Tips for a Successful Semester

Plan your course load

  • Meet with your academic advisor to discuss major programs and to select courses that not only interest you, but will best allow you to use your talents
  • Arrange your classes so that you are not taking too many that are similar in topic or level of difficulty. A balanced schedule will help you maintain your interest level and avoid burnout.
  • Think about how many credit hours will be manageable for you. Financial aid requirements can have an impact on this decision, since many financial aid packages require a specific number of credit hours be fulfilled each semester.
  • Discuss with your academic advisor the option of including a class that may improve how you manage stress and promote healthy coping skills such as meditation, yoga, or spiritual/religious courses.

Take advantage of academic resources

  • Get help outside of class through office hours, GSI meetings, study guides
  • Meet with a librarian for help with literature searches or try the Ask a Librarian feature of the online database
  • Talk with your academic advisor and check out the free or low-cost tutoring services offered by many departments
  • Make an appointment with Services for Students with Disabilities if you think you could benefit from additional accommodations. Read tips from a student who received accommodations
  • Talk to your academic advisor to help you decide when to remain enrolled in a class and when it might be wise to withdraw for the semester
  • Consider taking one of the courses at the English Language Institute for help making the transition to using English for academic writing
  • Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional to address any symptoms that may be interfering with your academic performance

Get organized

Take care of yourself and manage stress

  • Too much stress can have a negative impact on academic performance, click here for tips for dealing with academic stress.
  • Finding ways to take care of yourself and manage your mental health can lead to improved outcomes and leave you better prepared to perform well in the classroom. Check out these self-care strategies for tips on staying healthy or ask for recommendations from your healthcare provider.

“If you have extreme test anxiety/social anxiety/anything that makes testing scenarios especially difficult for you, go talk to the SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) office. During my freshman year, despite great homework and class participation grades, I would often have a panic attack in the middle of an exam, leaving me with much lower grades than I knew I could get. After talking to the SSD office, they set me up with time and a half on exams and a smaller, quiet room to take the test in, allowing me to focus less on my nerves around time and crowds and more on proving my knowledge of the material.”


While withdrawing from classes can be frustrating and emotionally difficult, a lighter class load can give you more time to concentrate on your treatment and recovery. If you have any negative thoughts or feelings about reducing your course load, talk to your mental health provider.

If you decide to withdraw from a class, you may be eligible to request a waiver from Services for Students with Disabilities stating that you are taking a lower course load due to medical difficulties and should therefore still be considered a full-time student. The waiver may be helpful for financial aid, insurance, or immigration purposes.

Withdrawing Process: The process for withdrawing from classes varies according to the requirements of each college, and the timing of the withdrawal. The steps of the withdrawal process for LSA students are outlined here. Certain programs within LS&A, such as the Residential College or the Honors Program might follow slightly different procedures.

Receiving a “W” on your transcript: Receiving a W (withdrawal) for a class means that your GPA will not be affected, but you will not receive credit for that class.  Anyone looking at your transcript will see that you received a W, but no one, including University faculty, will be able to learn about the circumstances of the W without your expressed permission.

Special considerations:

  • If you are receiving any form of financial aid, it is very important to understand how your course selections and withdrawals may affect your financial aid package. Many financial aid awards, including scholarships, require that the recipient complete a certain course load (for example, at least 14 credits per semester) or maintain a specified minimum GPA. Withdrawing from classes may cause you to lose funding from University or other funding sources. Some funding sources are sensitive to the concerns of students with mental illnesss, and such organizations might allow you to take fewer credits without jeopardizing your financial aid. However, financial aid sources are not required to do this. Speak with the financial aid officers for each type of financial aid you receive (loans, University scholarships, private scholarships, etc.) to understand exactly how your course selections or withdrawals will impact you financially.
  • If you are an NCAA athlete, speak with your coaches and academic advisors when considering changes to your academic schedule. The NCAA requires athletes to maintain a minimum course load and meet certain requirements regarding their progress towards a degree in order to retain their eligibility. Failure to meet any of these requirements may jeopardize your eligibility to compete, as well as any athletic scholarships that you may have received. Discuss your academic schedule with your coaches and academic advisors prior to making any changes so that you understand how these changes will affect your eligibility.
  • If you are an international student, make sure you learn how part-time enrollment will affect your immigration status. Many international students are required to maintain full-time enrollment, though the number of credit hours considered full-time may vary depending on whether you are an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral student. The U-M International Center offers immigration advising services.


You may find yourself in a position where you need to take a semester off of school, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

What does suspension mean? If you are suspended, you lose the ability to elect or drop courses, and to attend or earn grades for courses at U-M. Suspension lasts at least the length of one full semester.

Why might I be suspended? Members of the Academic Standards Board (or the Scholastic Standing Committee in the College of Engineering) determine suspensions on a case-by-case basis. You may find yourself facing suspension if your academic performance for a particular term or terms is significantly below average, or you fail to complete most or all of your courses within a term.

What are the benefits to taking a semester off? If you are struggling academically as a result of your mental illness, having time away from school can allow you to:

  • Devote your full energy to getting well
  • Prevent your GPA from falling, which could happen if you try to complete courses under stressful circumstances
  • Have time to reassess your academic goals and think about new directions you may pursue when you return to school

What steps should I take to get back in school?

  • Read the letter the Board has sent you regarding your suspension
  • Meet with a Board member to learn what next steps will help you to be readmitted. They will need to hear what you believe interfered with your academic success, including any relevant factors related to your mental health. Then the Board member will recommend actions you can take to improve your chances of readmission to the College.

Examples of actions you may have to take in order to be considered for readmission:

  • Pursue a full term of courses elsewhere, or a combination of work and part-time studies. The Board may ask you to take courses at an institution other than U-M prior to petitioning for readmission and to show improved grades as evidence of your readiness for readmission.
  • Obtain a clinician’s statement verifying readiness to return. If you indicate your mental health as the reason for your academic difficulties, you will need to submit a statement of good health from your clinician. Returning to complex academic work only when you are completely well is a way to avoid mediocre or poor grades.
  • Make a financial plan. If you were unable to succeed academically because you had to work too many hours at a job, then the Board would require you to develop a reasonable plan for financing your education. The Board will encourage you to use the counselors at the Office of Financial Aid to help you construct this plan.
  • At least eight weeks (ten weeks for international students) prior to the start of the term in which you’d like to return, schedule a readmission interview with a Board member. The Board will want to know what has changed since your suspension that now places you in a better position to succeed academically. During your interview, a Board member will give you guidelines for writing your readmission petition. The Board member will also tell you the deadline for submitting your petition, and what additional documentation you should include with it.
  • At least six weeks (eight weeks for international students) prior to the start of the term in which you’d like to return, submit your petition for readmission to the Board
  • One week to ten days from the receipt of your petition, you will receive a decision via e-mail
  • How can I avoid being suspended again? Sticking with a manageable number of credit hours and taking action at the first sign of academic trouble are good ways to improve your grade point average and prevent suspension.

Additional Resources:


Get Help Now - Crisis Text Line 741-741 // Call U-M Crisis Phone Line: (734) 936-5900 or (734) 996-4747