Question for parents of college dropouts?

How did you help your child get back on their feet? Did you send your child back to their university the following year/semester(assuming they didn’t get kicked out for good)? Did you tell them they had to go to community before going back to university again? Did you make them get therapy? If they did go back to university, what did you do to differently to make sure your kid wouldn’t drop out again?


Wouldn’t it depend on the reason for leaving and what the former student is interested in doing?

  • Ran out of money (problem is worse if there is unpaid debt).
  • Dismissed for academic reasons.
  • Dismissed for other reasons (violation of not-specifically-academic rules).
  • Medical reasons (including mental health).
  • Did not pass secondary admission to major or progression requirements in major.
  • Combination, such as ran out of money because lost merit scholarship that required a very high GPA to renew.
  • Disinterest in college.

Your questions imply a lot more parental agency than that of the child. One of mine dropped out and made her own choices, first to work, then to do community college and after a few years, entered a degree completion program online.

When the first attempt at college doesn’t work out, there are many paths. Everything from going back to the original college to never finishing, which can also sometimes be okay.

One they are 18, you cannot “make” them do therapy or anything else, unless you are willing to kick them out of the house or something. Therapy works best when they choose it.


My son started a tech school but was living in a dorm 3 hours from home. He navigated a bad roommate situation and a serious dive in his mental health all while staying 3 hours away. Since the pandemic, he is taking a pause in school and just working. He loves his job but knows it is not a forever thing (hes working at a restaurant). He was fortunate to find a super supportive boss who genuinely looks out for him like a second mom and some better friends. He is now gaining the confidence to step back into classes perhaps this fall. He has intermittantly gone on antidepressants and seen a therapist. But hes paying his own rent and food, etc and has matured a ton!


Withdrew from school entirely, the only requirement being that after a 2 week-ish period to resettle and reset, he had to do a list of chores I left him to check off. That was mostly to give his day some structure and his hands something to do. Then, we started talking about what did he want – ultimately — . After that, we talked about how does he get there.

Going back is hard. Mine took a couple online courses, under our roof. He underwent some evaluative testing, and then saw a therapist for a bit. When he finally did goback to school,it was with a reduced class load, and he continued to live at home (we are near a college). No curfew, no new rules, no backseat driving. Do not yell. Do not hand out ultimatums. (You’ll maybe want to, but it simply does not help a bit)

There is no timeline here , nothing needs to rush. Don’t hang your head, don’t be ashamed (unless something illegal/shameful got you here, and even then…). You are all on the same side, but listen and be patient and confident in the thought that eventuallly things can (and usually do) work out. Hang in there.


Our son took a medical withdrawal in October. He has had evaluations, therapy, medication, will be taking a class this summer at a local university and hopefully in the fall.


My S had a disastrous first college semester during Covid. Then he took an official one year leave, but when it came time to re-enroll for Spring of 2022, he said he was not interested in school at all and wasn’t going back. In the meantime he’d gotten a job with a contractor and is learning valuable skills and makes good money. He says the only schooling he will consider is some type of trade school related to construction. We are disappointed that a traditional college experience won’t be part of his path, but he is 20 years old and making his own decisions. He is living with us, but doesn’t pay rent, although H and I have been discussing it.


We had ours pay rent – it was a token amount — and we kept track of it and gave it back to him as help for a security deposit when he moved out.


I am thinking of something along these lines…

1 Like

My oldest had a rough time in high school and rather than dropping out of college just didn’t go to college at all. Did a few borderline disastrous community college courses junior year of high school and then swore no more school after high school graduation in spring 2019. Fast forward through the first year of the pandemic and hunkering down at home with parents and younger sister and lo and behold that kid went out and got a job (I was not suggesting jobs because this was before the vaccine). After working at Starbucks for a few months and seeing fellow employees going to the various colleges and community colleges in the area we were surprised by an announcement of starting community college in the fall. Took this spring off, but has enrolled for summer classes online now.

My advice would be to not push. When your kid is ready they will let you know. In the meantime you might suggest working. That can really help build a young adult’s confidence and help them focus on what they want out of life. My kid saw co-workers going to nursing school or going on to law school or going back to community college for other coursework and saw what the world was like when you worked at Starbucks and had to deal with the general public.

Both my kids went to the same small charter school and I think didn’t have a great sense of how they measured up against the rest of the folks out there in the general public, but once they started working retail jobs they realized that they were plenty smart and there were plenty of not smart people out there. I think it helped them realize that they don’t have to cure cancer or be the next Einstein to go to college and get a decent job. And working retail made them realize they don’t want to do that for the rest of their lives, either.

Now my Starbucks employee is still a little unsure of the path after community college, but definitely is more open to higher education and more possibilities now. Oh, and got an apartment with a friend this spring too.