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Drop-outs, flunk-outs, burn-outs: What to do when things don't go according to plan?

MorphyMorphy Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
edited August 2009 in Parents Forum
You have a high achieving student throughout high-school who seems to have a high trajectory. They leave for a nice college and are doing well.

But somewhere in the four years before graduation the wheels come off and they return home.

With scholarships/college funds now out the window, a transcript that's no longer so pretty, and a student with a vacant motivation to return to school, where do you go?

Let's say they're not the most technically inclined or physically gifted, so the more lucrative jobs in the trades or construction industries aren't a realistic possibility.

CC has discussed the college search, college application, college graduation, and beyond(and has discussed most of it to death), yet I've never come upon a concentrated discussion on what to do for the students who don't make it through. And given the lackluster retention and completion rates that many universities are sporting, there's certainly some out there.
Post edited by Morphy on

Replies to: Drop-outs, flunk-outs, burn-outs: What to do when things don't go according to plan?

  • MitduMitdu Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    I'm prepared to ask the same question after one more semester. Except my son was not a high-achieving student in high school. He was a B/C student who struggled a bit with listening comprehension, higher-order literary analysis, and written expression. His IEP provided a few basic accommodations but really didn't address his learning differences. He's a hands-on learner who struggles in lecture classes and struggles to memorize vast amounts of information in textbooks/his notes. Test anxiety is a huge problem for him.

    He's returning next month for his second year of college, but is still a freshman due to a couple failed courses. He's on academic probation. He SAYS all of the right things about what he's going to do differently this school year, but I don't think the motivation is truly there.

    I'm looking forward to reading the responses to your post.
  • cherryhillmomto2cherryhillmomto2 Registered User Posts: 393 Member
    I am going on the assumption that parents are paying some of the tuition at your children's colleges. With that being said, as parents, have you called the college? What is their stand, motivation, advice to help these students succeed?
  • ingerpingerp Registered User Posts: 866 Member
    If you truly believe trade school or an apprenticeship isn't feasible, have you considered the military? They do try to find where an individual's talents lie and then steer them in that direction. There's also the possibility of assistance with education later on. It has afforded a lot of young people the opportunity to mature a bit before striking out into the private sector, whatever direction that may be. Some even find out a military career is what is best for them. The military does take very good care of its people.
  • SimpleRulesSimpleRules Registered User Posts: 534 Member
    There are many paths to a fulfilled life (I am substituting fulfilled for successful because success is a nebulous, overused, and misleading concept). The linear 4-year college route is not the only one.

    I would start with the local Community College career center, which usually offers free career and personality assessment testing and counseling. Community college can get a student (for a lot less money) the opportunity to begin training in a direction that interests them such as education or nursing, etc. If they don't like it, it is much easier to switch directions. They can always continue on to the 4 year degree at that point if they wish.

    There are lots and lots of people who take the alternate routes in life - there is no reason why it should be 4 year college or bust. The bottom line is having a skill set that translates into meaningful work of some kind, ultimately increasing the odds of having that achievable goal - the fulfilled life.
  • sk8rmomsk8rmom Registered User Posts: 5,746 Senior Member
    If the problem is more motivational than intellectual, I would let the kid figure it out by insisting that s/he get a job and work to contribute to their living expenses (if living at home again). Alot of kids just aren't ready for college and working an adult job does bring up the maturity level. I think it's actually better not to help them find that job that suits their talents - if they have to start out as a dishwasher, a nurse's aide, or a bellboy and move up, that's a valuable life lesson too and can contribute to their confidence and maturity when the boss promotes them due to their hard work. The important thing is that they find their self-worth, and take pride in their accomplishments, on their own. Often, a year or two of this solves the whole problem and they're ready to go back to school part-time with renewed energy and direction.
  • saxsax Registered User Posts: 5,428 Senior Member
    There are many varied reasons students do not make it through college in the 4 yr. eight
    semester plan. I found it not so important to dwell on what derailed them as to deciding how to continue.
    My advice is for these students to put themselves in a position to always be moving forward.
    Get a job, any job. This is invaluable learning. Jobs teach you how corporations work, expose you to great workers and workers who just get by. Expose you to great helpful coworkers and those that may sabatoge you. Great bosses and bad bosses. You learn how to deal with problems that arise and watch how they play out. This is a great arena to learn before you get into a company/job that you really care about.
    Take a class in something. Do not stop learning. It will help you decide what interests you.
    Volunteer. Keep involved with people and you will find opportunities along the way.

    Relax. Life is not a race. Just keep moving forward.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    College is not for everyone. And even if college is for your child, it may not be the right time for him right now. I've had to have this talk with my kids several times. To force a recalcitrant young adult to go to school when he does not want to do so can be wasteful endeavor. As many of the other posters have said, there are many routes to adulthood and independence. Getting a job and getting self sufficient is what a young adult needs to focus on doing.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,411 Senior Member
    You come up with plan B...and that may NOT be a glamorous job. I personally know a number of folks (the age of the parents on this forum) who flunked out of college. They found other jobs for a period of time. Some found that these jobs suited them well and stayed in them (not everyone needs a college education to be successful), some found jobs with tradesfolks (plumbers, electricians, etc), some went to technical colleges (think electricians, CAD operators, car mechanics)...and others worked for a period of time...even YEARS and then went back to college as almost 30's to pursue that degree and a different career.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 18,614 Senior Member
    Been there. I told my son to either get a job or move out. Gave him a deadline. He did both - job first, moved a couple of months later. Worked 3 years, transferred to another, less prestigious college, graduated, had a job within 2 weeks of graduation, now lives in another city, loves his job, good salary, great health plan, and everything is fine. Probably better off in the long run for following this path. If he'd stayed in school, he would have graduated with a useless major & no idea of what he wanted to do with his life, plus a lot of debt for him and me both. With the path he took, he ended up with a degree that fits his career goals, and a terrific resume -- plus as far as I know he's paid off all his debt already. His senior year in college was free, paid for largely with merit money he earned from his junior year. He was just a better college student at 24 than he had been at 19.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Registered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    "If the problem is more motivational than intellectual, I would let the kid figure it out by insisting that s/he get a job and work to contribute to their living expenses (if living at home again)."

    I agree.

    I do not see this as the parent's problem to solve. It's the offspring's life and responsibility to solve. The help that parents can give is by not enabling the offspring by allowing the young adult to live at home with free room and board.

    Older S, 25, flunked out of a college that had given him virtually full merit aid since he was a star academic recruit for them. He flunked out because he had fully embraced the partying life, and hadn't gone to class.

    For about 2 years, he lived with a well intentioned, but naive older relative who thought she was helping son by allowing him to live rent free with her in her comfortable home. All this did was enable him to continue pursuing a partying lifestyle and his unrealistic dreams of being a rock star (which seemed to be based on his partying interests).

    When she retired and moved away, son had a big wake up call when he realized that the occasional $40 he got from rock gigs wouldn't support him in the style that he thought he deserved. He moved to another city, got an office job, and became such a hard worker that he has gotten 3 promotions in 2 years in one of the toughest job markets in the country.

    He never returned to college, but is self supporting, responsible, and seems fulfilled pursuing a business career the way he is doing.

    This is a short version of a longer story, which includes my ending up hospitalized with chest pains due to my concern about S's partying lifestyle. Therapy helped me realize that I wasn't to blame and wasn't responsible for S's life choices. I learned to let go, and to pay attention to doing things in my own life that made me happy. S also was estranged from us for a couple of years because he (and the relative he was living with) thought we were being mean to him by not financially supporting him. After he matured, he reconciled with us, and we get along fine now.
  • missypiemissypie Registered User Posts: 18,303 Senior Member
    Great thread! Yesterday I read the updates on the Class of 07 thread. Everyone seems to be doing so well. I PM'd someone and said, "why does no one ever write that their son lost his merit aid, moved back home, is taking a few classes at the CC and has gained 40 pounds?"

    Son has Asperger's Syndrome - his college has about the most nurturing environment out there, but he still has be go to class and make the grades. I truly truly truly don't know if he'll make it. But after hyperventilating over that for a while, I went through the "worst case scenario", and realized he could move home and go to CC and the world would would not end.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,209 Senior Member
    I thnk it helps if the parents can remain as neutral as possible about all this. The original poster seems, him or herself, to have too much of a negative take on this situation. Understandable, if the poster had the traditional scenario firmly in mind, but it is time to loosen up. There are many ways to finish college these days, and it is not the majority that goes through in 4 years living on campus, either.

    I will just tell you that my brother went through this 20 years ago, dropped out, bartended, got into all sorts of trouble, but in his mid 20's volunteered at an educational tv station. A fire lit under him. For the last 10 years, he has been an executive vice president of a national tv network.

    One of my kids has health problems and is at a top college. We are pushing for better attitudes and accommodations from administrators, but if it really does not work out, she can achieve her goals in many ways. There are now many online programs, and many universities have flexible programs that can be in the evening, part-time and that a student can go in and out of. There are also low-residency programs where the student spends a week on campus and then works on their own. As well as CC's.

    A break from college will help guide your child, and heal burnout. Clearly, the student is capable. Motivation will come, in a more genuine form than the high school motivation to get good grades and "get into college." Have faith that things will work out, and that will help your son have faith, too.

    Counseling that is sort of life coaching rather than pathologizing might help too.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Registered User Posts: 22,762 Senior Member
    We do have these discussions but they usually start shortly before the semester ends and then continue for a while. Perhaps you could request a forum for this. I think that somewhere around 50% of people attempt college with about half of that succeeding in getting a degree. Given those numbers, there are a lot of kids in this category.
  • missypiemissypie Registered User Posts: 18,303 Senior Member
    It's also time to remember the CC wisdom of "love the kid on the couch, not the kid you wish you had." My sister's ex was a huge disappointment to his Harvard educated father...the ex was brilliant, got into a terrific school, majored in drugs, flunked out quickly. Moved to a distant city in the early 70s, never went back to college but is a self-taught computer expert....To the day he died a few years ago, the father never visited his son. 30+ years and he never went to visit. The son would go back home for family reunions but that was the only contact. The father allowed his disappointment in his son's college failure to last for the rest of his life.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 15,334 Senior Member
    I think no matter how well our kids do in high school we are never assured that they will perform and succeed at college. Like someone said it's a 50/50 or so shot that they will complete in 4 years on the traditional path. So we send them off and hold our breaths for another year which basically means we've held our breaths for two years straight LOL. So yes, a Plan B is essential. As parents we cannot drop kick our kids through four years of college. They own it even though we pay for it. I had one of those lassez faire high school boys who is now a college junior. The outcome will be successful no doubt but I could not have predicted this outcome. Hoped for, yes. Predicted, no. Friends have not been so lucky but in each case of an unsuccessful first run at college the kids have settled down eventually and found a path. The most important lesson I as a parent have learned is to take a chill pill in the high school years. Something totally alien to my type A personality, but if I can do it anyone can. Give the kids some space. Revell in the flashes of brilliance and be supportive when they stray. Let them set their expectations and own it. You can set the bar high but not so high they implode. They give clues all the time, we just have to open our eyes and listen and accept them for the people they are becoming.
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