Midterms serve as crucial turning point for freshmen

Robert Taylor

With only three weeks left until midterms, Undergraduate Studies is one of several groups on campus trying to get students to buckle down and study before it is too late.

According to data released by the Office of Research, Planning & Institutional Effectiveness, only about 50 percent of freshmen with a GPA of less than 2.0 at midterms return for their second year at Kent State. Freshmen with a GPA of 2.0 or higher return for their second year at least 70 percent of the time.

“It may be too late for some students at this point already,” said Gary Padak, dean of Undergraduate Studies. “(The data) is something that you might think is common sense, but it is a little more complicated because there are a lot of other factors that could happen after the midterms, but it is clear that there is a relationship between the two.”

Padak said that freshmen must not lose their way early in the semester.

“The whole thought is that we should change the cultural awareness of midterms,” Padak said. “A freshman starts here and there is so much to grapple with in terms of adjustment and transition that academics just become another competing interest. It’s fairly easy for someone to put it on the back burner thinking that they have the entire semester.

Undergraduate Studies is working with several groups on campus to get the faculty more involved with freshmen.

“We have sent a letter to every faculty member who teaches freshmen students with the data. The letter encourages them to speak to students and keep them updated,” Padak said.

Undergraduate Studies also asked faculty to identify freshmen who are already struggling in their classes and refer them to Terri Capellman, director of First Year Experience. Capellman has helped more than 50 freshmen already.

“One of the things I like to do with students is create an academic action plan for them so that I can generate a commitment on the students’ part,” Capellman said. “An academic advisor can explore a student’s course work and whether or not they need to drop a class.”

Capellman electronically sent out a Resource and Referral Guide to all freshmen. The guide includes information such as important phone numbers, Web sites, study plans and mentoring programs that can aid students with their course load. The guide is also available online at the First Year Experience Web site.

Faculty members aren’t the only people who should be in heavy preparation for midterms. Several deans across campus visit freshmen orientation classes to tell them three methods they should employ to be successful in their first semester, Padak said.

The first method is for freshman students to attend the classes he or she is enrolled in.

“I’m not here to say that the quality of instruction in every class is excellent, it depends upon a person’s interests, but one major thing that separates successful students from those who fail is attendance,” Padak said.

The second method is to get to know at least one of their instructors very well.

“If a student gets into some type of trouble or concern in the residence hall environment, academically or in any other forum he should have someone on campus that he feels he can confide in,” Capellman said. “Someone that can help them sort the issues out and provide them the assistance they need.”

Finally, the third way is for students to ask for help when they realize they are struggling with a class.

“Not asking for help early enough often results in a poor grade that the student can’t get over later in the semester,” Padak said. “At this point in time, if they don’t have a good idea about whether they are passing or failing in the course I would tell them to approach the instructor and ask for feedback. Simple as that.”

In addition to the above methods, the Academic Success Center is always welcoming students for tutoring and any other help they need with their classes, Padak said.

“Not only does the Academic Success Center tutor different subjects, they can also assist students with time management and study strategies,” said Julie Katz, a senior educational interpreter major who works for the center. “We can focus those skills toward midterms and finals when the time comes, but we are always open and we are here to fit the students’ needs.”

To contact the Academic Success Center, call (330) 672-3190 or go to room 207 in the Michael Schwartz Center.

Dozens of ways exist to protect yourself from early failure at the university. All one has to do is ask for the help he or she needs, Padak said.

Contact Graduate/Undergraduate Studies reporter Robert Taylor at [email protected].