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I'm Not Doing Well in My Classes

College is a time for you to explore who you are as an individual and as a member of a community. It is also a stressful time, whether you are exploring new-found independence; returning to school after years of working, raising children, or serving in the military; or managing lack of sleep, grades or financial anxiety, illness, depression, or issues related to sexual health.  

As advisers, we work to build your awareness of the social, emotional, intellectual, physical, financial, and spiritual aspects of well-being. We show you how to access campus and community-based resources to navigate challenges and we teach you how to advocate for yourself and others. We want to enhance your ability to see beyond your current situation, address personal barriers, identify resources, and challenge roadblocks to success.

Transitional issues

Many students struggle with the transition to a new school, and often their grades in the first quarter are lower than they expect. Sometimes these difficulties diminish after a period of adjustment, as you get a sense of how things work here. But sometimes this adjustment process does not work like you expect it to, and problems remain.

Come speak with an adviser and get a second opinion about what might be happening. If you review the issues described below you may recognize factors that apply to your situation. Knowing you are not alone and being able to identify and articulate your problems may help you develop a strategy for success more quickly.

Study skills deficits

You may find that the study skills you learned in high school or at your previous college or university don't work as well here at the UW, where things move very quickly and often in large classes. Different skills are called for, skills that can be learned. Academic support programs are available to help you adapt, including subject-specific tutoring and late-night group study sessions at CLUE and academic achievement courses, which are geared toward improving your academic skills while you learn about a subject of interest.

On the Academic Support Programs website you can find information on improving your time management and studying skills, strategies for tackling math and science courses, keys to effective reading, and how to prepare for tests.

Finally, the UW offers a large number of study centers and writing centers.

Overload

It could be that your time is stretched too thin. Maybe you signed up for more credits than feel comfortable now, or maybe you're trying to balance attending school full-time, working a full-time job, and maintaining your social life.

One key to academic success is balance. Balance your course choices so you can utilize different parts of your academic repertoire. That is, take a problem-based/quantitative class (i.e., math) together with a reading/analysis class (i.e., literature) and a writing class (i.e., composition). That way you don't get too overloaded doing one thing over and over! Visit our page on Choosing Courses for more information.

In the same way — to the extent you can — try to balance the school, work, and social/family components of your life. You may have to make some tough choices, and really think about your priorities and goals, both short- and long-term. 

The choice will be different for everyone. Maybe you'll decide to cut back hours at work in order to make room for more studying; this might mean you have to tighten your budget or get a loan. Perhaps instead you'll take fewer credits per quarter for a while, or maybe spend more weekends studying. We encourage you to be thoughtful and kind to yourself as you think about these issues.

If you decide to make changes to your school schedule for the current quarter, be sure to read about Alternatives to Dropping, which talks about S/NS grading, incompletes, hardship withdrawals, and complete withdrawals.

Hectic living situation

Often, a big part of coming to college is entering a new living situation, many times one that you do not have complete control over. If your residence hall is too loud, your sorority or fraternity is too distracting, or your housemates have too many parties, you might want to reconsider your living arrangement. Maybe it's something as simple as having a serious discussion with your roommates and making your issue known; maybe your Resident Adviser or Resident Director can help. Maybe you can spend some time finding a good quiet study spot on campus or on the Ave. You might have to seek like-minded friends and rent a house; the Office of Off-Campus Housing Affairs is a good resource. You could also ask your parents if you can spend more time at home, if it is quieter there.

Learning disability

If you have previously been diagnosed with a learning disability, or feel that you might have a learning disability, Disability Resources for Students (DRS) should be your first stop. DRS is committed to ensuring equal access to the University facilities and academic programs for enrolled students who have a documented permanent or temporary physical, mental, or sensory disability. Depending on the nature of your disability, they can help ensure your access to all aspects of a quality higher education experience at the UW and give you things like notetaking services, more time on tests, and textbook audiotaping.   

I'm on warning or probation

Students are placed on academic probation at the end of any quarter—except for the first quarter at the University, when an academic warning is issued instead—in which their cumulative GPA is below 2.0. Students on probation status are dropped the following quarter unless their quarter GPA is at least 2.5 or they raise their cumulative GPA up to 2.0 or above.

What is the difference between warning, probation, and low scholarship?

Academic warning

The first quarter at a new school—whether your previous school was a high school or another college or university—is fraught with difficulties that can lead to poor academic performance. You may have a new commute, leading to less study time. You might not have needed to study quite as much at your previous school, or the studying was very different. Maybe you miss home. The classes at the UW may bigger and move much quicker than you're used to. There are many reasons.

Very often we see students who do poorly in their first quarter, and then turn things completely around after that. Perhaps they just needed some time to figure out how everything works here. Or maybe they found the problem and addressed it. As advisers, we recommend you address the issue right away, and we hope to be a great resource for you. 

Our offices makes an extra effort to reach out to pre-major students on academic warning. So, although academic advising is not generally required at the UW, we put registration holds on many students on academic warning so that they come in and meet with one of our advisers. After the meeting, the registration hold is removed. This process is not meant to be punitive; rather, we want to try to help you get on the right track as soon as possible.

Academic probation

When you're on academic probation, you're teetering on the edge of losing your place as a student at the UW. Every quarter you are on probation you have to earn a 2.5 in the quarter or earn high enough quarterly grades to raise your cumulative gpa to 2.0. If you don't, you'll be dropped from the UW for low scholarship. For some students, bringing it up to a 2.0 won't be too difficult. For others, the numbers may paint a bleak picture.

Our offices makes an extra effort to reach out to pre-major students on academic probation. So, although academic advising is not generally required at the UW, we put registration holds on many students on academic probation and ask that they come in and meet with an adviser. After the meeting, the registration hold is removed. This process is not meant to be punitive; rather, we want to try to help you get on the right track as soon as possible.

Even if you're not required to, we encourage you to come see an adviser if you're on probation. We will help you assess your situation, and work with you to create a plan for improvement. 

I've been dropped for low scholarship and I want to petition for reinstatement

The first step is to contact one of the following reinstatement advisers.

It is in your best interest to begin working with an adviser as soon as possible, as there may be multiple steps that must be completed before your petition is given to the Reinstatement Committee for consideration.

How can I prepare?

Pre-majors, College of Arts & Sciences majors, and EOP, SSS, and CAMP affiliates all use the same petition form.

Your completed reinstatement packet must be submitted to your reinstatement adviser by September 1st for autumn quarter, or day 2 of Winter, Spring, or Summer quarters for reinstatement in those quarters. Petitions received after the deadline will be considered for the next quarter.

If you are reinstated you will be on probation. While on probation, you must achieve either a 2.5 or higher grade point average during your reinstatement quarter or raise your overall cumulative grade point average to 2.0 to remain in school.

If you did not complete either of the two immediately preceding quarters (not including Summer), you must also file a Returning Student Reenrollment Application by the application closing date.

One important note: Even if you've been dropped from the university, if you've already registered for next quarter, your classes will be retained for the first few days of the quarter. This gives you a chance to explore your options and petition for reinstatement if desired. If you are petitioning for reinstatement you should attend the first few days so if you get reinstated you are caught up in your classes.

If you are dropped after Spring quarter your Autumn quarter courses will be dropped during the summer. If you are dropped after Summer quarter, though, the Autumn courses will be retained until a few days into the quarter.

I'm having trouble outside of class

Sometimes, life during college is not what we expect. If any of the following is happening to you, please know there is help available.

  • You have a bad breakup with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • You think you might be addicted to drugs, gambling, online games, etc.
  • Someone close to you dies.
  • You're having trouble sleeping.
  • You're stressed out from classes and work.
  • You've been assaulted.
  • You think you might be depressed or have anxiety.

Whatever distress you are experiencing, the UW has resources to help you. Visit the centers listed below for more information and to set up an appointment.

There are many other community resources for counseling and therapy, and you can find out more about them by contacting any of the above offices. You are not alone and help is available. Contact any of these centers today.

I have a problem with a grade or an instructor

In most cases, it is best to approach the professor directly. If you aren't comfortable talking with the instructor, or if you have and there was not an acceptable resolution to the problem, then you should talk with someone else in the department—the undergraduate adviser or the department chair. Many students find it easier to discuss their difficulties first with the department adviser, who may have useful suggestions. If the adviser isn't able to help, you can go to the department office and ask for an appointment with the department chair.

If you still aren't satisfied, you may want to contact the University Ombud.

Contesting a grade

Discuss the matter with the instructor before the end of the following academic quarter. If you are unsatisfied with the instructor's explanation, the next step is to submit a written appeal to the chair or dean of the department (within ten days after meeting with the instructor). Send a copy of your appeal to the instructor as well.

Within ten calendar days, the chair or dean will consult with the instructor. Should the chair or dean believe the instructor's conduct to be arbitrary or capricious and the instructor declines to revise the grade, the chair or dean, with the approval of the voting members of his or her faculty, will appoint an appropriate member, or members, of the faculty of that department to evaluate your performance in the course and assign a grade.

I believe I have been discriminated against

The University of Washington is committed to promoting respect for the rights and privileges of others, understanding and appreciation of human differences, and the constructive expression of ideas.

UW policy prohibits discrimination against members of the University community on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam era veteran (UW Handbook, Vol. IV). The UW is firmly committed to full and positive compliance with a wide range of state and national regulations as applied by law, and/or university policy.

If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of any of the factors listed above, you may call these University offices for assistance:

The following non-UW agencies are also available:

What is academic misconduct?

Students at the University of Washington are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic conduct. Most UW students conduct themselves with integrity.

Academic misconduct harms the University community in many ways. Honest students are frustrated by the unfairness of cheating that goes undetected and unreported. Students who cheat may skew the grading curve in a class, resulting in lower grades for students who work hard and do their own work. If you suspect someone of cheating or engaging in academic misconduct please report it to your instructor.

Most professions have codes of ethics, standards to which you will be expected to adhere when you are working. At the University you practice the integrity you must demonstrate in your career. For all of these reasons, academic misconduct is considered a serious offense at the UW.

Academic integrity requires that the course work (drafts, reports, examinations, papers) you present to an instructor honestly and accurately indicates your own academic efforts. Academic misconduct occurs when a student fails to practice high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity. Below are some examples of academic misconduct.

Plagiarism

One of the most common forms of academic misconduct is plagiarism. The key to avoiding plagiarism is that you show clearly where your own thinking ends and someone else's begins. Plagiarism includes but is not limited to:

Using another writer's words without proper citation. If you use another writer's words, you must place quotation marks around the quoted material and indicate the source of the quotation.

Using another writer's ideas without proper citation. When you use another author's ideas, you must indicate the source of the information. Your instructors want to know which ideas and judgments are yours and which you arrived at by consulting other sources. Even if you arrived at the same judgment on your own, you need to acknowledge that the writer you consulted came up with the idea prior to your own conclusion.

Borrowing all or part of another student's paper or using someone else's outline to write your own paper. Using someone's paper or outline is academic misconduct. Allowing someone to use your paper or outline is also academic misconduct. College is about learning and using someone else's work denies you of that learning.

In computer programming classes, borrowing computer code from another student and presenting it as your own. When original computer code is a requirement for a class, it is a violation of the University's policy if students submit work they themselves did not create.

Using the Internet to obtain information to assist you with your writing without proper citation. The guidelines that define plagiarism also apply to information secured on Internet Websites. Internet references must specify precisely where the information was obtained and where it can be found. Internet Websites do not constitute common knowledge and therefore must be sited.

Multiple submissions

If you want to submit a single paper or completed assignment in more than one class, even though it's your original work, you must have the express permission of your professor(s) otherwise it may constitute academic misconduct.

Cheating

Copying from someone else's paper, using notes (unless expressly allowed by the instructor), altering an exam for re-grading, getting an advance copy of the examination, or hiring a surrogate test-taker are all forms of academic misconduct.

Electronic devices

Technology is an important resource available to students today, but can also create additional barriers to learning if not used appropriately. If it is unclear how electronic devices can or cannot be used, ask your instructor. While it may be acceptable to write your paper on a laptop or use a calculator to complete math homework, it is not acceptable to access answers to questions on your smart phone during an exam, or to text a classmate the answers to a multiple choice question during a quiz.

Collaboration

Educators recognize the value of collaborative learning; students are often encouraged to form study groups and assigned group projects. Group study often results in accelerated learning, but only when each student takes responsibility for mastering all the material.

If you are permitted to work with other students to study or complete coursework, make sure you are clear about the parameters of that collaboration. If it is important that the end product be different from others, be careful how much collaboration goes into writing the outline, finding sources, etc. so a difference of ideas can be seen by the grader.

What happens in a case of suspected academic misconduct?

Faculty who suspect academic misconduct will report the allegation to the Dean's representative for the College or School the student is enrolled. Each College or School has a slightly different way of responding to these allegations. However, in all cases, students will be contacted and provided an opportunity to respond to allegations of academic misconduct through an informal hearing. Instructors may choose not to grade the assignment or may choose to place an X grade as a place holder until the matter is resolved. For more information on the process please refer to the Student Conduct Code or visit the CSSC website.

Suggestions for academic success

Common patterns in student behavior that increase the likelihood to cheat include: falling behind in coursework or leaving large projects until the last minute; working too many hours leaving little time to keep up with courses; taking too many difficult courses at one time; and encountering emotional or health problems that distract from studies and interfere with concentration. Here are some tips for avoiding these pitfalls:

Get in the habit of planning your education. Advisers can help you determine your educational goals, plan your classes, keep your quarterly load manageable, and find a reasonable balance between work and school.

Don't work too many hours while in school. Find a balance between being a student and an employee. In general, a student carrying a full-time load (15 credits) should limit work hours to 10-15 hours a week.

Adjust your study habits to the demands of college. Most college professors expect you to study two hours for each hour you spend in their class. In other words, it's a full-time job. The pace of college coursework demands that you don't fall behind in your classes. Learn to schedule your weekly assignments, and learn to break large projects down into manageable pieces and schedule intermediate deadlines for yourself.

Deal with personal and health problems. One of the worst mistakes students make is to deny that they're overloaded or unable to cope. You may need to lighten your load by dropping a class, you may decide to leave school for a quarter, or you may just need to renegotiate a deadline with your instructor. If a personal problem is keeping you from concentrating on your studies, discuss the situation with an adviser and work out a solution. Additional resources to support your health and wellness efforts are available online.

Community Standards and Student Conduct

Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC) recognizes that the college experience is about making choices. CSSC fosters a developmental approach to student conduct, provides support and guidance to the University community, and promotes the values and expectations of the University. The goal is to help students maximize their academic success at the University of Washington.

Student Conduct Code

Pursuant to Chapter 34.05 RCW and the authority granted by RCW 28B.20.130, the Board of Regents of the University of Washington has established the following regulations on student conduct and student discipline on the University campus. Selected sections are presented here. A copy of the complete code may be obtained online or from the Community Standards and Student Conduct office.

Violations of the Student Conduct Code could result in a variety of disciplinary actions, ranging from disciplinary warning, disciplinary probation, restitution, suspension, or permanent dismissal from the University. Concerns regarding possible violations should be directed to the Office of Community Standards & Student Conduct.

Meet with an adviser

The advisers in our office welcome you to come in and speak with them one-on-one about any of these issues.