Academic Probation

The Risk of Academic Probation. Pursuing a college or university degree is no walk in the park. Earning a degree requires more than just good academic preparation and strong academic skills. Completing a degree program also requires a significant investment in effort, time, and tuition. And truth be told, it also takes a certain amount of fortuity, the right health, personal, and social circumstances, and a few good breaks or smiles of good fortune along the way. Many students just don't get the breaks they need. Circumstances instead seem to conspire against them, gradually or suddenly lowering their academic performance until they find themselves on academic probation. If that's your situation, on academic probation, then you are certainly not unusual or alone. One higher education organization reports that as many as twenty percent of college freshmen in four-year programs end up on academic probation. For many students, the risk of academic probation is real and substantial. The question is how one deals with it.

Causes of Academic Probation. As just suggested, many things can cause or contribute to academic probation. Students and others both inside and outside of higher education often assume that anyone on academic probation just isn't smart or disciplined enough. That assumption is dead wrong. Academic probation has any number of common internal and external causes, only some of which one can attribute to student effort and attitude. You may have worked as hard and smartly as any other student until circumstances beyond your control arose, bringing on an unexpected and embarrassing academic probation. The University of California, Berkeley, for example, lists the following common causes of academic difficulties:

  • difficult adjustment to unfamiliar college life
  • lost sense of belonging or connection among new friends
  • poor course selection or order
  • too many courses
  • inappropriately challenging combination of courses
  • lack of interest in certain course subjects
  • study habits unsuitable to college coursework
  • failure to timely seek academic support
  • poor personal physical or mental health
  • illness or death of a family member
  • reversals in personal finances
  • loss of work or new hours or commitments at work
  • divorce, separation, break up, or other relationship changes
  • uncertain educational and career goals
  • overly frequent or poorly timed changes in majors and minors
  • poor character, demeanor, or skill fit for major or minor
  • undiagnosed or untreated educational or other disability
  • failure to seek or obtain educational, testing, or other accommodations
  • motor vehicle accident, home loss, or other traumatic event

Why Causes Are Important. A student's specific cause of the student's academic probation is important because, as a student advisor at the University of Illinois writes, addressing the cause is the first key step toward recovering from probation. A student cannot, for instance, expect to suddenly succeed academically where the student had been failing if the student hasn't addressed the educational disability that led to the failure in the first place. While some school officials can be sensitive to causes, that's not necessarily their first response or general attitude. School officials apply policies, they hope uniformly. But students aren't uniform. And academic policies, like the one at Atlanta's Emory University, often have exceptions for extenuating circumstances to otherwise-strict academic probation policies. When you retain an academic administrative attorney to assist you with academic probation, you get an expert in advocating for appropriate relief from overly harsh academic probation policies.

The Sting of Academic Probation. No college or university student wants to be “on probation.” The phrase has an unfortunate ring and sting to it. Probation sounds almost as if one were just a step away from jail. Academic probation has nothing, of course, to do with jail. Indeed, academic probation may not at first appear to have much if any immediate, mid-range, or long-term consequences. But academic probation has its own way of handcuffing a student. Academic probation certainly puts a student in jeopardy of not completing the certificate or degree program the student is right then pursuing or in the future wishes to pursue. Harvard University, for instance, cautions that “Probation puts the student on notice that his or her academic performance gives considerable cause for concern. A student on academic probation is expected to pay especially close attention to his or her course work.” But setting aside consequences for a moment, academic probation just has a dire, distracting, and depressing effect to it, like a dark cloud hanging over a student's head. To get beyond that dire sense, the student on academic probation must discern what it truly means. What perils lurk, and opportunities shine, behind academic probation's dark cloud?

The Seriousness of Academic Probation. First, don't kid yourself. Academic probation is serious business. Academic probation is not something with which to fool around. The student who treats academic probation as a minor irritation or something to laugh off makes a mistake. The right attitude about probation isn't to court, welcome, tolerate, ignore, or coddle it. The right attitude about probation is to attack, overcome, and remove it. Academic probation should focus the student's priorities on getting rid of it as soon as the student can. A four-year study of academic probation at the University of North Carolina confirmed the effectiveness of a student empowerment model. To get off probation, you need the right beliefs about your efficacy–the difference you can make in your own situation. The goal of any student falling into academic probation should be to get back into good academic standing before the next challenge arises. Academic probation can be like fighting a hard fight with one hand tied behind your back. Academic probation is not a fruitful strategy toward a good education. Academic probation is instead the school's way of putting you at greater-than-ever risk of academic dismissal. Treat academic probation as seriously as you would academic dismissal because the two go hand in hand down a path you don't want to travel.

Academic Consequences of Probation. One way to increase your motivation to get off academic probation is to honestly recognize its potential impacts–things that you can avoid as soon as you get back in good standing. One national accrediting organization lists several possible consequences of probation, including getting barred from pursuing your chosen major and losing your student loans. But depending on the school and the judgment of administrators and deans who impose and patrol probation, academic probation can carry any or all of the following negative consequences:

  • limits on what courses in which a student may enroll
  • limits on the number of credits a student may take
  • requirements to maintain a higher grade point average
  • restrictions against labs, clinics, and internships
  • restrictions against co-curricular and extra-curricular activities
  • disqualification from honors and awards
  • disqualification for scholarships or loans
  • inability to transfer credits to another program or school
  • academic dismissal from the student's current school
  • inability to gain admission to another school

Non-Academic Consequences of Probation. Probation's consequences can extend beyond academic concerns to personal, professional, career, financial, and social concerns. Academic probation sounds like a purely academic concern as if it has no consequences beyond your direct dealings with your school. But academic probation can affect your opportunities outside the school. Probation can certainly strain your mental and physical health. It can also negatively impact your family, friend, and mentor relationships. Probation can close the door to recommendation letters, references, internships, and job offers. It can also put family financial support beyond your reach, lead to lost employer tuition reimbursement, and affect your personal and professional networks. These other reasons should further spur you toward relieving yourself of academic probation as quickly and surely as you can. The faster you get it behind you, the less impact probation is likely to have. You have options. The key is to pursue them. Retain national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm to help you identify and aggressively pursue appropriate options.

The Need for Change. Attacking academic probation to rid yourself of its burden doesn't mean soldiering on exactly as one had before falling into probation. The opposite is true. The student who falls into academic probation needs things to change and to change quickly. And change doesn't necessarily mean to work harder, although harder work may well be fruitful in many situations, once other things change. Change can instead mean pursuing strategies and options that the student hadn't yet discerned. Depending on the student's circumstances and the school's policies and practices, those strategies and options can include:

  • administrative correction of erroneous transcripts
  • administrative adjustment of misapplied academic policies
  • special relief from academic policies due to extenuating circumstances
  • doing extra credit to improve grades
  • appealing grades
  • retaking courses to replace low grades
  • completing courses to remove incomplete grades
  • taking remedial courses
  • taking courses in a different and better order
  • delaying certain courses until off probation
  • obtaining additional academic support inside or outside the school
  • meeting with professors and advisors for strategies and resources
  • working collaboratively with classmates in study groups
  • working individually with tutors or mentors
  • changing the degree or certificate program
  • taking one or more semesters off to address personal issues
  • accommodations for testing-related disabilities
  • note-taking, stand-up, break-time, or other study accommodations
  • access to facilities, large print texts, or other disability resources

An Academic Attorney as Change Agent. The above list of strategies and options, aggressively addressing academic probation, is long. The options go well beyond what an academic advisor or other school staff member or administrator may suggest. Students may also have little idea of how to identify the available options, the best options, and the academic administrative procedures to pursue those options, the academic officials who have the authority to grant that relief, or the grounds on which those officials are likely to do so. That's where the expert representation of a skilled and experienced academic attorney comes in. An academic administrative attorney with substantial experience will know the options and have the background and insight to help the student pursue the best-fitting options. An academic attorney can pursue all of these strategies that a student on academic probation doesn't know whether or how to do. An academic attorney can be your best change agent to get yourself off of academic probation.

Appealing Academic Probation. Colleges and universities like the University of Michigan routinely offer students the right to challenge and appeal academic probation. You don't have to wait for your academic dismissal to dispute with the school whether you belong on academic probation. Appeal procedures like the one at the University of Michigan generally require the student and student's advocate to make a convincing presentation to the appeal officer or panel in the form and within the time that the appeal rules require. An appeal involves advocacy. The student and student's representative must make the right arguments justifying relief on the right rules, policies, and equities. The appeal must also document the facts and circumstances to the appeal officer's satisfaction. Effective appeals can, in many cases, require the skills of an academic administrative attorney. If you face academic probation, then your best option may be to file a prompt appeal with the support and advocacy of a skilled and experienced academic administrative attorney.

National Academic Attorney Available. Don't be one of the thousands of college and university students every year who just accept academic probation as their fate and thus fail to overcome it. You have available to you a national academic attorney with the knowledge, skills, and experience to help you discern your best path for getting back in good standing. National academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped hundreds of students regain good academic standing through the above strategies and similar avenues. Attorney Lento wants to help you get your education back on track. Retain national Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm to aggressively and effectively represent you. Call 888.535.3686 or go online to tell us about your case.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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