Supporting Students Through Academic Struggles


Many college parents and guardians are confronted with the challenge of how to handle their students’ academic struggles. Like the other intellectually curious and intelligent students on Davidson’s campus, your child was likely a star student in high school. Suddenly your child tells you he/she is struggling in class and, according to your student, even one bad grade is going to have an enormous impact on his/her future. How worried should you be and how can you support your student? Maurya Boyd ‘87, a visiting assistant professor of Psychology and current Davidson parent, addresses these and other common parent and guardian questions.

Q: How worried should I be that my student is struggling in a class? 

A: “I wouldn’t be worried; I might be slightly concerned. I would be more worried if they were struggling in all of their classes. That could be a cause for alarm, but I would want to find out more about how they can improve.”

Q: What resources are available to help students improve in a class? Improve their study strategy?

A: “First and foremost: the professor. Your student should go to them first, and they can direct the student towards other resources if necessary. The Center for Teaching and Learning has resources including peer academic coaching, time management workshops, writing center, speaking center, math center. Your student’s holistic or academic advisor, the Dean of Students Office, or the Center for Student Health and Well-Being are other resources available as well. There are a lot of ways to get help, all they need to do is ask.”

Q: How willing are professors to spend extra time with students to help them improve?

A: “VERY willing. Davidson professors are here to teach, but the student must make the effort to reach out. All professors have office hours and are usually willing to make appointments outside of those hours as well. Students must also listen to their suggestions in order to make progress.”

Q: Does this mean my student is not prepared for college-level work?

A: “NO. But, they may need to rethink their study strategies and improve their time management skills. Copying and recopying notes does not mean they are prepared for the test. The Center for Teaching and Learning is a great resource for developing good study strategies and time management skills.”

Q: Does this mean my student should rethink declaring a major in this subject?

A: “NO. One class is not make-or-break.”

Q: If my student does poorly in this class, will this affect their internship and job application prospects?

A: “One class will not hurt. However, there is always the pass/fail option if absolutely necessary.”

Q: How can I best support my student?

A: “First, try not to add pressure. They already feel a ton of pressure and they’re feeling it even if they don’t say it. Tell them to try not to focus on the grade, and focus instead on what they are learning. Encourage them to seek help from professors or other campus resources. Ask them about their daily habits—what else is going on? Is there something else going on that may be affecting their school work?


About Author

Maurya Boyd '87 is a Davidson alumna with a Master's and PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the Ohio State University. She joined the faculty of Davidson in 1992 as the first female alumna in a tenure track position. In 1996 Dr. Boyd decided to take time off to raise her family. She returned to teaching at Davidson in 2007 as a visiting professor. The courses she teaches include General Psychology, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Research Design and Analysis, and Issues in Psychology.

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