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Test Preparedness and Midterms

Test Preparedness and Midterms – A Student’s Perspective by Intern E (’12)

Almost everyone at Wake Forest has heard that frightening nickname, “work forest.”  I remember visiting the University during high school and asking anyone who would listen if it was true.  Once I became a student at Wake Forest, I was anxious going in to my first exam and found it terrifying attempting to conquer my first week of midterms.

Unfortunately, my fears panned out.  After taking my first exam in a subject I thought I understood, I was more than shocked to receive a low grade.  After all, I had studied all night and reviewed early on the morning of the test.  I left Tribble Hall feeling distressed and overwhelmed.

But breathe easy – my distress was short lived.  After a few takes at tweaking my study methods, I’ve learned the student-dubbed nickname, “work forest” isn’t so bad.   After bombing that first exam I scheduled a time to meet with my professor, and together we went over my notes and talked about study habits.  My professor showed me that while I memorized the right facts, I did not thoroughly understand concepts.  The latter simply was not possible after one night of cramming.

I have learned that the professors at Wake Forest are more than willing to help their students, and I try to ask for advice when I feel overwhelmed. Now I study in advance, stay organized using a planner, and work to avoid those ever famous all-nighters.  My grades have skyrocketed since that first exam, and I have found myself confident, rather than anxious, on test day.

So, when your child inevitably finds him/herself stressing out about a class, I urge you to remind him/her that no one performs at their best after cramming.  No one can function after two hours of sleep.  You shouldn’t wait until after a test to approach a professor if you’re having problems understanding course material.  Instead, encourage your child to take advantage of the accessible Wake Forest professors from the beginning, to stay organized by using a planner, to join a study group, visit the Learning Assistance Center for individual or group tutoring, go to the Math Center or Writing Center, and to be willing to revamp their study habits from their high school ways.

College is harder than high school and many students have a hard time realizing that changes need to be made in their study habits.  As parents, remember to be supportive of your student.  Remember that the thirty second frantic call home is when your child feels the most overwhelmed.  There is still plenty of time, like the incident of my first disastrous test, to improve.  Your child should use the first few months of school to discover what it takes to succeed.  With support from home and Wake Forest’s many resources, your student will learn what works best.

Written by Intern E. (’12)

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Test Anxiety and Midterms – A Parent’s Perspective by Eloise Robinson (P ’10), former Parents’ Council member

“What do you do when your son or daughter who has only made A’s all through high school suddenly calls you in tears after receiving a C on a midterm grade?

When I received this tearful plea from a parent, I called the Parent Programs office, who directed me to the Office of Academic Advising.  One of the deans then personally contacted the student and arranged for her to meet with an upperclass student tutor who had taken the class the previous semester.  The dean continued to stay in regular contact with the student to give him support and provided support and guidance that helped her over the initial academic hurdle common to so many freshmen.

The faculty and staff at Wake Forest are dedicated to helping students.  That’s why they are here.  As a parent, you want to stay in the background and allow your student to solve his or her own problems. Often just making the student aware of who to go to for help* is the only thing they need.  The dedicated staff at Wake Forest does the rest.

Being able to help parents locate the right people on campus to help with specific issues – whether it be academic or roommate issues – has been the greatest joy of being on the Parents’ Council.  Wake Forest is the only university I know of that provides this mentoring partnership with parents.  Wake Forest recognizes that parents are an integral part of a student’s success.  The Parents’ Council gives parents a source of support and information and parents should be encouraged to communicate with the Parents’ Council or the Office of Parent Programs.

* – Some of the options students should investigate in the event they are having difficulty in a class:

  • Evaluate their study habits and time management skills and look for ways to improve
  • Contact the Math Center, Writing Center, and/or Learning Assistance Center for help
  • Form study groups with others in their class or with peers in the same course
  • Speak with the professor during office hours

If you need additional assistance in helping your student know where to turn for help, you can contact the Parent Programs office at parents@wfu.edu or 336.758.4237.

Some final thoughts about midterm grades from the Parent Programs office

A question we frequently get in the Parent Programs office is “what is the average GPA – I want to make sure my son/daughter is at or above average.”  While this is a well-intended question, it is one that causes UNBELIEVABLE stress to your students.  In college, for many students they are no longer able to be extraordinary at all subjects (as they may have been in high school) and now they are taking classes in areas where the pace is a lot faster, or the material is a lot more complicated.  They may be seeing Bs or Cs or Ds for the first time in their lives.  And they panic.

A lot of students panic because of real or imagined pressure from their parents about grades.  Understandable – college is a big investment and you want them to do well.  But the only way a student can be measured is based on his or her potential in that particular class.  Real life example: I was a terrible, terrible biology student.  I struggled mightily.  And if my parents had held me to a class average, I would have been far below it.  However, I was working to my maximum capacity to understand the material, and literally it was the best I could do.

So please, please resist the urge to set an arbitrary GPA threshold your student must reach.  Particularly the first year of college (and the fall semester particularly), students are feeling their way through this new environment and new expectations.  For most of my academic advisees, their first semester grades are their worst, just due to the adjustment.  If you must set any kind of guidelines, consider thinking along these lines: asking your student if he/she studied hard, kept up with work, played too hard (vs work), sought out help, etc.  If your student cannot say he/she did all the right things, talk about how important that will be in subsequent semesters.

Believe me, they are already acutely aware of their GPA and most of the students here put a ton of pressure on themselves.  If you coach and counsel them on work habits, the grades will follow.

Some families have asked questions about how they receive notification of their student’s grades.  The answer to that question is below, taken from the Parents’ Page “Questions and Answers” link (on the left hand side of the main Parents’ Page).  Any time families have questions about procedures and how-to’s at Wake Forest, try the Questions and Answers page first.  If you do not see the answer you need, please email parents@wfu.edu and the staff of the Parent Programs office will assist you.

What is FERPA and how does it affect parent access to grades?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) as amended is a federal law which is designed to protect the privacy of and limit access to the educational records of students. This means that institutions generally must withhold such information from parents and others who believe their relationship with the student entitles them to have the information.  Wake Forest is able to release information if we have on file a signed FERPA release form.  If the student has not signed a FERPA release form, the University generally cannot release the information unless it has proof of the student’s status as a dependent under the Internal Revenue Code for the period covered. FERPA forms must be turned in to the Registrar’s Office.

If my student has signed the FERPA form, how am I notified of grades?
If the student signs FERPA, both mid-term and final grades are mailed via US mail either home or to the address the student provided on their form.  In addition, students have the ability to look up their grades in WIN (the Wake Forest Information Network), so they can tell you as soon as they log in. There is no online mechanism for parents to access student grades (unless your student chooses to share his WIN login ID and password with you).