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How to Approach Your Child’s Slipping Grades in College



Your child’s transition to college can be a time of great excitement. From the moment that he or she begins to apply to colleges, new horizons are opening up. Next come the acceptance letters, and then there’s choosing the right college for your child’s goals, moving him or her to college housing, and so forth.

Your child will likely make new friends, perhaps join clubs or other organizations, discover new interests, and so much more. But, what happens when you discover that your child’s grades are slipping?

How to deal with bad grades, of course, depends upon numerous factors, including how your child performed academically in high school, your child’s personality, reasons why grades are falling, and much more.

Fortunately, no matter why the grades are slipping (reasons may be immediately clear or they may take some investigating), this post will share helpful tips and strategies about what to do when your child gets bad grades in college.

Dealing With a Bad Grade

First, a “bad grade” can be defined in many ways. If, for example, your child was a straight A student in high school, you may perceive a B as a bad grade. And, no matter how you would define a grade that’s slipping, step one is to talk to your child. You can start by asking them how the experience has been and see if your child has insights to offer. Examples of answers you might get include:

•  This academic program is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

•  I shouldn’t have taken a physics class when also taking a math class.

•  It’s hard to handle my hours at work and still have enough time to study.

•  There sure were a lot of parties during finals week!

Each of these answers will likely take the discussion down a different path. Take, for example, bullet points one and two. In the second one, the issue may simply be that, when making schedules in the future, your child needs to balance the tougher classes with ones that come more naturally to him or her. In the best of circumstances, this is a lesson that, once learned, can solve the issue.

With bullet point number one, though, this could be more of an ongoing challenge. So, you could encourage your child to reach out to the college tutoring center—many campuses offer some sort of studying help, whether free or at a small fee.

Your child could also talk to his or her professors to ask about the best resources to use. (Or, your child may want to consider changing his or her major to one that dovetails with their abilities and interests. With this kind of change, it’s usually better to do it sooner rather than later!)

Sometimes, choosing a study buddy who is serious about grades can be the answer. Perhaps, for example, your child has a roommate who is a whiz at math but struggles with writing skills. If your child has the opposite set of skills and challenges, then they could trade off by helping one another. Win/win!

Sometimes, other students (maybe graduate students in your child’s area of study) can provide helpful tutoring services for a small fee. Or, there may be retired teachers in the area that provide these services.

Time Management Skills


Now, on the other hand, if your child shares that time management is a struggle because of both work and school commitments, the solution may be different. If your child is taking more than the typical course load, maybe that is just too much, given job responsibilities, and they may need to stick to a more standard load. Or, if your child can afford to cut back on work hours, that may be the answer.

But, before you make any drastic moves, consider helping your child develop strong time management skills. Purdue University provides insights specifically designed for college students, including identifying unique time wasters.

For some students, social media can be a real time suck. For others, it’s texting friends. For others still, they start out researching a school subject on the web and then their curiosity takes over—taking them down lots of interesting but time-wasting rabbit holes.

After identifying time wasters to avoid, or at least limit, your child can create to-do lists with goals and timelines, prioritizing tasks so what’s most important or urgent gets done that day. For some students, starting out the day with a small task that’s easy to complete can build momentum.

And, it often makes sense to turn off mobile devices, television sets, and anything else that can be distracting during study time. As your child creates routines and streamlines school work, he or she may find the solution for the slipping grades without needing to make any other changes.

And, although we mentioned shutting off distracting mobile devices, there are apps that can help with things like to-do lists, time management, and boosting productivity.

If you know your child is a social butterfly, then it’s possible that the numerous activities available on campus may be a distraction, and they may need guidance on how to balance those activities with study time.

If this is the case, it’s at least possible that your child may not initially want to admit how much time they are spending with friends on fun activities. And, it’s also possible that they don’t realize how much time is going towards socializing. In that case, asking your child to keep track of activities in a planner, including social time, may provide clues.

Discussions With Your Child

Solutions will likely depend upon your child’s personality and abilities. If, for example, you have a son who lacks confidence in his abilities and therefore tended to underperform somewhat in high school, then you may need to take a supportive tone, encouraging him to find a solution that works.

If, on the other hand, you have a daughter who always shone in high school but is struggling with current coursework, then tutoring may be a great idea to consider even though she may have never needed to consider tutoring in the past.

Is Homesickness Playing a Role?

According to the largest study on the subject to date, about 66% of first-year college students report homesick or feeling lonely. If your child expresses these feelings, or if you suspect this may be a cause of slipping grades, you might encourage them to get involved in campus life. You can suggest they check out clubs or groups on campus, or to research intramural sports teams. You can let your child know how this is the ideal time for them to “reinvent and explore” life.

It can also help to suggest they walk around the campus, check out what’s available, stop by events that are taking place—whatever it takes to make the campus feel like home. Also, it might help your child to put other students’ social media posts in context.

Many of them will show college students smiling, laughing, having fun—but those posts are often just the highlight reel. Most students have at least some moments of feeling homesick, and social media isn’t as likely to reflect that.

You could try reminding your child that they can call home, use Skype or FaceTime, and otherwise keep in contact with friends and family. Perhaps discuss how starting high school was also a transition, one where new people were met and new friends made. If you feel that your child’s homesickness is a significant problem, you could encourage them to talk to a school counselor or someone in the student center who will likely have solutions to offer.

Private Student Loans with SoFi


When looking for ways to pay for your child’s education, we recommend exhausting all of the federal student loan options available to you before considering private lenders.

But if you find it’s the right choice for you and your child, you might consider a private student loan with SoFi. SoFi helps undergrads pay for college with a flexible, low-rate loan. SoFi’s application is quick and easy—and the repayment plans are flexible.

Learn more about Private Student Loans with SoFi.

Learn More


SoFi Private Student Loans
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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