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Academic Probation: What Is It And What Should You Do?

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: July 23, 2020

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: July 23, 2020


If you find yourself on academic probation, you’re not alone. In fact, about 20% of college students who attend a four-year institution will be on academic probation at some point. And if you’re attending online college, you’re not exempt from this possibility. Although it may feel scary to find yourself in this circumstance, you can improve your academic performance with a few steps.

Let’s get into how you may find yourself on academic probation and what you should do while you’re on it. Plus, we’ll divulge some tips for ways to remain on the right academic path to prevent any downfalls.

Stressed student on academic probation
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

What Is Academic Probation?

All colleges have a set of guidelines by which students must abide by in order to stay enrolled as a student. If a student fails to meet the set of criteria, they may be put on academic probation, which serves as a warning.

Some consequences of being put on academic probation include:

  • Not being able to pursue your major of choice (if you’ve failed too many course requirements)
  • A loss or reduction in financial aid
  • You could possibly be dismissed from the institution (if improvements aren’t made)

10 Things That Lead To Academic Probation

There are many reasons why students may be put on academic probation. Some of the most common causes are:

1. Skipping Classes

While not all schools or professors will keep track of attendance, some do. It’s on the student to know the policy, and it could even be that if you miss too many classes, you will automatically fail the class.

2. Too Many Classes

It seems counterintuitive to be punished for taking too many classes, but it’s possible when a student is overly ambitious and takes on too many units at once. If the workload becomes too overwhelming, grades may slip.

3. Poor Study Habits

A poor GPA often leads back to poor study habits. With continued poor results, students may be placed on academic probation if they don’t maintain the minimum required GPA.

4. Too Many Pass / Fail

In some institutions, students may choose to receive a “pass/fail” grade instead of a letter grade for a class. However, the amount of classes you can take for “pass/fail” tends to have a limit.

5. Unbalanced Schedule

Regardless of how many units you choose to take each quarter or semester, you’ll want to balance the type of classes you have. For example, if you take too many writing classes at a time or too many science classes, it may be hard to get the work done and perform well. In this anxious state, your grades may start to decline.

6. Unexpected Personal Events

College is just a part of life, and life may throw you a curveball. You may not be able to keep your grades in good standing if you’re also trying to deal with a family or life circumstance that is out of your control.

7. Stress Or Anxiety

Stress, anxiety, and depression are serious mental health issues that can affect your academic performance. If you feel any of these, try to get help from someone you trust, an academic advisor or professional. You can also practice stress-relieving tips designed for college students.

8. Too Few Credits

Some schools require that students are enrolled in a minimum amount of classes per quarter or semester. If you drop a class in the middle of the quarter or semester, you may fall under the threshold and be placed on academic probation.

9. Disinterested

It’s really important to choose a major and college classes that you feel genuinely interested in. If you are totally disinterested in class, then you will likely be disengaged and it will be hard to stay motivated. However, there are times when classes are required and it’s beyond your control as to whether or not you must take them. In these instances, it’s helpful to stay focused on your ultimate goal and power through!

10. Too Much Partying

For many, a huge part of the college experience is socializing and going to parties. However, to remain in good academic standing, it’s vital to balance wearing both your academic and party hats.

6 Things To Do While On Academic Probation?

If you are put on academic probation, you have many ways to get out. It’s necessary to first realize how you got into this position and try to rectify it from the cause. Overall, you can also consider these steps to make your way back to safe ground.

1. Consider Course Load

Reassess the amounts of classes you’re taking, as well as the balance of their expectations. Try to diversify your course load between major-specific classes, writing-intensive classes, and electives to level out your schedule.

2. Consider Your Resources

Does your campus offer workshops or tutoring assistance? Take some time to evaluate what resources are available to you for extra help.

3. Check-Ins

Schedule regular check-ins with your professors, teacher assistants, and/or academic counselors to review your standing.

4. Get A Tutor

If you have the extra funds, reaching out to a tutor could help improve your performance. You can even find tutoring assistance online via tutorials, videos, or virtual tutors.

5. Consider Pass / Fail

If a pass/fail class isn’t what got you on academic probation in the first place, you may want to explore this option. But you can only take pass/fail courses for non-required or major-related classes.

6. Recognize Successes

Success happens when small steps on the right path are repeated. In this way, it’s good practice to recognize every time you do something well. This could be acing a quiz or spending extra time in office hours to better understand a lesson.

Tips To Staying Off Probation

Finding yourself on academic probation doesn’t mean you’re alone. But it does mean that there is room for improvement. Here are some tips and tricks to set yourself up to do well in college!

  • Get A Planner: To better manage your time, you can buy a planner or use an online calendar like Google Calendar. This tool can help you to break up your time and schedule blocks of time to study, socialize, and relax.
  • Schedule Advising Appointments: Hold yourself accountable by taking the big step to schedule advising appointments. Your academic advisor is there to help you do well in college!
  • Ask For Help: Whether you need to rely on a peer for assistance, a tutor, a mentor, a counselor or professor, you should always be open to asking for help when you need it. There’s no shame in reaching out. In fact, it shows that you are taking responsibility and control over your destiny!
College graduate walking towards building
Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

Your Future Isn’t Over!

Academic probation isn’t the end of your academic career. Academic probation is not intended to be a punishment, but rather it is meant to serve as a wake-up call to help get you back on the right track.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.