Academic Probation and Second-Term Behavior

Students who are placed on academic probation at the end of first term make up a unique subset of the student population that are particularly prone to problems and who are especially in need of intervention. First year students don’t always perform as well as hoped, which in turn can contribute to reduced retention. What happens during their second term can be critical to their academic performance and whether or not they remain in their institution.

This note explores the characteristics, behaviors and outcomes of students who are on academic probation following their first term, using a national dataset of 54,485 first-year students from 100 colleges and universities in the United States.

Second Term Behavior of Students on Academic Probation

Key Questions:

  1. How do expectations of outcomes for first-year students relate to reality?
  2. How many students on fall probation improve their performance during the spring term and continue on to the next academic year?
  3. For those students who do make it out of probation during the spring term, what differences in behaviors do we see?

Key Points:

  • Students start the term with high academic expectations.
  • However, behaviors and actions do not meet these high expectations.
  • Students on probation after fall term who are able to improve their attendance and academic behaviors are more likely to improve their grades during the spring term.

While some students drop out immediately after being placed on probation, most of those who do continue for another term still expect to return for the following academic year.

Expected Outcomes versus Actual Outcomes

The vast majority of first-year students enter their institution with high hopes for their academic performance and with great intentions for returning for later semesters. However, reality often does not match up to these expectations for both performance and retention. Less than 1% of first-year students expect to receive a grade low enough to be placed on academic probation following the fall term. Yet, approximately one out of every six students ends up on probation following their first term.

Spring-Term GPA

While students appear to be slightly more realistic in their expectations during their second term, they continue to be far more optimistic about their potential performance than the data shows is warranted, with only 34% receiving a high enough GPA to be removed from academic probation during their spring term.

To access all the data in this robust research note, just fill out the form to the right. Looking for more insight on students and academic probation? View the recording of our recent webinar, When Things Don’t Go As Planned: First-Year Students and Academic Probation.