home, you may be experiencing some homesickness which can make studying and completing assignments on time more difficult.

  • Speak with your school’s campus counselors and/or residence life staff for strategies on dealing with homesickness.
  • Utilize a variety of technologies to stay connected with family and friends back home.

3. Boring intro courses – Introductory level courses can sometimes feel vague and disconnected to your longer term goals. In the first few years, you may be required to take a lot of pre-requisite courses or breadth courses that may not seem as interesting to you as the topics in your major, which in turn can make it harder to stay motivated to study.

  • Keep in mind that once you get past these introductory level courses, you will be able to take courses that are much more relevant to your major and your longer term career goals.
  • Try to find at least one thing about each course that you can get excited about.

4. Too many responsibilities – It can feel overwhelming if you are trying to manage multiple responsibilities, such as working on or off campus, participating in student organizations, or managing duties at home while also being a full time student.

  • If you are involved with a lot of student organizations that are taking up much of your time, you may need to back out of those organizations to re-focus your attention on your studies, at least until your grades are strong again.
  • If your finances necessitate that you work while you are in school, you may need to get creative about your work and study schedule.
  • Again, your campus learning center may be able to help offer you strategies for prioritizing your responsibilities.
  • If you have duties within your home, (such as caring for a family member), that require a lot of time and attention, you may need to seek additional help from other family members or friends.
  • It is also possible that cutting back to a part time class schedule may be the most effective way to manage both your employment and studies.

5. Wrong major – While there really is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to major, if you’ve chosen a major that really doesn’t interest you, you may find yourself disengaged with your classes. This is sometimes difficult to determine in your freshman year, however, since, as mentioned above, your first year of college is filled with introductory courses. However, if you find yourself completely uninterested in the subject matter of your major, and gravitating toward a different subject entirely, then you may need to consider the possibility of changing your major.

  • If you are concerned that your major may not be the right fit for you, take some time to speak with a few key people on campus for their insights.
  • Speak with faculty from within your major, as well as fellow students from the department, as they can offer you their thoughts on the pros and cons of the major.
  • Career counselors on campus can help you identify connections between your choice of major and longer term career goals.
  • An academic advisor can also be a helpful professional to speak with, especially about any “paper work” that may need to be completed to finalize your change in major.

6. Wrong school – Again, there really isn’t a right or wrong here – this is typically an issue of “fit.” Some students really thrive at small schools; others prefer a large school. Some students love a highly competitive environment, while others are turned off by that. Campus culture, (and there can be several sub-cultures within a school, especially a large university), can play a significant role in how comfortable you feel, and how well you can stay focused on your studies.

  • Talk with professionals on your campus (for example, the Dean of Students or an academic advisor), as well as parents, and trusted mentors before making a final decision about transferring to a different school.
  • Make sure that your failing grades are really the result of a poor school fit and not the result of one of the other possibilities mentioned above.
  • Also, be certain to speak with students, faculty, academic advisors, and even alumni at your new target school to ensure that the culture and environment there will, in fact, be a better fit for you.

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