Advising Right Now: Advising Students with Fifth Week Flags
A Fifth Week Flag is an early warning emailed by the instructor of a class to any freshman whose work is below a grade of C at the fifth week. The Flag alerts the student that s/he needs to improve their performance while there is still enough time. Flags will start to be sent in early October.
How You Can Help
Although you are not copied on the flag notifications, you should check in with your advisor to see how you might help any advisees who are struggling in a class. Flags will be sent March 6 and thereafter, so be sure to check-in after add date to see how you can help.
Your first-hand experience can have a powerful impact on your advisees. Even if you never received a flag, you likely have been disappointed over your performance in a class, and know what it's like to be overwhelmed but not want to ask for help.
Your knowledge of resources and how to access them can also help. Encourage those who are struggling to:
- Schedule an appointment with their TA or recitation instructor to discuss ways to improve their performance.
- Go to subject review sessions as advertised in the subject syllabus.
- Take advantage of the free tutoring resources by the various departments.
- Review the ACADEX website for useful tips on time management and test-taking skills.
- Make an appointment with Student Support Services to figure out what is affecting their performance.
Other factors may affect academic performance (e.g. homesickness, illness, etc.); go to Helping Your Advisees Adjust to MIT to learn more.
To Drop or Not
Upperclassmen sometimes discourage freshmen from dropping a class because of Pass/No Record. But if your advisee is spending too much of their time trying to pass one subject, the rest their classes might suffer.
When freshmen are thinking about whether or not to drop a class, you can remind them to look at the big picture and ask them questions to help think through their decision:
- Are you struggling in more than one class?
- How far behind are you? If you're really far behind, how much effort will it take to catch up?
- Should you consider dropping the subject in which you're furthest behind?
- Are you behind because of lack of effort, or because you don't understand the material?
- Are you spending so much time in the one subject that you're putting your other subjects in jeopardy?
- What does your TA or instructor have to say about your performance?
Drop Date is April 23. If a freshman is clearly failing a class, they should drop the problem subject well before this deadline instead of hanging on and negatively impacting the other classes.