A few thoughts on academics today. Occasionally I receive a message from a parent or family member (or sometimes the student him/herself) about grades. Typically these are from freshmen students or parents, and the questions are in the vein of ‘I wish the grades were better and how does a student improve?’
Disclaimer: this is just my take on the situation, a starting place, and not the final answer. It takes a village, so students with these kinds of questions should talk to their faculty members, the Office of Academic Advising, and other trusted sources to get a variety of opinions.
So any time a student comes to me and says his/her grades are not where they wish they were, I ask some basic questions:
My personal experience – and that of the vast majority of my advisees, is that the first semester grades tend to be the worst. The reality of the first semester of college for most of us is that we find the pace and the depth of the work is a lot more than we bargained for, and things we did fairly well at in high school (As and Bs) might be things we struggle with in college (Bs, Cs, or even Ds). Example: I got almost all As and the occasional B in Biology in high school and my Wake bio class darn near killed me. I was working as hard as I could, and I barely scraped by.
So if a student had all As and a few Bs in high school and now has lower grades, I would not yet panic. While I know they probably don’t want to see a C on midterms or finals, it can be very difficult for most first semester students to get all As and Bs. The key to improvement might lie in using the resources outlined in the bullets above.
In the second semester, if students have a lot of new activities they are involved in (Greek Life, a theatre production, a larger role in some other organization, etc.), they need to be careful to prioritize academics over the extracurriculars. If they spend 80% of the time on the fun stuff and 20% of the time on classes, their grades might very well suffer. So time management and discipline can be incredibly important.
One student who graduated a couple years ago spoke at a New Student Reception for our office and described his time management strategy: treat college like a job. You go to work at the same time every day (8 am, 9 am) and finish at 5 pm. During the day, whenever you are in a class, that is like a meeting. When you are not in class, that is office time/work time. You take your lunchbreak, but you spend the bulk of the daylight hours studying in a place that suits you best (and for every student that can be different – their room, the library, Starbucks, a quiet place in a campus building) but you really work at everything during the ‘workday.’ Then at 5, once you’ve spent all day studying and doing homework, you have the rest of the evening to play and have fun (and get enough sleep).
So those are some initial thoughts on academics. We do have great resources for students to use, but they must ask for them. They must also do their part by prioritizing their academics and devoting proper time and effort to them.