Advising Academically Weak Students

Advising Academically Weak Students

Advising Academically Weak Students

One major objective of academic advising is to help students who are academically weak to stay on track. This involves: (1) identifying students with academic problems; (2) finding the causes of students’ problems; (3) tracking students’ progress; (4) advising tips for students facing the possibility of discontinuation

(1) Identifying students with academic problems

Students often do not place sufficient importance to their own problems until their academic performance are seriously affected (e.g., required to meet with Faculty Review Committee). Even if they understand the seriousness of their problems, many of these students are reluctant (or do not know how) to proactively seek help.

Advisers are therefore encouraged to identify students in need by taking a look at the GPAs of their advisees at the end of each semester (the GPA information is available in the “Academic Advising Tools in SIS” – click here for instructions). A very low GPA (e.g., GPA < 1.5) or a significant drop of GPA are indicators that a student needs particular attention from his / her Academic Adviser.

(2) Finding the causes of students’ problems

Students’ weak academic performance may stem from academic or non-academic reasons. Advisers should try to find out the problems that irritate their advisees. If the problems are non-academic in nature, Advisers may consider referring the students to counsellor (for psychological problems), to student advisory officer of CEDARS (for financial problems), to the University Health Service (for medical problems), or to other supporting units as appropriate (see here for the tips of referral).

(3) Tracking students’ progress

Advisers are encouraged to frequently follow-up on the situation of their academically weak Advisees to provide timely advice / guidance in case of need. In this connection, Advisers are recommended to keep proper records of every advising meetings for future reference.

(4) Advising tips for students facing the possibility of discontinuation

Oftentimes, students would experience difficulties in their university studies. Some difficulties are adjustment in nature and may resolve in one semester or two. However, some students might encounter prolonged problems of more serious nature which, if not tackled promptly, might impede their study progression at the University.
Conditions for Discontinuation of studies

There are, in general, four conditions under which a student shall be recommended for discontinuation of studies:

  1. Failed to obtain a minimum of 36 credits in two consecutive semesters not including the summer semester (except when students are not required to take this number of credits);
  2. Failed to achieve an average semester GPA of at least 1.0 for two consecutive semesters not including the summer semester; or
  3. Exceeded the specified maximum period of registration for the curriculum – normally 150% of the normative period of studies.
  4. Some Programmes have additional conditions for discontinuation e.g. failed in capstone or professional core courses.

Common Problems

From our experience, these students often have underlying problems which can be both study and non-study related. These may include weak academic abilities, inability to balance study and activities, lack of interest in the subject(s), loss in direction, sense of failure/shame/guilt (especially top students in high school or entrance scholarship holders), passive help-seeking behavior, mental or physical health problems, financial and family issues.
The Review Process at Faculty and University levels

Normally the students concerned will be contacted to attend a review meeting with the Faculty Review Committee on Student Performance and Discontinuation (FRC). Depending on the outcome of the review, some students may be recommended for discontinuation and required to present themselves in the Committee of Discontinuation (CoD) meeting. The decision of CoD will be final and there is no appeal against the decision.
How you can support your advisees academically and emotionally

Most students, under this circumstance, would feel overwhelmed by fear, anxiety and/or confusion how to face and handle the situation. Some of them would choose not to read any emails, letters or receive calls from the University – which may lead to even more negative and irreversible outcomes. As their FAA, you can help them make a positive turn by providing timely advice throughout the process as well as referring them to different offices/units for the needed support.

Click here to see a flowchart diagram which illustrates the processes that your advisees may go through, their options and advice they need from you at different stages.

As adults, your advisees are fully responsible for their future. Your role is to support them in making a well-considered decision and plan. Due to various reasons, some students may not disclose their difficult situation to their parents/family members. You may discuss this with your advisees so that they could receive every possible support and guidance to plan their future. Ultimately, it is your advisees’ choice.
Advising Resources

Here are some materials that you may find useful when working with your advisees:

Specific questions about your advisees should be directed to your Faculty Office.

Prepared by Academic Advising Office, with support from the Committee on Discontinuation and CEDARS-Counselling and Personal Enrichment (CEDARS-CoPE)
November 2018