College Son Got 3 Fs on Final Grades Yet Had as at the Mid-term.

Updated on December 22, 2012
M.M. asks from Allen, TX
30 answers

Our son got 3 Fs for final grades this semester. At the mid-term, two were As, the other was actually a summer internship which was pre-approved but the F was just posted this week at the end of fall semester. We feel there was a lot of politics going on. We aren"t sure what to do with this. He is a sophomore but we pay the tuition and fees. We are anticipating that the college will say that they won't talk with us because he is an adult. We really don't want to be involved at this age, but clearly things aren't going well and it is expensive. He is very creative and artistic and was in the film school. He has never been very academic but he does work hard for his grades. This is very strange that there were As mid-term then Fs.

He is the oldest child and first to go to college, so we aren't sure what to do with this. Help! Especially those of you who are college teachers, administrators, high school advisors, help me navigate the academic landscape here. All advice is welcome.

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answers from Washington DC on

This happened to me in high school. I went from a 3.7 GPA to a 2.1 GPA. Although I still passed, that was because teachers changed my grades so I could play softball. I should of failed. The reason it happened:

I partied to much
I drank to much
I didn't go to class
I didn't do my homework

You want to know why it didn't happen in college, is because my parents said that if I got below a 3.0, they would stop paying my college. There were no politics. I did have one crazy teacher, but 3 F's is hard to blame on the professors.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

If you're paying then you do get to have some say in this BUT I would also remember he's an adult and has his own learning to do from his actions.

I might ask if he's okay, what happened, does he want to change schools, drop out, change his major, find different professors, etc...there are MANY reasons college doesn't work out for one reason or another.

I got a full scholarship to OU in Norman Oklahoma. I did not thrive in that atmosphere....

I transferred to OSU in Stillwater and it was like night and day. I did the same A&S college but ended up changing from Psychology to Sociology to not have to do College Algebra. Sociology only required College Math.

There are so many reasons that these grades came. Talk to him to try and find out where he wants to go from here. If he is done with school then paying that money is not going to get him anything. If he wants to do something else and not what he thought then he is not going to use the education he is getting. If he needs to get away from the politics and other stuff then guide him to some different choices. He may already know what he wants to do but is afraid he'll disappoint you if he says it out loud to you...

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

I am a college professor with 20 years of teaching experience. I just finished my grades. It is illegal for me to discuss grades with the parents of students who are adults. The students I failed this semester did so for a few reasons. Quite a few stopped showing up and did not take the exam. A couple failed the exam, in spite of the fact that I gave review and provided a study session. My final is not hard, as long as students have been in class and have done the reading. The majority of students get As ans Bs. Other students fail the final research paper, some because it is clear they started it the night before, some because they simply could not do the work (I have conferences, they turn in proposals) and some plagiarize and get caught, which means a F in the class and a trip to see the Dean and a report of breaking the honor code in their file.

Talk to your son. It is very unlikely that all three professors were being punitive. Consider sending him to a community college until he figures out what he really loves. Then he will pass his classes.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I am not a college professor, but here is my experience. I have now experienced my kids and many of their friends go to college. What you have described is not uncommon. PLEASE don't think this is politics. It's not. If your kid got F's, then he earned them, I guarantee you. Even if he was getting A's at the midterm. I have seen and heard of plenty of kids doing the same thing your son just did.

I think you need to talk to your son, not to the administration. The fault lies with him. Ask him what happened, and make a plan for the next semester. If the same thing is repeated next semester, then you stop paying for his tuition.

Sometimes they need the hard awakening to grow up.

Don't worry, it will work out fine in the end, even though you might go through grief for a while.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Your problem isn't with the is with your son... You need to address it with him...

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I'm not a college teacher, administrator, high school advisor or anything else professional in the higher education world. Just a mom who's been to college.

What did your SON say was going on? What "to do with this" is you ask your son.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

you realize if he was borrowing money from the US Government (and we all know how careful THEY are with money) even THEY would pull funding for tuition if he didn't keep his grades up?

i think you should stop making excuses (and allowing him to) about "politics" and advise him that if he doesn't pass every class from now on, funding STOPS.

he is an adult. it IS his responsibility. there's no calling the school and talking to the professor. there's no whining about a curve, or politics. this is on him, that's it.

college education is not a right, it's a privilege. he's not earning that privilege. he needs to keep his grades up - period.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

Don't go to the school. Ask your son what happened.

He may wiggle around the question. I hope you'll know if he does. Or he may be straightforward, which is better.

Generally, a college student who bombs this way is: a) partying too much, b) addicted to something, c) not attending *all* classes for some reason, d) in love, e) struggling with the material and not knowing how to get help, f) all of the above, g) any combination of the above.

Forget about politics. Let your son take responsibility for his grades and expect him to explain. Has he been requested to take his educational aspirations elsewhere (has he flunked out)? Does he need to get a job instead?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

That isn't strange at all. Very little goes into your mid term grade so a couple good papers will do it. Pretty much sounds like he screwed around the second part of the semester.

If *he* thinks it is wrong, *he* needs to appeal. My daughter successfully appealed several grades while in college but she was never given an F to begin with. Most of hers were B+ when she felt she deserved an A.

Thing is since your son doesn't seem on fire to straighten this out shows he knows those are the grades he earned. Regardless of what you pay for school they still have to earn their grades.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I have taught college classes - it isn't political. Professors don't work that way. Your son failed 3 classes most likely with 3 professors possibly not even in the same department. The professors have other responsibilities than teaching and aren't sitting around talking to each other comparing notes. Each grades with no influence from administration or other professors. It is very surprising to see the drop in grades, but some classes do weigh heavily on final projects. I'm surprised he knew he had As as many won't tell you more than Pass/Fail at midterm because of this.

Only the professor would be able to change the grade and I wouldn't want to deal with a parent. Honestly, most don't give out Fs lightly so something happened. The chances of the grades being changed is slim. He can talk to them to figure out how to improve if he thinks it is worth it. It is tricky though since he may have will probably have teachers next semester. I know it is expensive and you want to help him, but part of college is him figuring out how to be an adult and deal with these things on his own.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

He should know exactly why he received failing grades. Either he failed the finals or he didn't hand in papers or just quit going all together.

Sounds like he needs some time off to think about whether college is what he wants to continue with or not.

Sit your son down and have a serious talk. Then tell him that if he wants to go back, he will have to take out loans in his own name until he proves to you that he is serious.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

1) I'm in school (and have TA'd a bunch of my own courses). That's REALLY easy to do. In most classes midterms are the FIRST (or second) of 5 major grades. The bulk if the graded work in most classes happens AFTER midterms.

10% - Paper
25% - Midterms
10 % - Paper
10 % - Paper
35 % - Final
10 % - Misc (quizzes, attendence, tests, etc.)


25 % - Midterm
50 % - Final
25 % - Misc Papers, Projects, Tests, Attendence, Contributing, etc.

So its very easy to have an A after midterms, but only 20-40% by end of term.

2) most people I know whose parents are paying for school have a minimum grade requirement (passing, for example). For every failed class, that's 5credita they're going to have to pay for on their own. Either in repeating the course, or in a different course. Which means quite a few people I know have to pay for a quarter (or more) themselves at the end of their degree path. Some people, have to pay the next quarter themselves, but that requires having the $ to do so. End of degree at least lets them start working part time to save up. Others require being paid back (over time, making monthly payments), if they still want big checks written. Some people have 1 freebie (class or quarter). Everyone I know works stuff out differently, but most have to pay their parents back one way or another.

3) Soooo many reasons he could have failed this quarter:

If he's an A/B student in all his other quarters... An all F quarter is usually indicative of something in the student. Depression. Wrong courses (I failed one prereq twice, and barely passed on the third go... I'm a 4 point student in every other course). Sunshine-Syndrome / BlowOff Quarter (dating, drinking, & ditching are the big 3), medical (sick 2 weeks or longer, car crash, etc.), and ... Etc. These are all 'justifiable' (as in wont happen again as long as he gets the wake up call, or as long as the med issue is resolved).

If this is his first "real" quarter in school (you said sophomore, but then said he HAD been in film school? Meaning he's transferred to a traditional 2 or 4 year? Or is in film school? I'm unclear)... Totally flunking your first quarter is VERY common. It's usually bad time management, bad study skills, bad expectations (or not understanding expectations).... Or some combo of the above. All are fixable. There are a lot of resources available. College is 180 different than k12, and a lot of students flounder after being told what to do 24/5 for 13 years. It can ALSO be that his k12 education didn't prepare him for the quality if work required (I cannot TELL you the number of papers Ive flunked that my 10yo could have written better). Again: MAJOR resources available on campus (writing lab, math lab, etc.).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

There aren't any "politics" going on. Three failing grades means he earned them. One failing grade could be a fluke or studying the wrong materials or having a rough professor. Two failing grades could mean he's having some trouble organizing his studies. Three failing grades... well... his focus wasn't on his studies at all. He clearly didn't put any of his talent or intelligence to use during the second half of the semester.

It's time to make him accountable for his grades and his tuition. He's very likely going to have to retake those classes and they should come out of his pocket. Don't accept any excuses he gives you about "politics" or professors or the departments or deans. He's feeding you a line.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My oldest will be going off to college in August. When you say "we" feel there are a lot of politics going on and "we" don't know what to do about it, do you mean you and your son, or do you mean you and your spouse? In college, you don't get to have parent-teacher conferences. The answers to why your son failed his semester lie with your son. He knows if he has attended class, he knows if he handed in all of his papers and passed all of his exams. If your son believes that he received these grades in error, that the professors' grading criteria don't match the grades that he received, then HE should contact his professors to discuss the matter. This is his responsibility. Your only control here is whether or not to continue to pay for his education if he is going to fail the classes that you've paid for. Have you actually discussed with your son why he has failed his classes after a good first half of the semester, or are you assuming that the professors have done him wrong? Is it possible that he's stopped attending classes, stopped handing in his papers and assignments, and has discovered the party life on campus? Good luck

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I am a student right now and I worked at a college in admin for a long time.

There is no "politics" in grading. In my school most grading policies are dictated by the department ("the curve") with only a little leeway for the individual faculty. In all likelihood your son has received a syllabus at the beginning of the semester that spells out how the class is graded.

It is common that the final carries over 50% of the points that you can achieve for a given class, so if you don't take the final or don't turn in a final project (if you had a project or a final paper assigned) you cannot pass the class.

What can happen - I have seen this as an administrator, is that his grades may have been entered incorrectly, there was a computer issue or a mixup with his student ID number. That would be a relatively easy fix, but he needs to contact his instructors or records office right away.

If that is not the case I think you need to have a talk with your son about what's going on. He would not be the first "straight A" student I have seen that just stopped going to class halfway through the semester... it's unfortunate but it happens.
Frankly I would be worried about him... most students that I have seen with with either had problems with drugs, mental health or got caught up in the "wrong crowd".

There is nothing you can do to address this with the school though. The instructors and administrators are legally prohibited from releasing any information regarding grades, attendance or his work there with you. Your son is an adult and if he feels that his grades are incorrect he needs to go through the appropriate complaint process and request a regrade... I wonder what he says about all of this?

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

When I went to college, I initially wanted to become a pharmacist.
I struggled through chemistry but then in my 2nd year, organic chemistry culled me out.
I did the work, went to every class and study group - I just could NOT name a 20 strand molecule to save my soul - it just was not in me.
Talk about panic - I had no idea what to do with my life.
So I used the career guidance office, took some aptitude tests figured out my likes and dislikes and took an interesting selection of Intro to Everything 101.
Turns out I was pretty good at drawing, but I REALLY took to computer programming.
I took more programming and decided scientific programming wasn't my thing so I took business computing, then transferred to a school with a good business computing department and got my BS in Information Systems Management.
It took me 5 yrs instead of 4 because I switched majors/transferred schools but I came out with a good GPA, a great degree and I got a wonderful job.

I did this without my Mom stepping in.
I was the only one who could determine what my career path should be.

It could be that it's time for your son to consider changing majors.
Sometimes kids are not too sure about what exactly is involved in going for a certain career and when they start learning about it, they find it's not what they thought it was cracked up to be.
He needs to talk with his career guidance office and come up with Plan B.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Letty is exactly right. I had a couple of students this semester who were doing quite well in my class (maybe not earning an A, but still doing very well) who simply stopped coming or stopped doing their homework. Not all students make the connection between the work they are assigned and doing well on the exam. The final exam is worth 50% in my classes, so if they don't take it seriously they may not pass the class.

I've also noticed that some students don't work as hard towards the end of the semester. They sometimes take a "good enough" attitude. I was very fortunate that my parents encouraged me and reminded me that you have to keep running until you cross the finish line. It's a mistake to think that you've worked hard in the beginning and have a good average in the class, so you can slack towards the end. I teach math, and the material towards the end of the semester is usually more difficult. It actually takes more effort towards the end than in the beginning. You can't quit until the end.

Talk to your son. If he really doesn't know why he failed three classes, then he needs to meet with those three professors when he returns to school. He needs to understand why he failed and what he can learn from the experience.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Um, what do you mean by politics? That doesn't make sense to me (my husband and I are both college graduates and our son is a sophomore, three different universities.)
What does your SON have to say?
It's true that as an adult the school is not going to "deal" with you, which is as it should be. You should be dealing with your son directly.
If he is struggling academically there are resources available to him, I am sure. Things like counseling, peer tutoring and learning center services.
But HE needs to reach out and seek these services and support.
I would put him on notice: he needs to make a BIG improvement next semester or else you are no longer writing the check.
If he really cares about succeeding in school he will step it up.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

First, ask your son what happened? It is very possible to have an A at mid-term but then have a F at the end of the semester. There may not have been many grades at the beginning and then if he didn't test well he could have a high F (but still an F) or there could be just one or two tests and that makes each one more important. If he honestly doesn't know, he needs to make it a priority to find out. He's an adult so he has to step up to find out. Since he's an adult, he has to do this but since you pay the bill, he needs to answer to you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I remember when I was in college and got about three F's on midterms. I just broke up with my boyfriend. So sad, so depressed. It was many years ago but never forgot. Something happened with your son. ??? A former teacher encouraged me to go on. Encourage him. Tell him it's okay. I finished and am glad I did. Sometimes life gets in between.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm a college student and I can tell you that the grading system some professors use can lead to you flunking right at the end. It's because either they put a very high point value on the final exam or they score students solely on the basis of two or three tests (so one bad one can drag you down big time!). But.. if this happened in all his classes that indicates something probably happened during the semester. Since this is the first time i'd approach him carefully and see if he will talk about it. See if you can come up with a plan to prevent a repeat of this semester.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Did he visit colleges and decide what setting would suit him best and did he do aptitude tests to decide what field of study interests him most? Some people flounder on a huge campus and some people love the anonymity. There are soooo many colleges, small, large, virtual. Perhaps it is time for him to speak with his counselor and do some soul searching to decide not just what he wants to do but in what setting he will be succesful. Or have him find a job for a year while he does some research and takes some community college courses. Nothing like making minimum wage for a year to motivate you to study for a better income.
Although my favorite quote is from a guy who fly fishes all over the world for 6 months out of the year and then drives a cab for 6 months to fund his fly fishing = "I do not make a good living but I make a great life".
Perhaps a trade suits your son better? Time to have a non-threatening open discussion with your adult son and let him know you only want him to be happily self sufficient, and that the choice is up to him, but that the reality is you cannot keep funding his failure.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest that there are more logical reasons for his drop in grades that are totally unrelated to politics. The school could not remain open if grades were determined by politics.

And you're right, the professors will not talk with you because it is your son's problem. I suggest that you're trying to protect him which will not help him as he is beginning his adult life.

I suggest you talk with him about why he thinks his grades went down. And do not accept that it was because of politics. He may need to learn how to talk with his professors so that they understand who he is and he understands what they accept. He may need to study more or learn how to study better. He may need to socialize less and study more. He may need to show up for class and do projects as assigned instead of in a way that is more creative. Your son knows why his grades went down. Insist that he tell you the truth.

If he doesn't know why he failed then encourage him to talk with his teachers and with his academic advisor. Approach this as a problem to be solved and not as a behavior to be punished. College is difficult and he needs you to be positive and encouraging, telling him he can do this perhaps with some help. There is help available on campus. He just has to ask for it. His advisor can tell him how to get it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

It's really hard for some students to transition to college classes where they are totally responsible for getting their work done and turned in on time. There is so much less structure than in high school and nobody checks up on them if they fall behind... until it's too late.

My son got a D and an F last year at community college so I was concerned about him going to state college this year and having even less oversight. So I made a deal with him. I would reimburse him half his tuition at the END of the term when he showed me his grades. (I'm a single mom and his dad is supposed to help with the other half of his tuition.) Any class with a C or above I'd pay for. If he got a D or F, he'd have to find some other funding. Good news: he earned 4 As and a B+. It made me happy to pay up, and to know he figured out on his own how to manage his classes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It is very possible to get an F in a course even with an A on the midterm. Perhaps your son didn't realize that either and didn't make an effort to perform on subsequent assignments of final exam.

You say you "feel there was a lot of politics going on." What do you mean by that? If you are sending him to a college where you think his grade is based on anything other than his academic performance, PULL HIM OUT. However, at any accredited school, I'd bet his grade it based entirely on a set of standards for performance that was outlined in his syllabus for each course.

Don't bother contacting the school. You don't have any standing to ask about his grades. Sit HIM down, ask him to get out the syllabus from each of the classes. Go through it line by line, and expect him to be able to tell how he performed on each assessment. Point out the weighting of things like midterm vs final. In many classes you MUST pass the final exam in order to pass the course.

Good luck with this. I know it's difficult navigating the line with adult children.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


Oh God, College!

I had a professor that graded on a curve. One uber genius turned a decently challenging and rewarding class into HELL. This kid got 110% out of 100, and then became the only one to pass the class. I repeated the class, and as Murphy would have it, another genius was in my GD class. Failed again. Talked to the Dean, and proved that her curve was impossible, with a 99% fail rate, and the Dean still ignored it.

I then got together with the 99%, and we all petitioned the Dean to have the professor do a "makeup" exam, just to prove we did know the curriculum, but just couldn't pass with her curve(I am NOT kidding, ONE missed question failed you).
He agreed, and the professor fought and waffled, but once the exam was made up and we all took it(without the benefit of the ge3nius spiking the curve), the Dean did see that we all knew our stuff. In our case, which was in the extreme range of rare, the Dean worked with the Dept of Edu. and got us our funding due to, "Scholastic differences"--his polite way of saying the Professor was sucking up to the geniuses, and ignoring everyone else.
(BTW, years later, my brother has been one of the geniuses that the ball-busting professor sucked up to, and he took it to the Dean himself that he thought the curve was unfair, and that she was courting geniuses, and in his opinion, failing promising students because they couldn't get 100% every time. Did I mention I am really proud of him?)

I cannot stress enough that this case is UBER RARE, and most professors grade fairly, and their curve is somewhere in the standard realm of normal.

Talk to your son. Ask him how things are(be supportive). If he thinks it is wrong, he needs to have it looked into fast.
Please don't let money be an issue. I've seen too many promising kids quit school because of the phrase, "I'm paying for your school...(ad-lib lecture here)". Let him know you support him, and ask if there is anything that you can do to help, say like a quiet environment for study, or healthy food to eat while he is studying(standard college students diet usually consists of inedible junk food that sits heavy in the stomach, or ramen, that flies away two seconds after you eat it).
Perhaps he is hesitant on hiring a tutor because he is afraid you won't approve of it's necessity.
Be his advocate,
Be his peer,
Be his friend,
and Be his parent.

Be objective(it's not easy, but step outside your skin for a moment, and speak as though you are NOT his parent, but a supportive peer, seriously, try it. Nothing opens mouths more quickly than you not acting like a worried parent).
Be encouraging. Even and especially if he needs to change majors. It's a students nightmare when parents pay for school.
Be positive. Even when inside you are freaking out.
Be supportive. I'm not talking about mere finances.
Be informed. Not by being nosy, but by properly asking the right questions at the right times.
Be there. Just letting him know you are there when he needs you is often enough for him to open up and voice his fears.

College is a madhouse, with temptations, helter-skelter curriculum, peer pressure, pleasant looking distractions. Add to that the double edged sword of being an adult, having to learn budgets, etc., and the power of not having to answer to anyone, and you have your typical Freshman/Sophomore dichotomy.

Be not afraid.

Just my 2cp.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

If the teacher grades on a curve the highest score gets and A and the lowest gets an F. I do not think this is fair. I remember when my ex-husband got a 93% in a class and failed the class because he had the lowest grade.

I suggest that you make an appointment with the teachers for you, hubby and son and find out what exactly is going on and how and if it can be fixed. Sometimes you can talk them into an incomplete -- and he can do extra credit to bring up the grade during semester break. If the class is not important to his major, like a humanities or social studies credit as long as he passes it's all good.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

You don't just "mysteriously" fail college courses...

In each class the expectations of the instructor is spelled out very very clearly in the syllabus.

Some classes count attendance as part of the final grade....did he go to class?

Some classes have only four grades all semester...a test, then a midterm, another test, and then the final...what did he make on the last two grades?

Some classes have one big project due at the end of the semester...for one big grade...what was his project like did it meet all the requirements?

The only times in college I failed a course was once when I discovered that the class only had four tests, and they were straight from the I marked the test days on my calendar and never went to class. The professor changed the date of the third test...I missed it and made a 0. I would have had to make 100s on the three other tests to pass...I of course didn't...kabam, it was an F.

The other fail was I missed the last day to drop without having a grade reported...the TA was from China and I couldn't understand a word he was the time I figured out I wasn't going to pass it was too late to drop. But I retook the course and passed with an A, and did a grade replacement.

So I totally l think your son is playing you about these grades...look over his work and see where it went wrong...

Oh, and yes, you as a parent can meet with the academic dean with your son present...and I bet if you tell your son you have arranged an interview with the dean, he will probably fess up about what was really going parents and I met with my dean (I had to take a semester off from school due to health reasons and we were concerned about my grades due to a semester of illness). The dean was glad to reassure my parents that their concerns were valid and help me plan how to finish my semester and about coming back to the parents were paying good money for me to be there...

Something is really really fishy he really a sophomore does he have the credit hours to claim that status??



answers from Sacramento on

I don't understand how politics play into grades, especially 3 of them. Have you talked to your son about his? What does he have to say? Others have suggested that your son just chose to mess around the last half of the semester, and that certainly is a possibility. I know nothing about your son or your family, but just as an other avenue to explore, your son is at the age when stressors often trigger things like depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. College is a huge stressor and poor grades can be a sign of possible mental health issues. Just another perspective to consider.



answers from Detroit on

I don't have any advice but all the family I do have in the AZ area did not get to college, while the ones not in that state did. The school system was not good, and the colleges focused on parties. Now, a bright, motivated student can do well anywhere, but I seriously did not see good things coming from the schools there.

Make sure your son is not partying and is focusing. F's, even one of them, suggest trouble. I saw too many kids go down the wrong path in college...

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