Find Out What Being on Academic Probation Means

Definition and What to Do About It

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"Academic probation" is the most common term colleges and universities use to indicate that a student is not making the academic progress the institution requires for graduation. Academic probation often means that a student's grades and/or GPA are not high enough to continue in school if his grades or GPA do not improve.

Someone can be placed on academic probation for a variety of reasons, although all will be academic in nature. Nonacademic offenses could lead to disciplinary probation. No form of probation is good, as it could result in a student's suspension or expulsion.

What Leads to Academic Probation?

A school may put a student on academic probation because of her cumulative GPA or because of her GPA in the classes required for her major. A single semester of poor grades could also lead to academic probation.

Perhaps even direr: A student may end up on academic probation if he fails to meet the standards of any financial aid he is receiving—it all depends on the school's rules and what is required to remain in good academic standing.

Even if a student thinks she is doing well in school, she should familiarize herself with any GPA standards she must meet, whether for her major, scholarships, an honors program, or basic academic requirements. The best strategy, of course, is to avoid any issues in the first place rather than unexpectedly ending up on probation and having to work out of it.

How to Respond to Academic Probation

If a student does end up on academic probation, don't panic. Being placed on academic probation is usually not the same as being asked to leave college. Students are given a probationary period—often a semester—to demonstrate that they can indeed make successful academic progress.

To do so, students may need to increase their GPA by a certain amount, pass all of their classes, or meet other requirements, as determined by their school. While there will certainly be pressure to succeed—failing to boost grades or meet certain standards could result in suspension or expulsion—there are several things a student can do to make the most of this second chance.

First, be clear on what is required to stay in school. The specific steps of a student's academic probation, as well as how long the probationary period will last, should be outlined in the notification the student received from her school. If it's unclear as to what steps to take to move out of academic probation, the student should ask as many people as possible until she finds out the information he needs.

Once it's clear what lies ahead, it's important to ask a key question: Are there any changes the student needs to make in her day-to-day life to ensure she reaches her academic goals? For example, if the student can cut back on some extracurricular activities, social commitments, or work hours to increase study time, she may want to do so. She should ask an adviser or a trusted mentor for resource recommendations like a study group or individual tutor because extra support can go a long way in a high-stakes situation.