A Real Shocker

My college freshman son (just about to turn 21) today received a notice of immediate dismissal due to poor academic performance. He was scheduled to return to school after winter vacation next week. He’d always struggled with academics due to processing issues (was on an IEP through middle school and education plans beyond) but managed to get into 9 out of 10 colleges his senior year…until he “went missing” in the last few weeks of his senior year in h.s. and barely limped across the finish line.

We decided then he should defer college, so he did a gap year to attain some confidence, direction, and maturity (that was the plan, anyway, and we thought it had worked brilliantly, until about 2 hours ago when we received the notice). That he got 1 C and 3Ds in his courses freshman year and has been asked to leave is so upsetting to us, his parents. Of course, there was deceit involved in that he wasn’t honest with himself, his teachers, or his parents about how or why he was struggling…not that he knew exactly. This is a nightmarish repeat of the last month of his senior year.

Our son says he hates himself for screwing up and doesn’t know why he did it. Part of it is that he comes across as having it “all together”, is handsome, mature-seeming, and community-service oriented but inside he feels like an insecure child who doesn’t measure up to what he thinks he should be/doing.

I’m torn between suggesting he appeal the decision, see if he’s readmitted, and try again AND just packing his bags and looking for work and taking time off. Frankly, I’m in shock and scared.

Any compassionate advice appreciated.

Momoftwosons -

You and your son have my compassion.

My first son is 21. He attended a CC for one semester after HS graduation. We didn’t know he was going to school but not leaving the parking lot. He and his friend both failed out after one semester despite the fact that we had enrolled him in a structured program for twice exceptional students. The following year, he enrolled at a different CC. He lasted one year, earning 14 credits and being placed on academic probation.

I refused to pay for more college and he got a part-time job. He delivers for a restaurant. He lives with two friends in the home they inherited when their mom died last year. He is still working at the same job, learning responsibility. He is now looking for a full time job and thinking about going back to school.

Believe me, it broke my heart that my incredibly smart son failed out of college. His issue was that he is slightly Aspie and only wanted to study what he wanted to study. He wasn’t interested in English 101 so he failed it at two different schools.

Maybe your son does need to leave school and work for awhile. I have told my son that he needs to pay for school on his own and we will reimburse him for A’s and B’s. He is now planning to wait until he is old enough to get financial aid on his own.

Good luck, I do understand.

Oh you poor thing! Sit down and take a deep breath. This is not the end of the world. This is but the beginning of a plan that deals honestly and more effectively with your son’s challenges which will result in the completion of a college education. OK? Let’s go.

You and your son need to sit down and troubleshoot what exactly happened last semester in order to figure out what to do next. Types of questions to ask are: was he taking a course load that was too much for him to handle (was there not a good mix of classes both hard and “easy” and he got overwhelmed)? Was the course distribution OK but he had too much reading or information for him to get through (poor time management or too much for him to absorb properly)? Was he doing OK at some point but then started falling behind and never was able to catch up (needing tutoring but not getting it)?

Was the college simply too competitive? Should he have chosen a less intense school? If the problem was that he was really in over his head I think appealing for readmission would just prolong the agony and yield similar results.

Given his processing challenges there is no shame in regrouping and having him take a few courses at a community college to get some decent grades under his belt, not to mention some confidence back. Then see how it goes. If he does well in CC courses then he can apply for transfer later. And maybe in the meantime you can look into the colleges that have accommodations for students who need more help due to learning challenges. I know someone who has “processing” issues as well and she has been told by her guidance counselor to look for colleges that have a more nurturing environment, smaller classes and a supportive faculty.

Maybe have him do only a couple of classes at a CC and get a part time job… Maybe having a full load was too much for him to handle???

It is not the end of world, so try not to panic. Going away to school full time is just not for everyone. College is very hard and takes a whole lot of effort and commitment. If that college didn’t work out then it is time to look for an alternative.

Going to a nearby community college while living at home is probably the best idea. One of the nice things about a CC is that they will allow a student to go at their own pace. There will be a limited amount of financial aid that he can get according to the time that he spends in school, but that won’t be an issue if he is living at home and just needs the funds to pay for classes.

He can take just two classes per semester and get a part time job as well. I wouldn’t wait on him taking classes and let him take a break. Get him to jump right back in and get going to classes again. He will be able to focus better with just the two classes and be able to get better grades. It really doesn’t matter if it takes years longer to get the degree, tons of older people are doing the exact same thing.

Going to a local CC is a great idea. You will not have to spend so much money, because he will be back at home, and he can just take a few classes at a time. If he can take 2 classes he will have a much better chance of doing well. Maybe he can eventually take more but there is really no reason to rush.

He does need to get a part time job. Maybe he can find something that he likes a lot or is really good at and that will help to boost his confidence. You don’t want him sitting at home feeling sorry for himself, keeping busy is much better.

At the CC he can take his time with classes especially those that are really tough. For instance if you know that one class in particular is going to be very hard on him then have him take just the one. They will offer free tutoring that he can go to whenever he feels like it. Most CC’s will also have a job referral organization that will help him to find a job as well.

While jumping in and completing college sounds so wonderful because it is done so quickly, it is not the only way. He can be getting valuable job experience while going to school at the same time. Who knows, he could find a part time job that wants to pay for his classes. It happens.