Engaging in Academic Conversations with Your Student

Advice & Tips

Jennifer Grube Vestal, associate dean of students and director of the Academic Resource Center with some tips for talking to your student about academics.

The break between semesters offers a natural opportunity to engage your student about their academic performance and to begin goal-setting for the new semester. Students report feeling extra stress/pressure when the focus of these conversations rests primarily on letter grades or grade point average (GPA).

You can broaden the conversation to better understand the experience beyond the grade itself by asking more open-ended questions like:

  • What types of things factored into how you were evaluated (tests, papers, presentations, projects, etc.)? What challenged you the most and why?
  • What grade are you most proud of and why?
  • What did you learn this semester that connected with your previous knowledge and the topic/subject that intrigues you?
  • What were factors you did not anticipate in adjusting to college or this semester’s schedule?
  • Tell me about the connections you made with your faculty members or peers in your classes.

While grades are important, students may feel more supported by family when the conversation about academics also focuses on their learning about specific content and their experiences throughout the semester.

The New Year also provides a “resolution” framework for helping explore new goals for the coming semester. It is important to develop personal habits and implement concrete plans in order to reach these goals.

Students may find it valuable to set a specific GPA goal for themselves, though these goals can prove hollow. Family members can help students think through their ideas by asking what a student can “start, stop, and continue doing” to achieve their academic goals. The more concrete these plans/goals are, the easier it is to measure success in aspects beyond grades. Encourage students to build patterns of behavior that will support their end goal.

Ideas may include:

  • Read assignments earlier or attend the departmental lectures/events sponsored by the department of their intended major
  • Stop studying in their room and instead work in a space on the academic quad
  • Move their cell phone out of sight when studying to remain focused and not tempted to respond to texts or social media posts
  • Utilize office hours to discuss course content with the instructor
  • Make time to exercise and eat regularly to reduce stress level

It is equally important for students to anticipate challenges ahead for the coming semester.

For example: How does my practice/travel schedule for my sport impact my classes? How will I manage my time if I choose to join a new student organization or get a campus job? What if I get sick? Am I comfortable scheduling an appointment at the Whisler Center for Student Wellness and taking the correct dosage and medications to treat my illness?

The Academic Resource Center will offer a workshop on February 1 at 11:30 am in the Higley Hall Auditorium to assist students with setting academic goals. Please encourage your student to attend.

Posted Date 
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Contact Us

Academic Resource Center:
Higley Hall 020 (Lower Level​)

Student Advising:

Tutoring Hub:
Higley Hall 020 (Lower Level​)

Writing Center:
Doane Library (Atrium Level)


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