Getting Off Academic Probation—Looking Further for Success

So, the semester is over and a mediocre performance has led to academic probation.

There is plenty of advice and support from the academic counseling centers and the web. The focus is to understand the reasons for the dismal performance, make the adjustments, and do the work. There is often an implicit assumption that success can be achieved within the school programs.

That may not be the case. The individual may be in the wrong situation and headed in the wrong direction. Academic probation is a wake-up call to consider this option along with the academic fixes.

It may be time to move on to a new program, a new institution, or an entirely new path. It’s a big world and it’s shortsighted to limit possibilities to those that are currently known. Such searches may not be easy. One way is to look into for fields that have natural energy for you. The ultimate direction is eventually find areas that there is a natural ability and interest to do well.

A woman, a first semester junior, in an engineering college was not doing particularly well. She claimed interest in engineering, but felt that she was in the field based on advice of others.

During the meeting, she had a brace on her wrist. The woman reported that she took a “spill” while doing competitive figure skating. She became quite animated with her recount of her love of the sport, although she was by no means a champion.

How could a mild interest in engineering ever compete with this type of energy? Perhaps nothing could, but she was encouraged to look into other areas that had at least some of the resonant energy for her that she had experienced in her skating. After some searching, the energy for her was found in psychology. She left the engineering school on her own. The woman became an excellent psychologist rather than a mediocre engineer.

Some of the signs that it’s time to consider a change:

  • The program to get off probation looks like drudgery and not worth the effort.
  • It is a priority to avoid course work.
  • The school is a stage to do lifestyle experiments at other’s expense.
  • The academic program is someone else’s idea of a path to a successful life.

Look for ways to explore for energy:

Beginning at the current school, actively explore for what resonates in you. There are two important considerations:

(i) The process is based on energy and is not an intellectual search based on ideas;

(ii) It is an active process seeking out new fields, not drifting.

For example: Find some people at the school who really enjoy the experience, perhaps faculty or students, and explore it. See if anything in their experience resonates with you. If it does, it’s a clue. If not, just continue the experiment in other areas.

The earlier that the real reason behind mediocre performance is identified, the more options there to make changes and get yourself in a direction to succeed.

There are many great stories about people who radically changed directions after an academic set back and achieved great success. There are only a few about those who settled for mediocrity.


If the s emester is still in progress, check the post:  Academic Survival–The First College Semester




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