Friday, January 24, 2014

How to Talk to Your Student About Grades

We’re days away from the new Spring semester. For many parents, winter recess is a time to check-in with their students to see how well they did during the Fall semester and to help plan for the Spring semester. In a best-case scenario, your student has shared with you his or her grades, presented an official printed copy of his or her transcript, and initiated a conversation with you on their plans for the next semester. However, students can be tricky and life doesn’t always go as you planned. If your student is leaving you in the dark in regards to his or her academic progress from last semester, know that you’re not alone.
Below are our tips on how you can have a productive conversation with your student about his or her grades, as well as, campus resources available to your student throughout the year.

How can I get my student to talk about his or her grades? What if they’re avoiding the topic?

·        Find the right time to introduce the topic of grades to your student. The best time is usually when he/she is relaxed and willing to have a general discussion about other topics. A relaxed and open conversation can ensue when both of you are under less pressure.

·        Understand that your student may already be nervous in letting you know they had a tough time last semester, may have to repeat a course or even repeat a semester. Let them know that you will remain supportive and calm despite any news they may tell you (e.g. failing grades, withdrawal).

·         Avoid trying to solve your student’s problems, but ask questions such as, “What do you think you can do now?”, “Are you aware of resources available to you?”, “What are you planning to do differently for next semester?”, “Is there a place you can find information about this?”, “Where do you think you can do better?” These types of questions will help your student find ways to solve his or her own problems, taking ownership of his or her academic success.

·        Listen actively, allowing your student to openly discuss his or her academic challenges. Perhaps, some of the challenges they face are socially or emotionally related. This is particularly the case if they’re adjusting to a new college environment, new major or even new living circumstances. The college learning environment is completely different from high school, as are the challenges that require different solutions. However, by just listening to your student talk about their difficulties and obstacles, you are helping.

·        Not all students are straight A students, and that’s okay. Try to gauge how hard your student worked for their final grades. Did your student work hard for that C, attending every class, joining study groups, submitting work on time, and asking questions during professor’s open office hours? If so, you should both be proud of their hard work. But, if it seems that your student didn’t work as hard as possible, focus your conversation around what resources he or she should take advantage of, time management, and motivation.

How can I help my student do better next semester?

·         Understand that your student wants the same academic success for themselves.

·        Encourage your student to speak with his or her University Advisement Dean about their performance. The advisement deans are great guides for any student at any time during their college years. If your student does not remember who his or her advisement dean is, sway your student to call the Center for University Advisement at (516) 463-7022 or stop by their offices at 101 Memorial Hall or 107 Mack Student Center.

·        Invite your student take advantage of the University Tutorial Program (UTP). Students may receive tutoring through individual or group services. This program supports students in any major and professional academic advisors are on hand to provide additional help.

·        Check-in with your student during the first six weeks of classes and see how they’re coping with course work, academic challenges and friends.

·        Encourage your student to speak with their professors if they notice themselves not performing well within the first six weeks of classes. Usually, midterms are key indicators of how well he or she is doing in class. If your student’s initial grades are low, he or she should meet with his or her professors during the professors’ “open hours” or take advantage of the University Tutorial Program (UTP) as described above and/or the Writing Center.

·        Let your student know that you’re there to support him or her through the ups and downs of college. By offering reassuring words such as, “I trust you’ll get through this”, will suffice. If your student tends to be more laid back in his or her academic approach, perhaps, you both can agree on a level of academic effort for each semester. This type of support and comfort will help your student to gain confidence in finding answers themselves, taking responsibility for their own success, bouncing back from any mistakes, and overcoming any obstacles while in school.
·        Has your student listed you on his or her FERPA release? If you attended one of our Parent Orientation sessions, you know that it is important to encourage your student to authorize you on his or her FERPA release. FERPA allows your student to give you access to their education records, which can be obtained through Hofstra’s Center of University Advisement and through deans of each department’s major. Please speak with your student first about granting you this access. The authorization can be signed by the student through the To learn more about FERPA and what is considered an “Educational Record” please click here.
You are always welcome to reach out to the Office of Parent and Family Programs for support and answers to any of your questions. Please call the Office of Parent and Family Programs at (516) 463-4698, email at or visit in person at 200 Phillips Hall (south campus).


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