We’ve all heard about, or known someone, who was a model student in high school – that person who was consistently getting high grades in all high school classes and was ready to enter college with a bright outlook and high expectations. Then, suddenly, that student’s 4.0 average drops to 3.0 or worse, and they find themselves not only struggling in university but may be failing some classes.
Why Grades Drop in College
What’s the reason for this phenomenon? Why are these high achieving students faltering when they enter university? And what can be done to help them? As noted at this site, the reasons and solutions are multi-faceted.
Overall, high-achieving high school students are experiencing a multitude of influences that cause lower grades once in post-secondary, such as:
Lack of Preparation
They’re not properly prepared for college: Overall, the courses in post-secondary institutions are simply much harder than what they’re used to in high school. Plus, perhaps the student wasn’t adequately prepared by their teachers, parents and counsellors for these classes, so the result is a shock.
Burnout from High School
They over-studied and overachieved in high school so they could get into that elite university, and experience a burnout once they do. Further, those study skills and marks from high school just aren’t enough for a college level.
Lack of Coping Skills
The effect on that high GPA, high achieving high school student that experiences a decline in grade in university can be much different than the effect on an average scoring peer. What this means is that the high achiever that fails their very first class in university can be much more likely to give up than someone who is more used to average marks or even failure.
This high achiever has never dealt with the feelings and repercussions of doing poorly in class, and as a result, they may not know how to cope with this.
How to Deal with a Drop in Grades
Luckily there are some tips on how you can overcome this university grade slump, and continue that success from high school well into your post-secondary life.
Get some Perspective
One way is to get some perspective around the norm for grades in university. After all, the academic expectations are usually much higher in university, and the course content much more challenging.
A B mark for an A student may be terrible for that student to accept, but has he/she looked at the class average? That B score may still be the best in the class. Try to judge the quality of the work you have produced, rather than the letter grade that has been assigned to it.
Be Realistic about Your Expectations
The second tip is to be realistic, and kind to yourself. If you look at your mark as a reflection of the professor’s dislike for you, or an accusatory stance on your character, you are likely way off base.
Most professors have a keen investment into ensuring their students absorb the information they are presenting (this is often tied to their passion for the content that they are teaching), and it is usually in their best interest for you to do well.
With this being said, try approaching your professor about a bad grade in a positive way so to learn why it was bad, and how you can do better. This can help your professor understand that you want to do better and that you are ready to earn it.
Get to the Source
If you continue to get poor marks in university, consider setting up a meeting with your professor or instructor. A one on one meeting is often the most efficient way to learn from a bad grade.
It can help you as the student get some clarity around the content, and solve any mysteries around the questions that you were unclear about. It also puts a name to your face and allows you to stick out more in class, which can be helpful.