This study focused on the success stories of students after academic probation in order to explore, understand and describe their personal perceptions, perspectives and the meanings they ascribed to academic probation. I also hoped to gain insight into the success factors that enabled the students success after academic probation. Through these insights I hoped to add to our understanding of supporting students on academic probation.
The conceptual framework for my study was based on the strength-based approach and Bean and Eaton’s psychological model of college student retention. I also explored literature on the experiences of students who encountered academic failure as part of framing and understanding of the students’ experiences. For the purposes of the aforementioned objectives I followed a qualitative research approach, anchored in an interpretivist paradigm. I collected data through a focus group interview with three participants. The participants were purposively selected on the basis that they themselves were placed on academic probation. With the permission of the participants the interview was tape-recorded, the recording was supported by a research field journal.
Three core themes in the data were identified namely Psychological Processes, Institutional Support Structures and Personal Support Systems. These core themes were integrated with literature and further linked to sub-themes and related themes. The results of my study found that students were enabled by four psychological processes namely attitudes and behaviours, coping behaviours, an internal locus of control and high self-efficacy beliefs to succeed. Institutional structures, including the policy on academic probation, played a crucial role in supporting the students to succeed, and it was because of personal support structures such as family and friends that students had the courage to return to their studies and make a good effort at succeeding. As a conclusion, this study suggested that it is possible for students to rise above academic probation and persist towards academic achievement and to have positive experiences which enable them to complete their studies.