How to Help Your Student Achieve Academic Success

by Naomi Mannino

Some parents and guardians of high schoolers can be overly involved with their student’s school work and schedule, thinking they are ensuring academic success. While their intentions are good, this situation can backfire once the student enters college and is on their own. Students will be expected to attend class and manage their time accordingly to complete assignments at the college level. No family member will be there to check up on them or remind them something is due.

“When a student is not performing well in a course, parents may be tempted to email the instructor directly for an explanation,” said Keith Hall, Ed.D., executive director of the Undergraduate Academic Success Center at Azusa Pacific University. “But this may inhibit a growth opportunity for the student to learn how to take initiative and engage faculty for support, which potentially translates to an increase in academic ownership, engagement, and social intelligence.”

College is where students are really tested on whether or not they are taking their academic success into their own hands. So how can a concerned college parent support their student who may be struggling?

Understand How FERPA Works

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gives parents rights concerning their children’s education records until they turn 18 and become “eligible students.” Once entering college, all rights under FERPA transfer from parents to the students, according to the [Department of Education ( That’s why you are no longer able to check up on assignments or class attendance, even if you are concerned. However, your son or daughter can also allow (or deny) you access to his or her education records by signing permission on the FERPA form kept on file at the college, so maintaining an open relationship with your student is key.

Keep in Contact and Act Quickly

When a college student is struggling academically, parents will often find out after progress reports, midterms, or worse, when final semester grades show a “D” or “F.” It’s important for students to know they can ask for help or advice from the school, their advisor, or you as soon as they begin to struggle academically, because once midterms come and grades are poor, it’s often difficult to turn things around and too late to withdraw.

“Throughout the college journey, there will be times when students experience some sort of failure, which may not always be academic, and that never feels good,” explained Hall. “However, it is our hope that students glean insight from these types of difficult moments, and seize it as an opportunity for learning and building grit and resiliency so desperately needed in our world today.”

If Needed, Help Them Get Help

If there comes a point when one failure seems to be snowballing into others, families can provide the subtle or sizable nudge that the student needs to take a step forward in maximizing available academic support offered by most colleges and professors.

Parents and guardians can encourage a struggling student to meet with a faculty member during office hours to receive support and possibly identify supplemental instruction options that may be available. A student might meet with an academic success coach to develop a plan that includes academic goals and strategic ways to manage time, energy, and demands. Students needing specific academic help may be referred to the Writing Center, the Math Center or the Learning Enrichment Center for added support and tutoring.

“It is no secret that a network that includes supportive parents and an engaging campus community is a recipe that fosters student success,” said Hall.