I got a very rude introduction to the “Official Correspondence” section of Beartracks.
I had just finished my second year of university, and I knew my grades were bad, but I didn’t know they were that bad. Before I got the email containing my academic standing letter, I hadn’t even heard of the term “academic probation”, but there it was, a letter detailing how I very nearly got kicked out of school because my GPA was so low.
It felt like a punch in the stomach. I knew I was smart enough to be in university, but I just hadn’t applied myself the way I needed to, and I nearly paid for it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, I felt directionless, and I felt like I was letting people down. From my friends who expected so much more from me, to my parents, who poured in thousands of their own dollars so I could attend university.
As I sit here writing this however, I’ve just finished my fifth year of university, and I’m happy to say that I survived my stint on academic probation. In a way, it made me a stronger student, because I learned firsthand what studying and self-care methods worked for me, and which didn’t.
It was around this time of the year was when I got my academic standing letter, and if you’re a student who has received one this year or thinks they might be on track to receive one, I’m here to tell you: it’s not the end of the world.
View it as an opportunity. Learn from what you did the previous year, and why it didn’t work. I developed several strategies that I still use to this day.
Use it as motivation:
First of all, try to spin your situation in a positive way, as bad as it may be. Don’t let your lack of success pull you into a downward spiral. Negative behavior and thoughts are self-fulfilling prophecies in a way: if your mindset is negative, you might find that negative events follow you.
Don’t let this happen to you. Use the negatives to motivate you to do better. If you’re on academic probation like I was, you need to get at least a 2.0 GPA the next year to remain eligible for school, so at the very least you can use that to motivate you. Learn from what you did wrong, and try to find some strategies to help you be more successful next year.
Getting ahead with studying:
A big problem I had during my second year was simply biting off more than I could chew when it came to studying. I wouldn’t be thinking about my course material until I absolutely had to, which was usually a few days before an exam or assignment.
Don’t let yourself get behind. If you’re anything like I was, it’ll make studying even more difficult because you’re essentially relearning everything from the class you’ve forgotten. Even taking an hour at the end of each week to review class material really helps your comprehension when it comes time to really buckle down and study.
Finding the right major:
Sometimes what you’re studying just isn’t for you, and change is necessary. Maybe you went into university with an idea of what you were interested in, but when it came time to actually learn about it, it just didn’t interest you.
This happened to me in second year. I started the year with a Psychology major, and realized that I wasn’t really interested in it. The sociology classes I took that year piqued my interest much more, so after the year ended I switched my major. I found studying so much easier because I was actually learning about subjects that I was interested in.
Finding people to support you:
I also had the help of my friends to push me to do better in my pivotal third year, when the threat of getting kicked out of school was hanging over my head. We had the majority of our classes together, and working through the course material with them made it much more enjoyable and bearable.
Obviously, having friends in all your classes isn’t always going to happen, but even planning group study sessions (even if you’re not all studying the same thing) can help you get through the slog. Suffering alone is never worthwhile, so at the very least you can have a support system when you’re freaking out about not being prepared for an exam or assignment.
Getting involved on campus to make your stay much easier:
I didn’t start getting the full value out of my university experience until my third year. Before that, I would go to class and then go home, basically spending the minimum amount of time on campus. I wasn’t in a good spot, and didn’t even want to think about anything school related unless I absolutely had to.
Getting involved with student groups and clubs was a huge turning point for me, because it showed me that campus wasn’t the academic prison I had made it out to be in my mind. I saw that campus had other things to offer, and it made those late-night study sessions easier to grind through because I actually enjoyed being on campus, and being a university student.
Even if the worst happens and you do end up on academic probation, try to learn from the experience. Use the next year to try to grow as a person and work towards some more positive strategies, and you could find yourself achieving the successes that previously seemed out of reach.
Resources to Check
If you feel like you're struggling with your studies, know that there are resources available to you on campus to help. They include (but are not limited to):
- The Student Success Centre
- The Office of the Dean of Students
- Math and Applied Sciences Centre
- Student Accessibility Services
- InfoLink: Your Campus Connection (offers tutoring and assistance finding your faculty advisor)
- Your Faculty Advisor