What You Can Do When Your Child Gets Bad Grades in College

Many parents are surprised to discover when their child comes home for the holidays that his grades are less than favorable, and he’s found himself on academic probation.

This often happens with freshmen who enter college far away from home and have difficulty balancing a social life with an academic regimen.

Unfortunately, if your child is 18 when he heads off to college, he is considered an adult. That means your child has no obligation to grant you permission to view his grades. According to FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), the student has a right to review his academic record, control disclosure, and request changes if an error is detected. Once he is accepted and enrolled, communication between the college and the parents ends, and all bills, grades, and other college-related information is sent directly to the student.

Colleges understand parents’ need to stay informed

According to Eric Stoller, Student Affairs and Technology blogger for Inside Higher Ed, some schools have systems that help parents stay abreast of information. “There have actually been some developments on the part of student online services providers to create access points for parents/families to be able to access tuition/billing information (with their student’s permission) for the purposes of account payments,” says Stoller. He stresses that communication between the student and the parent(s) is necessary to make this happen, especially since it involves access to a portion of the student’s records.

Before your child heads off to college, have a conversation

Discuss with your child that although he is considered an adult, you have certain expectations while he is in college. Set the ground rules before he leaves. If you are responsible for paying a portion of the college bill, you can explain that you expect him to be a responsible steward of the money you are investing.

Also discuss that if his grades begin to slip, you expect him to get help. Help him understand that waiting until the final semester will affect his academic standing and his ability to remain enrolled. All colleges have tutoring centers available, and most professors are willing to give additional guidance if needed.

Letting go and providing support

There is a delicate balance when it comes to your student’s independence and privacy. But any parent knows that you never stop being a parent; your role just changes. You move from providing everything to standing on the sidelines, offering support only occasionally as your child strives for independence. During this transition, it is crucial to keep the lines of communication open and to allow your child to fail without judgment. Encourage your child to tell you if his grades are slipping, and provide him with support, encouragement, and love as he endeavors to bring his GPA up. It might be helpful to discuss with him the tutoring resources available at the school, and help him to do the research on how to access and make the most of these resources. In addition, if financially feasible, you could also look into private tutors near your child's university.

Parents who find this happy medium will be included in their child’s college life and be informed when their child is struggling with academics.

Editor's Note: If you believe your child's grades are slipping due to health issues, mental or physical, there are many resources on campus and online. Start here with Noodle's expert-written articles on student mental health.

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