Advising Students Who Are Navigating Academic Difficulties
See information about helping a student in distress
On occasion, Brown students, like those at any college, experience academic setbacks. These may be due to personal, health, or academic circumstances, or they may be related to the challenges of adapting to the self-direction, prioritization, and time management skills required in order to thrive amidst the degree of choice and the many opportunities for engagement available at Brown.
Students having the most academic difficulties are sometimes the least willing to discuss them. The experience of difficulty might be new to the student, and they might find it unsettling and even shameful. Remind your advisee that difficulty and even failure are common in college, and that many students experience early roadblocks and go on to very successful careers at Brown and beyond. The handbooks for first-year and sophomore advisors and for concentration advisors provide additional guidance on how to best support advisees navigating challenging circumstances.
If your advisee has been placed on Warning or Serious Warning by the Committee on Academic Standing, your role is two-fold: first, discuss with the student why they have been placed on warning and help them set realistic plans for returning to Good Academic Standing. A student on Warning or Serious Warning should choose four courses for the next semester (or fewer, if approved for a reduced courseload by SEAS or a dean) and should strive to find courses that are both interesting and manageable. Second, connect your student to academic, health and/or personal support resources if they are not already utilizing them (see the related links on this page).
If the warning results from an incomplete in a course, you might check in about the status of the incomplete work and potential resources that the student might find useful (for instance the Writing Center or work with a trained peer academic coach around time management and priority-setting). You might also remind the student that completing the work by the deadline established by the College will improve their academic standing (February 1 for fall semester Incompletes and July 1 for spring semester Incompletes). Students who finish their Incompletes after these deadlines may still earn course credit, but their academic standing will not be affected.
Concentration advising: If you are a concentration advisor, you should also discuss with your student a realistic plan for completing concentration requirements, which may include an adjusted timeframe, summer or wintersession courses, and/or courses taken at another institution. Determine and notify the dean for junior and senior class studies if there are remaining courses that must be completed at Brown. Students will be reassured to know that they may participate or "walk" in commencement even if they have not completed all remaining degree requirements, and will be heartened to know how you involve December or mid-year completers in your concentration's diploma ceremonies (if you do so).
Additional Resources for Consultation or for Student Referrals
Campus Life Resources
Student Support Deans | Assisting students with challenging personal, medical, or family circumstances
Additional Campus Life Centers and Resources related to Wellness and Community-Building
1-on-1 Academic Coaching and Workshops on Time Management, Study Skills, and more
Course-based Academic Tutoring during the Fall and Spring semesters, for participating courses
Writing Center Appointments for assistance with all stages of the process, including assistance with writer's block, project management to complete papers for an Incomplete course in a past semester, and more