3 ways students can recover from mediocre first-year GPA

A low first-year GPA may be disappointing, but it doesn't prevent students from future academic or professional success, Briana Boyington writes for U.S. News & World Report.

Even students who hope to attend graduate school can get back on track; most graduate programs will pay more attention to overall academic progression than first-year grades, Boyington writes. 

That's not to say students can brush off poor academic performance in their first year. Students with a low GPA risk losing financial aid scholarships, being put on academic probation, or hurting their ability to transfer schools, she notes.

What can we learn from first-year GPA?

After speaking to several college leaders, Boyington rounds up three steps students can take to recover from a mediocre first-year GPA.

1: Set clear goals

Academic advisors can help students identify goals and establish benchmarks to monitor their progress, Boyington writes.

For example, Faith Côté reached out to an academic advisor after she earned a 2.0 GPA in her first semester. Based on their conversations, the advisor recommended a course that inspired her to pursue teaching and improve her grades, says Côté, who is now a senior studying elementary education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

2: Ask for help

Struggling students should take advantage of resources, like tutoring, office hours, and study groups, early in the school to improve their academic performance, Burlington writes.

But learners shouldn't wait until they fail a midterm to ask for help, say Mary Napoli, an academic specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. A tutor can help any student improve their study tactics, practice critical thinking, and build better academic habits, Napoli says.  

3: Find a mentor

Mentors are an invaluable resource for students who need to explain their GPA for graduate school or job, Boyington writes. A mentor can help explain that a student's ability and potential are not fully reflected by one grade, says Catherine Chan, the director of undergraduate research at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Before students get too discouraged over poor academic performance, they should remember that they have time to turn their college experience around, Chan notes. But while it's never too late to ask for help, it's easier to get back on track when students ask sooner rather than later (Boyington, U.S. News & World Report, 10/12).


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