College Grades Oct23

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College Grades

• College Grades: B is the new A •

Your kid’s high school experience probably included more stress about grades than either of you would have liked. For better or worse, keeping grades up to impress colleges was an ever-present concern.

Thankfully, that is all in the past. Or is it? What about grades at college? Does your student expect to get As and Bs right off the bat? What are your expectations as a parent?

Most likely, your high-achieving kid is used to getting good grades and being at the top of the class – and so is every other student in your kid’s college class.  Suddenly your student is surrounded by others who are as bright, or even brighter, than they are. In addition, the work and academic expectations of college professors are quite different from those at the high school level. Papers that would have garnered an A in high school history might very well be considered B or C papers at many colleges. And that C might just be considered a superior grade.

As freshmen all over the country experience their first taste of midterm exams at college, they may already be realizing that academics at college require a different set of skills and a new way of studying. For one thing, the reading workload is typically much greater at the college level, both in quantity and complexity.  Colleges do want kids to succeed, however, and most have abundant resources available to students when they need some help.

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Plagiarism is a major issue on college campuses. Students need to understand what it is and know their school’s policy. While many college classes may require collaboration among students, the professors fully expect that the work turned in by a student is their own. Colleges use scanning sites or programs to detect plagiarism.  (See: The Facts on Plagiarism in College and Plagiarism in College – Facts and Consequences)

On top of the more challenging coursework is the fact that college students are working out how to balance academics with a 24/7 social scene. At college, there’s always something fun happening and carving out the time required to study effectively requires a good amount of self-control, discipline and time management skills.

So, how can you support your student as they navigate the new world of academics at college?

1. Give your college kid the time and space to figure it all out. Your concern about less than stellar grades compounds the pressure they already feel and will not help your relationship with them.

2. Assure them that things will get easier and that it takes time to figure out the expectations of each professor and how much time each course requires.

3. Encourage them to ask for help from other students, peer, academic and/or faculty advisors, on-campus tutors, professors and teaching assistants and, if available, to attend review sessions.

4. Let them know that you believe the social scene is part of their college experience and that freshmen year is the time to learn how to balance academics and fun.

5. Think about, understand and be clear about communicating your expectations. What do you believe is the purpose of college? A time to explore new subjects? To find one’s passion and lay the groundwork for a career? To grow intellectually and get a well-rounded education? To be involved on campus and the community? To work part time or have job internships while attending classes? To get the highest grades to gain entrance into a prestigious graduate school? There is no right answer; very often several apply.  Align your expectations of your student and college accordingly.

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If you do see a significant change in grades for the worse as school progresses, this may signify other problems your student may be having.  Listen to your student and try to determine if there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. Don’t ignore your instincts!

How important are college grades to graduate schools and future employers? Some employers and gradate schools say that college GPA is an indication of future performance. Others say that leadership involvement on campus, an ability to think critically, and collaborate well with others are more important factors than GPA. And some contend that there is rampant grade inflation on college campuses and support implementation of a new standardized test for graduates to accurately assess candidates. (See: The 9 things that matter more to employers than gradesDon’t Let Grades, Test Scores Keep You From Graduate SchoolA New Final Exam for College Seniors)

Remember that the transition to college is a challenging time for both students and parents.  It will take time to get used to a new way of doing things and finding the right balance.  Realistic expectations can make a world of difference.


Want to know more?

High School to College Transition, Part 1: The Freshman Myth by Brian Harke Ed.D.

High School to College Transition, Part Two: Academic Expectations by Brian Harke Ed.D.

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