Your Student's College Dismissal

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When your student goes to college you hope and assume that he will be successful.  Most students are successful and do well.  However, some students struggle –  for any number of reasons.  No parent wants to receive the news that his or her student has been dismissed from college because of poor performance.  But it does happen, and parents need to help students deal with the situation.  Although you may be disappointed, and possibly angry, your response may be a large factor in helping your student move forward. 

Here are some things to consider if your college student is dismissed from college.

 What does academic dismissal mean?

 A student may be academically dismissed from a school for failure to make “satisfactory academic progress”.  This may mean various things and may be defined differently by different schools.  Generally, it means either that the student’s GPA or Grade Point Average is too low (she received poor grades) or that she has not made progress by completing enough credits (she dropped or withdrew from too many courses each semester).  A student who does not make satisfactory progress may then be dismissed or told that she can no longer be enrolled in the college.

 Should your student appeal the decision?

 In some cases, a college may allow a student to appeal the decision.  The purpose of the appeal is to allow the student to explain extenuating circumstances or to provide additional information that may not have been available at the time that the decision was made.  He may be able to demonstrate that some circumstance has changed – perhaps a health situation, work situation, family situation, or even a change of focus or field of study.  It is important that you and your student remember, however, that an appeal is meant as an exception and to demonstrate extraordinary circumstances.  It is not meant as an avenue simply because the student is unhappy with the decision of the college.  An appeal may not be in the best interest of the student.

 Should your student apply immediately to another college?

 If your student is dismissed, his first thought, and yours, may be to apply immediately to another school.  This may be appropriate.  However, before doing that, you and your student may need to consider what factors caused the problems that warranted his dismissal.  Jumping immediately back in may not be the best solution.

 Has your student taken time to reassess?

 A student who is dismissed from college is not doomed to failure.  You may need to help your student view this as a time to reassess his abilities, behaviors, and priorities.  He was originally admitted to the college because of his potential, but something has prevented him from living up to that potential.  Now is a time to step back and reevaluate.  Before you and your student decide to immediately appeal the dismissal or to apply to a different school, consider carefully whether taking a break may be the best course of action for your student.

 Would some time out be beneficial?

 An academic dismissal from college happens for a reason.  Something has prevented your student from succeeding.  She may need your support more than ever now to think about how to proceed.  For many dismissed students, taking a break from their current routine and setting may be the best path to success, even if it involves an unexpected detour.  Your student may decide to spend a year working to gain experience and perspective.  Your student may decide to take a course or two at a local community college to achieve some success and/or explore a new area of study.  Your student may need to move back home for a semester or a year to achieve some balance and focus. How you respond to this situation will help your student know how to respond.  Helping your student see this as an important, if unplanned, step in her path will help her to use the time constructively.

 Should your student apply for reinstatement?

 In most cases, the student may be eligible to apply for readmission or reinstatement after a certain period of time.  This is different from appealing the decision at the time of dismissal.  One thing that your student will have had time to consider during his time off is whether or not he wants to return to the same institution or to transfer to another college.  If he wants to return, he should check the policy of his college.  Most schools require that a student “sit out” for a semester or a year.  When students apply for readmission, the college may be looking for certain factors, such as indications from the student that things will be different if he returns.  He may be asked to submit a personal statement giving a compelling argument that he has addressed whatever challenges he had.  They may be looking for successful completion of some credits at a community college or some other institution.  They may ask whether social, family, or personal issues have been addressed.

 Is your student prepared for a fresh start?

 If your student has used his time off from his college productively, he may be ready to return to school with a renewed focus and a new outlook.  Many students who have been dismissed return to their previous college – or another college - and are successful.  Helping your student see this time as an opportunity rather than a set-back will mean that he can use the time off to his advantage.  This may not be the path that either of you originally had in mind, but it may be a path that, in the long run, will be most beneficial to your student.  Having your support as a parent will help him to discover and accomplish his goals.

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