Warning Signs

What are the warning signs that a student is at risk for academic misconduct?

Students may make a bad academic decision for a variety of reasons.  For example, students doing well in a course may become overwhelmed by internal or external pressure to continue to excel because of the importance of the course to their intended career path.  Students may also struggle with personal, financial, or relationship issues for which the stress experienced exceeds the students’ coping resources, resulting in declining academic performance and poor decision making.  There are several common warning signs that suggest a student is at risk for poor decision making, including violating the Honor Code. Some of these include:


  • The student seems to have trouble concentrating.
  • The student becomes more inattentive or is excessively texting.
  • The student’s communication with you becomes less effective or clear (e.g., when you ask questions of them; whey they explain/describe material).
  • The student’s performance on assessments is declining or highly variable.
  • The student’s written material becomes more disorganized.
  • The student indicates they are having trouble studying.
  • The student seems confused despite repeated clarification of assignments.


  • The student exhibits a change in energy level; doesn’t seem to have the energy to participate as actively in group discussions or with the instructor.
  • The student’s appearance changes; they look disheveled/have poor hygiene.
  • The student exhibits rapid weight loss or gain or muscular changes.
  • The student exhibits signs of substance abuse (alcohol on breath, etc).
  • The student indicates they are experiencing physical symptoms, like headaches, stomach aches or other bodily changes.


  • The student is increasingly or frequently late for class.
  • The student’s absences are increasing.
  • The student is missing assignment deadlines.
  • The quality of the student’s work is poor or inconsistent; work seems unfocused or lacks effort.
  • The content provided by the student does not match the written assignment or is interlaced with distressing statements.
  • The student who actively participates in class becomes uncharacteristically less engaged with other classmates or during class activities; the student never participates or seems withdrawn.
  • The student seems highly anxious, especially when assignments are due or exams are coming up.
  • The student makes frequent comments about their high expectations or is excessively grade oriented; has a pattern of disputing grades.
  • The student is having difficulty working with classmates/group.
  • The student has become more irritable or they seem to be arguing with others more frequently.
  • The student is verbally or physically abusive to others.
  • The student is dropping hints related to suicide (e.g., “I won’t be here long so the assignment doesn’t matter”; “I just don’t want to be here,” etc.).

What you can do:

  • Pay attention to the warning signs and patterns. If the student is acting differently, check in with them.
  • Shape the class culture from the beginning of the course. Let students know on the first day of class that you want to help them be successful. Let them know that you encourage comments and questions and that if they are unclear about content or assessments, ask for clarification.
  • Have an open door policy.  Encourage students to talk with you during your office hours, especially if they have any concerns.
  • Let students know that all students face challenges that can occur while taking courses. Although it is up to the student how to respond to those challenges, UF has many resources to help, from how to study better to managing crises. Encourage the student to take advantage of these.  Provide specific information to (e.g., phone number, location).
  • Review basic mental health resources and other academic support available at UF with the students.
  • Consider mandating at least one individual meeting with each student or at least making unsolicited contact with each student.
  • Include assessment of professional behavior at specific intervals in program – can also help address different faculty perspectives of student