With Thanksgiving here, students (and faculty!) have a chance to catch-up. Although most students dash home and catch-up on sleep and home-cooking, there is at least a hope from the faculty point of view that students will also use the opportunity to catch-up on their course work or maybe work ahead on reading and projects. Just as mid-term (fall break) is a time for students to take stock of their successes and challenges of the previous seven or eight weeks, so is Thanksgiving Break. Perhaps the following can provide you with a few thoughts to discuss with students who are home for the holidays.
First, it is important for everyone to know that mid-term grades (available to all students online) are not always the best indicator of how students are doing in their classes. Often, the grades that really count towards the final grade in a class (big papers, projects, presentations, etc.), come AFTER mid-term. Mid-term grades are sometimes based on scant information (things like attendance, small papers, quizzes, etc.). A good grade at mid-term doesn’t necessarily suggest that the student will receive a good final grade. And although the opposite is also true (a bad grade at mid-term might not predict a bad final grade), it is almost always the case that a midterm grade below a “C” indicates that a student should have a discussion with his or her professor. I encourage parents to review mid-term grades with their students (available on StormFront,) but also to inquire about what course assignments went into the mid-term grade. This information is normally included in the syllabus for the course. If your student can’t explain this to you, suggest that they check directly with the course instructor to get the information.
Second, it is important for all students to have a “Plan B” for their academic career. As I mentioned when I met with parents at orientation in June, most of our incoming students change their academic major more than once during college. If a student is getting below a “B” in their major field, it is time for that student to have a serious talk with her or his academic advisor. This is especially true if the student is planning to go to professional or graduate school after finishing at Simpson College. Obviously, this is more of an issue the closer a student is to graduation. For a first-year student, there is a lot of time to improve grades. For most students, there is an adjustment period as students understand and master the rigors of college classes. The reality is, however, that if by the end of the sophomore year a student is not regularly obtaining above a “B” in classes required for their major, a conversation with their academic advisor is in order. Alternatively, the student may wish to discuss possible options with the Hawley Center in Dunn Library, as well as Career Services located in the Kent Campus Center. In both places, students will be met by friendly staff members who will help them clarify their interests and skills. While students are able to graduate from Simpson with less than a “B” average in their major, lower grades do suggest that s/he might need to work harder after graduation to find a job in their field.
Finally, I would like to remind parents, family, and friends that Simpson College is a place where asking for help, is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being smart. If your student is not getting the grades she or he believes appropriate for the work they are doing, if s/he comes home on break and says that Simpson doesn’t have the major they want, or that they were given a poor grade because a faculty member “didn’t like them,” it is probably a time to reach-out to the Hawley Center, student development or to me. We believe in your student and, like you, want to do all that we can for them to be successful. Don’t hesitate to call or email one us if you think your son or daughter is concerned about their ability to succeed at Simpson College.
Best wishes for the holiday season and New Year,
Senior Vice President and Academic Dean