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Northwestern University

Tutoring, Mentoring and Support

Nearly all Northwestern students did very well in high school - and all Northwestern students earned their spot here! But many face new challenges in college classes. Some students have clear evidence that they are doing poorly—low grades on papers, exams, or other coursework. Others just suspect or fear that they are doing poorly. For example, they may have difficulty understanding reading assignments or may feel confused by instructors' lectures.

If you feel—or know—that you are doing poorly in a class, you should act on it! Poor performance can have serious consequences and impact your academic standing.

Proactive success strategies

Don't wait till the end of the quarter, when it may be too late to constructively deal with the situation:

University resources

Various campus resources can help you improve your study and test-taking skills and use your time more effectively. For example:

If you're having problems writing course papers, or if you'd just like to improve your writing, consider a visit to The Writing Place. Located in the University Library, The Writing Place provides carefully trained and supervised student tutors as well as reference works such as dictionaries, style manuals, and research guides.

You might also consider a visit to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). This can be a good idea if you think personal problems may be interfering with your academic performance, if you are very upset by your less-than-ideal performance, or if you're just feeling confused about your situation.

Consider dropping a class, withdrawing or requesting more time to complete it

If you are struggling in a class, you should meet with your College Adviser (or College seminar instructor, if you are a first-quarter first-year student) to chat about the implications—good and bad—of dropping it. You can drop a class through the sixth Friday of the quarter; see the Registrar’s Class Schedule for the exact deadline. (The deadline for tuition reductions is the end of the first week.) You shouldn't drop a class without a good reason, but you also shouldn't stick with one just because you're "not a quitter."

You may still request to withdraw from a course after the deadline to drop has passed. All approved withdrawals will result in a W grade being posted to the transcript; the course remains on the transcript, but Ws do not impact the GPA. 

If you have been making good progress toward a course but circumstances beyond your control are making you unable to finish all the required work for a course by the end of the quarter, petitioning for an Incomplete (a grade of Y) and finishing later may be an option. Permission to receive a Y grade is granted only when circumstances beyond your control prevent timely completion of the course.

You should also be aware of possible consequences of missing class meetings, whether for health or other reasons—and take steps to address them.

Retaking a course

If you finish a course with a low grade, you may need to consider repeating it and trying to do better. This circumstance usually occurs when a student earns a grade of D in a course where a grade of at least C- is required, such as a course in your major or in the final quarter of a two-year foreign language sequence. Also, sometimes students retake courses that are prerequisites for more advanced courses or for graduate or professional programs. When you take a course for the second time, both instances appear on your official transcript. Both the original grade and the second grade count toward your GPA. However, only the credit earned in the quarter in which you received the higher grade counts toward the minimum of 45 units of credit required for graduation from Weinberg College.

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