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HELP - my son has decided to quit college

parent031717parent031717 Posts: 2- New Member
edited December 2010 in Parents Forum
My son is on his second year at an Ivy. He told me and my husband last week that he has decided to quit college. TOTAL shock to us! Up until this point everything has been fine. He tells us that he has been thinking about this for the last TWO months. This is the information that we have gotten from him:

~ College is boring! Lost interest this last quarter and got an "F" and "D".
~ Not learning anything, can learn material w/o college
~ Not having male/female problems (I believe this is true)

School has always been boring for my son. He learns quickly and wants to move on. Has always aced every class. Received a perfect SAT score. Graduated high school with 14 AP classes and scored a "5" in all the AP tests. Got accepted at his 1st choice college and received a very generous financial aid package.

His plan is to return to college (2 hours away from home by plane), get a job, get an apartment then tell the college he is quitting. He has been investigating jobs and apartments and may have both lined up when he returns to the college.

Our concerns ...
~ Not well thought out....decided this in two months
~ If he quits/leave of absence from college his chances are good he will not go back and finish.
~ If he does go back, the college may not give him another financial aid package that is so generous. If that happens, there is no way we can help him with the $45,000+ college cost.
~ He is going with less than $900 dollars. He is gambling that all of his plans are going to fall into place as far as a job ($10 to 12.00 an hour), an affordable apartment and all of the other necessities he’ll need to live on his own.

I am so concerned w/ his future if he doesn’t get a degree. In addition, I am also very concerned that his decision will be a dominoes effect with his younger 16 year old brother. My 16 year old adores his older brother and copies EVERYTHING he does. There is no doubt in my mind he will follow his older brothers path.

We have talked, talked and talked with him. We have tried to reason with him to
at least finish this school year while at the same time, think this through completely. He leaves this Monday and we are no further than we were last week. PLEASE help me and give me ideas to convince him to stay to at least June.
Post edited by parent031717 on
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Replies to: HELP - my son has decided to quit college

  • ShrinkrapShrinkrap Posts: 11,693Registered User Senior Member
    "There is no doubt in my mind he will follow his older brothers path"

    I understand your concern about your older son, but really? That he would do this just because his brother did doesn't seem like a reasonable concern. I would hesitate to add this to the things you are worried about.

    BTW, my brother dropped out of college too, (although no genius, no Ivy and no scholarship), and it turned out fine. He went back eventually.
  • HannaHanna Posts: 11,366Registered User Senior Member
    I don't know your son, but his plan sounds pretty well thought out as you describe it, and two months is not that short a period of time anyway.

    Is his financial aid 100% need-based (typical at Ivies)? If so, it shouldn't suffer from a leave of absence unless you or he come into a bunch of money.

    I knew many students at my Ivy who took leaves of absence. Most returned and finished the degree. Of those who did not, they are all doing fine in their early 30s (married, employed, seem happy).

    One thing you know for sure is that if he's getting Ds and Fs, he's wasting everyone's time and money by being at college right now. So a realistic plan for relying on himself and taking a break sounds like a pretty good option to me.

    If there's something I'm missing, like a big merit scholarship that's dependent on staying in school, let me know.
  • madbeanmadbean Posts: 2,943Registered User Senior Member
    I can imagine your shock. A son so talented, so brilliant, so bored.

    Question: does he have a major he loves? A goal for his future? What is his passion, if any? Does it require a college education? Sometimes, one can reason that finishing up the degree, however uninspiring, is a means to an end. That certain professors or grad level classes (which he might be permitted to take if he petitions) are worth the rest of the slog. Has he spoken with his adviser? It's possible he needs a new adviser if the present one has no great suggestions.

    If he has the next big invention (fuel cells? next Facebook type app?) and wants to pursue that outside of school while supporting himself, it sounds like a plan. If he just wants to work at Starbucks, hang with his old buddies, and read books on his own--that's a less promising idea. But ultimately, he'll do well because he is so gifted. The path may not be straight.

    Best of luck.
  • MarianMarian Posts: 9,335Registered User Senior Member
    If he is in good academic standing and eligible for a leave of absence, it is better to take one than to withdraw from college.

    It makes it easier to get back in to the same college later, if that's what he decides he wants to do.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Posts: 16,804Super Moderator Senior Member
    College is boring! Lost interest this last quarter and got an "F" and "D".

    This combination of grades may have landed him on academic probation (you will would be notified by the school if this were the case).

    If he is telling you that he needs a break, believe him and let him take it. It does not make sense to have him continue if he is not feeling school. IF he is indeed on probation, should he receive at least on D in the following term, he would be placed on suspension (which would be up to one year).

    I would recommend that he contact his class dean regarding withdrawing for the next term. He should not just simply leave and call later because he is still registered for the next term. His dean will inform him as to whether or not he will be able to take courses at another schools and if those courses will count toward his degree.

    The upside is when he returns, the school will mots likely take him back with open arms and he will complete his degree.
  • aghabyaghaby Posts: 84Registered User Junior Member
    Is it possible for him to apply for some kind of "Internship" where he can spend a semester or so off campus and then hopefully he gets motivated to go back and finish college?
  • limabeanslimabeans Posts: 4,743Registered User Senior Member
    ~ If he quits/leave of absence from college his chances are good he will not go back and finish. This can be exactly right. I don't know the statistics, but if your son is not motivated to finish college, what will motivate to go back?

    ~ If he does go back, the college may not give him another financial aid package that is so generous. If that happens, there is no way we can help him with the $45,000+ college cost. You're right again. Most financial aide packages are only available to freshman.

    ~ He is going with less than $900 dollars. That is not at all enough to pay for an apartment to begin with, much less living expenses like food and transportation. $900 seems like a lot now, but just take a look at what apartment costs and this alone may discourage him.

    I am so concerned w/ his future if he doesn’t get a degree. Yes, there are numerous studies that show there is a huge earnings difference between a college graduate and a HS graduate. Don't bother looking at those entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg to counter the benefit. The possibilitiy that there's another uncollege graduate out there making billions of dollars is slim indeed.

    And the influence of being an older brother? Huge!

    I agree with previous posters. Have him take a semester off and see it's not easy living on pittance.
  • ShrinkrapShrinkrap Posts: 11,693Registered User Senior Member
    The link seems to be saying college degrees aren't making huge differences in terms of unemployment right now.
  • minimini Posts: 26,431Registered User Senior Member
    He might take a semester off, and discover that he is right.

    At any rate, why waste money and time if, as he says, he's not learning anything he couldn't learn on his own?
  • jinglejingle Posts: 1,198Registered User Senior Member
    As a parent, I completely understand your shock and worry. As a university faculty member, I agree with everything sybbie719 said. Thinking strategically, it's much better for your son to take a leave of absence than to do poorly in consecutive semesters. Where I teach, if a student on academic probation continues to get poor grades in the subsequent semester, he can be suspended or asked to leave permanently. (Moreover the probation/suspension/forced withdrawal is noted on the transcript.) Thinking toward the future: applying for grad school and the like, a single semester with poor grades is unlikely to hurt your son; admissions committees will just assume that some crisis occurred. However, consistently poor performance is a big red flag.

    Your son may well find the $10-12/hour working world considerably more tedious than college, especially if he is supporting himself on this wage and therefore has virtually no money to spare for fun activities. As an easily-bored person myself, I know my experiences with menial labor always had the effect of propelling me back to school with renewed motivation.
  • dragonmomdragonmom Posts: 4,251Registered User Senior Member
    It's worthwhile that he make it a leave of absence instead of just quitting. Ivy level colleges will work with him since they don't want drop-outs in their stats.
    Many, many students hit a wall in college that develops into depression. Have you checked for that?
    I know sybbie is a wonderful source, but you might not have been notified if he was on probation. Many schools give the parent no info at all unless the student has allowed access to their Info.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Posts: 16,804Super Moderator Senior Member
    limabeans wrote:

    ~ If he does go back, the college may not give him another financial aid package that is so generous. If that happens, there is no way we can help him with the $45,000+ college cost. You're right again. Most financial aide packages are only available to freshman.

    If he is at an ivy on need based financial aid (which Op states), unless he makes a load of money when combined with his parent's income, he will still be eligible for need based FA. Even if he should return on academic probation, he will still have his financial aid
    dragonmom wrote:
    I know sybbie is a wonderful source, but you might not have been notified if he was on probation. Many schools give the parent no info at all unless the student has allowed access to their Info.

    Let's just cut to the chase... Ivy + Grades for the quarter = Dartmouth (unless he is at Stanford)
    If student is a sophomore at Dartmouth and gets placed on probation, parents are most likely going to be notified. Since grades have recently gone out, if they do not have the letter, they will most likely get it shortly. If OP's son is at Dartmouth, he needs to make a decision quick because the winter term starts next week.

    Academic Probation
  • MidwestMom2Kids_MidwestMom2Kids_ Posts: 6,670Registered User Senior Member
    If at all possible, see if he can take a leave of absence instead of withdrawing.
  • parent031717parent031717 Posts: 2- New Member
    Thank you everyone for the input.... I truly appreciate your time. I would love to hear even more.

    I am going to suggest the "internship" idea and see if he has considered this. My son won't go to his advisor because this person wasn't any help before. I'm going to suggest asking for another and hopefully this person can come up w/ some creative ideas, like an internship.

    He is not sure what he wants to do or a degree path anymore. He went for Economics but switched to Philosophy. Now he is not sure about the Philosophy path...career and/or money potential. His current plan is a Starbucks sort of shop while he thinks things out. He has never had an interesting, productive internship with a company. His summer jobs for the last three years have been extremely boring; cashier, data entry, some research work, library. He always started too late in applying for interested internships consequently ended up with the non-interesting ones. Because of these past jobs it is hard for him to imagine “jobs” can be interesting. I’m hoping that if he does talk w/ a new adviser, this adviser can help get the spark back, get him into an internship now while hopefully keeping college in his mind.

    Please, any other ideas??….please tell me. Thanks so much
  • calmomcalmom Posts: 16,662Registered User Senior Member
    Actually, if the student works full time during time away from school, it will diminish eligibility for need-based financial aid, as the student's income will show up on the following year's FAFSA. To the extent that the student is able to save any money, there will be a double hit -- both from income and assets -- which will hit a dependent (age 23 or under) student particularly hard. That's going to raise the expected student contribution for college, probably to a number that significantly exceeds what the student has been able to save or can reasonably earn after returning to school.

    To the OP -- I went through the same thing with my son. He took a leave of absence after his 2nd year of college, did not return, spent 3 years living and working on his own, then transferred to a public, in-state college, paying his own way. In hindsight leaving school was the best decision he ever made -- he was floundering, recognize it, and was able to mature and get a much better sense of his own goals out of school.

    Based on my own experience, if anything your son's academic difficulties are likely to be even worse than he has told you. So he may have a more realistic viewpoint than yours -- that is he may know full well that if he stays in school he'll only dig a bigger hole for himself academically.

    I'm a little confused by his idea that he will only tell his school that he is withdrawing or taking a leave of absence after the start of the semester -- what about fees owed? What are the school's refund policies? (I suppose that if he is on very generous financial aid it won't be a problem -- but if parents are paying a huge chunk of tuition, then that may leave the parents paying for a full term when the kid isn't even attending school).

    My advice is that you simply have a very frank and direct talk about finances with your son. That's what I did -- first I wrote everything out, then sat down with my son and talked with him about what I would and wouldn't pay for the future, as well as raising issues like health insurance costs.

    It ended up that my son was completely self-supporting within a few months. He was paid a salary, but his earnings probably did equate to around $12/hour -- and he did fine. He did not have a job involving "menial labor" -- I don't know where this myth every started that smart, college-capable kids who drop out will only find jobs digging ditches or scrubbing floors. It simply isn't true -- they generally are looking at entry level white collar jobs, such as office work or retail sales. They may find their jobs boring and realize that they want to return to college; but my son was being promoted up the ranks within 2 weeks of landing his first job -- so I think he found the work world stimulating and rewarding. Eventually he got tired of the work and that's when he decided to return to school -- but he had to choose between school and an offer of a job paying about $40K when he decided to finish his degree. He could see that long term, he was better off with the degree -- but with the work background, he also ended up pursuing a degree that meshed well with his career goals.

    In other words, a kid who leaves school as a philosophy major may finish his degree several years down the line as a business major. That may not be such a bad thing.

    I know that its hard to let go of the "Ivy" dream, but a kid who is getting grades of D and F in classes is in serious trouble, and it might be smart for him to cut his losses rather than risking another bad term.
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