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Effect of son's high school suspension/recommendation for expulsion on college admission chances

legalmomlegalmom 8 replies7 threads Junior Member
My son is a high school senior and is in the process of submitting his college applications. He's a good student and has done well on his SAT (4.2 weighted GPA, SAT score is 1350). Last year, when he was a junior, he was caught at school with a vape pen that tested positive for THC. Our school district has a zero tolerance policy for this violation. My son was suspended from school with a recommendation for expulsion. He was able to undergo a 90 day workback program, after which the expulsion recommendation was dropped and he was allowed to return to school. He was able to maintain his grades by taking classes online, and for his senior year, he opted to do "early admissions" at our local community college. He has done well with his college courses and his GPA this year is a 4.0. My question is, how badly will this hurt his chances of getting into college? Our school district doesn't report disciplinary issues on school transcripts, but he will have to answer this question on his common app. and other college applications. Although my son will need to explain this, we are wondering if we should also perhaps make this part of the discussion of his college essay, or would it be better not to focus on this? My son has shown a lot of growth since last year and I'm proud of the way he has accepted full responsibility for his actions and has handled a tough situation. But we're not sure what the best way to handle this should be. Any insight is greatly appreciated.
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Replies to: Effect of son's high school suspension/recommendation for expulsion on college admission chances

  • tdy123tdy123 816 replies15 threads Member
    Agree entirely with @Groundwork2022 would just add that the primary concern of most colleges would be whether he has a drug issue, as opposed to the fact that he had a disciplinary event. His academic success following the suspension should lay any concern on the part of colleges to rest.
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  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 2459 replies36 threads Senior Member
    Agree with groundwork. Just to close the loop I would also make sure the GC does not plan to mention the incident in their rec...they probably don’t if it’s not on the transcript but best to be sure.

    We can’t handicap what impact the incident will have on admissions, but some schools suppress the answers to the common app disciplinary question on their first read through, that’s probably a plus for your S at those schools (check websites and/or make a call to see how that question is handled at a given school). Lastly, and although I don’t have hard data to support this, it seems that at some schools having been disciplined for vaping, even THC, is perceived as less serious than having been disciplined for academic dishonesty.

    Good luck.
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  • MassmommMassmomm 3989 replies82 threads Senior Member
    If this was a single offense, or even if he was in the habit of vaping at school, it falls under the category of stupid, but not morally dangerous. That's why cheating is a worse offense, IMO.

    If the Common App has a place to explain why he checked the discipline box, he should own up to what he did there.

    If you think he is hooked on vaping, that's a health problem for which he should seek help before going off to college.

    And on a practical note, your son should understand that smoking pot the old-fashioned way, while still illegal in most states, is much safer than vaping.
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  • coolguy40coolguy40 2342 replies3 threads Senior Member
    For vaping? So basically he got caught smoking in the boys bathroom with a 21st century cigarette. Sounds like a typical teenager to me. Your school district completely overreacted. If it's not on his transcripts, I would just answer no to those questions. There's so much political hype with vaping right now, that all you'd be doing is giving colleges a weapon to use against him.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39596 replies7188 threads Super Moderator
    edited October 22
    For vaping? So basically he got caught smoking in the boys bathroom with a 21st century cigarette.
    No, he got caught in the boys bathroom with a 21st century joint. If the school has a zero tolerance drug policy (which is their right), they can equitably mete out the punishment as they did here. Even in states where marijuana is legal, it is likely not legal for HS-age kids.

    Regardless, I agree that it should have little impact on admissions if the kid is upfront about it and shows that he has learned from it.
    edited October 22
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 7620 replies61 threads Senior Member
    It would have been an auto suspension at D's school too. The THC could even have been grounds for expulsion.

    I agree with the above posters to not write the essay about this but to be honest.

    Personal accountability, high GPA, and maturation should be able to compensate.
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  • legalmomlegalmom 8 replies7 threads Junior Member
    edited October 22
    @MaineLonghorn Definitely agree, he won’t lie. Honesty is always best. We were wondering if it would be wise to use the experience as the topic of his essay, but the consensus seems to be to address it in the app. but not make it the main focus of his essay. We agree with that approach.
    edited October 22
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 787 replies5 threads Member
    I wouldn't use it in the essay. Then he's the Vape Boy and nothing else. There is room for explanation elsewhere.
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  • JHSJHS 18460 replies72 threads Senior Member
    Based on the experience of some friends and their children, I think it is likely to affect his admissions chances at some colleges, but not all of them. It is the kind of thing your school counselors could probably find out from admissions staff at target colleges, if they were willing to devote some time to it.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 23251 replies17 threads Senior Member
    Sounds like a typical teenager to me. Your school district completely overreacted.

    An overreaction- until someone DIES, which has been happening. Schools are taking it seriously because it is serious. We had a student who had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks the day before she was supposed to move into her dorm. Parents had no idea she was vaping, but she hit the thin Colorado air, parents thought she had the flu but she had lung disease.

    Deal with it as the high school suggests. Make sure you see the copy of the transcript that will be sent to the colleges. Are the grades for the courses he finished online any different than if he took them in school? Does he need to explain those grades?
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34514 replies383 threads Senior Member
    Adcoms know kids experiment, sometimes foolishly. They also know some hs have a one-strike policy. Sure, primarily about drugs, but there are some hs that will suspend for an errant baseball that breaks a window. Top adcoms evaluate the severity, in line with their own college policies and tolerances.

    The Common App includes a section asking about discipline history. If answered yes, you fill out an explanation.

    Don't write the personal statement essay about it- that's not where this goes and is a waste of the essay, a missed chance to reveal more.

    Two key tips. 1. how's the relationship with the GC now? A great LoR can show his growth, maturity, sense of responsibility, personal and to the hs community. Adcoms will read that, look for the endorsement. Similar for teacher LoRs. You don't want some pro forma paragraph: Billy does his homework and is in xyz activities.

    2. In his main essay, he can show his strong points, the ones his targets want to find. "Show, not just tell." It does take some digging, to understand what these are, but I nag about that, anyway, all the time. Would help if you somehow let us know the targets.

    The collgeges least tolerant will likely be the more obviously conservatve ones. Could be some others that have had recent well-known troubles. But he should go for the glass half full approach. Show strengths.

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  • coolguy40coolguy40 2342 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited October 22
    @skieurope Nope, totally disagree with that interpretation. Vaping is legally defined as a cigarette, until Congress passes a law to change it. Inappropriate for a teenager? Of course it is! Should he have been punished? YES! Do kids do it? Unfortunately yes. Did the school district overreact? In my humble opinion, yes they certainly did. The point of my original post was to keep things in perspective, and not make snap judgments because of all the hype surrounding vaping at the moment. And yes...I retract my advice. Never lie on a college application.
    edited October 22
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34514 replies383 threads Senior Member
    Right, it's the THC that changes this.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39596 replies7188 threads Super Moderator
    edited October 22
    coolguy40 wrote: »
    @skieurope Nope, totally disagree with that interpretation. Vaping is legally defined as a cigarette, until Congress passes a law to change it. Inappropriate for a teenager? Of course it is! Should he have been punished? YES! Do kids do it? Unfortunately yes. Did the school district overreact? In my humble opinion, yes they certainly did. The point of my original post was to keep things in perspective, and not make snap judgments because of all the hype surrounding vaping at the moment. And yes...I retract my advice. never lie on a college application.

    The vape pen was (presumably) used for cannabis per OP. Some high schools have a one strike policy. Regardless of the laws of the state, their school, their rules. One can debate (but not here) whether the school's rules are draconian, but at this point, it is what it is, which I believe the OP recognizes. So the question is how to present on applications, which I opined upthread.
    edited October 22
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  • legalmomlegalmom 8 replies7 threads Junior Member
    @lookingforward His relationship with his guidance counselor is good. Although he takes his classes this year at the community college, my son has met with his GC several times to review his college schedule and pick classes for the upcoming spring term, etc. His GC knows he's staying on the straight and narrow and has been doing well since the incident. His high school principal has also been very sympathetic toward him and has been very supportive of our son during this whole process.

    We live in Florida and my son qualifies for the top tier of Bright Futures, so he will definitely stay in state for school. His targets are the larger Florida state schools - UCF being his top choice, followed by FSU and USF. He will also apply to UF, although frankly he realizes that UF would be a reach for him. Looking at UCF's website, they state that letters of recommendation won't be considered in the general admissions process, although perhaps they would be beneficial if he gets deferred?
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  • PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 155 replies5 threads Junior Member
    I have a friend whose son got suspended for drinking at a party prior to homecoming his senior year. Kid is super smart and the parents were pretty upset and concerned about how it would impact his college admissions. Kid wanted to go to our state's flagship college - he was admitted and is now a freshman.

    I agree that I wouldn't lie about this but I wouldn't highlight it any more than necessary. Good recommendations (if the schools accept them) from teachers and counselors that talk about his maturity, etc would help and would highlighting any other leadership positions he has.

    Good luck!
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 12996 replies244 threads Senior Member
    Were there legal repercussions? That would affect federal financial aid, not sure about Florida/BF.
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