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Freshman Grades Were Terrible

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Noreen H. Joslyn, LISW, ACSW

Q: I have just finished my freshman year in college. My first semester grades were not great, but they were not horrible either. I got a 2.5 -- that didn't live up to my expectations, and I vowed to do better the next semester. However, my grades in the next semester were even worse. I got a 1.8, and I feel that I didn't deserve grades like that. Although I didn't expect to get spectacular grades, I certainly didn't think I would get a 1.8.

Frankly, this is embarrassing to me, and I don't know what to tell my mother and the rest of my family. I've let them down tremendously, and I don't know how I can make it up to them. Obviously, I am going to try my hardest next semester to achieve the kind of grades I should be getting, but that doesn't help me right now. My biggest concern is finding a way to break the news to my mother. Any type of advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: I'm sorry that your freshman year did not work out as you had hoped. I don't know what your mom is going to say, but the best thing to do is to be honest. Show the grades to her soon, and when she says, "What happened?", tell her. I would not waste time placing the blame on something other than yourself. The college grading system has been around a lot longer than you (or even me!). You need to honestly examine what your first year was like for you. Did you schedule time for study or did you spend too much time on the computer or socializing? Was your roommate a help or a hindrance to studying? Was your dorm too noisy? Did you ask professors or teaching assistants for help if you didn't understand the material?

There are two big adjustments successful students must make in college: 1) Studying when you aren't usually in the habit of studying, like on Saturday mornings or between classes. 2) Realizing that there will be fewer grades in college from which professors compute your final grade. A high school class generally gives a student more chances to numerically pull up a grade, whereas college does not. Translation: You have fewer chances, so make each assignment really count.

It is essential that you do this self-exam of your first year. If there is anything you can fix over the summer, you have a better chance to improve next term's work. Perhaps you need to work on your writing skills. College professors are looking for more in-depth writing than you may be used to. Maybe you need a quick review of math skills to get ready for next year. If there were any emotional or social issues that got in the way this past year, would counseling help to improve on next term?

You have a lot to do to avoid a re-run in the next term. Telling your Mom is only the first step. If she sees you making a sincere effort to improve the situation, she may be less upset. By the way, I don't think this is anyone else's business but your parents', and they should respect your privacy as a young adult and not tell everybody in the family. Good luck with this.

More on: Expert Advice

Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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