Mid Semester Appraisal
This week represents the mid-week of the semester: That’s hard to believe. By now most students should be preparing for a second round of tests. Mid semester grades should be available soon on most campuses. Students should have a fairly good idea of how they are doing after next week.
Often when I’m meeting with students at this time, I ask them if they had any D or F mid-semester grades. Often they tell me they don’t know. I then ask them to use the computer in my office to look up their grades. All too often, the students who haven’t looked up their grades have the lowest mid semester grades. There’s a sense of denial about grades.
As parents, I think you have the right to know your student’s mid semester grades. You may want to do the same thing I do with your student. Have them get on a computer while you are talking to them. Then have them look up the grades. Your student’s professors won’t be allowed to give you the grades due to federal privacy laws.
Students with poor mid semester grades will often tell me that they don’t foresee any problems in raising their grades. This is true in some cases. Often mid-semester grades are only based on one test or minimal grades. Students may have taken a second test that’s not reflected in the mid-semester grade. In some cases, faculty will give low grades at mid-semester to “shake-up” their students. I don’t agree with this approach because I think it has the opposite effect.
My best advice to you is to use mid-semester grades as a discussion starting point. You can generally tell whether there is a reason for concern when you probe more deeply into the mid-semester grades.
On most campuses there is a specific last day to drop a class. When a student drops a class a W will appear on the transcript. This is generally not a problem when a student is looking for a job because employers generally don’t look at a transcript until late in the hiring process. But it can be a problem in maintaining federal financial aid.
The concern with withdrawals is more one of scholarships and financial aid. Students need to complete 67% of all the courses they attempt to continue their financial aid. The 67% calculation is based upon their cumulative academic record. So if they drop below 67%, they will be placed on warning. They have one enrollment period to take care of the deficiency. Students can also appeal to have their financial aid continued. But the point is that they need to be careful when withdrawing from a class.
Should students need to drop a class, they should be careful not to drop below 12 credit hours and become a part-time student. There are generally a number of “rescue courses” that will be offered for students who must drop a class. You should insist that your student enroll in one of these if he/she drops below 12 hours.
Let me close with the story of Maria. When I did a review of her grades at mid semester, I found out that Maria was failing almost every class. I asked her to see me. We had a long talk about her situation.
Maria was born in the United States, but grew up mostly in Mexico. Her mother was her anchor. When Maria was 13, her mother was killed because she had been a witness to a drug war shootout. Maria’s father, while supportive, hadn’t given her the firm guidance she needed. She still struggles with her mother’s death. A recent note to me confirms this “I was a little bit gloomy today because I found a picture of my mom & it just reminded me of her & made me miss her.”
After our first meeting, I started working with Maria to help her improve her grades. She needed someone to “crack the whip”. She responded very well. By the end of the semester, she had passed all of her courses.
Maria is behind in her courses. She has very little money, so she can’t pay for summer school to get caught up. It looks like Maria will no longer be allowed to stay in our college, because she won’t have completed the necessary courses. I’m really concerned that she won’t get the mentoring in another college that she has received up to now.
One of the toughest things about being a professor is working with students to achieve their dreams and finding those dreams frustrated by academic rules. .