Information for the parents of college students
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What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed From College

When you send your student off to college you hope and assume that he will be successful.  Most students are successful and do well.  However, some students struggle – either socially or academically – for any number of reasons.  No parent wants to receive the news that his or her student has been academically dismissed from college because of poor performance.  It is distressing and disheartening news.  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 academically 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 satisfactory 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 to dismiss.  The purpose of the appeal is usually 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 academically 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 abilities and 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 and how to use her time off.  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 readmission or reinstatement?

In most cases of academic dismissal, 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.  They will be looking for 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 prior to dismissal.  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 completely 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.

Related Posts:

What FERPA Means for You and Your College Student

How Parents Can Help College Students Value Their Mistakes

Helping Your College Student Avoid “How Do I Tell My Parents?” Fears

What to Say to Your College Student Who is In Trouble, Dismissed, or On Probation

Academically Dismissed from College?  Time for a Reset

Academically Dismissed from College? Ten Steps to Move On



1 Jasmine { 11.19.15 at 12:43 am }

Hi Vicki

I will be academically dismissed from my community college the end of this semester. This Fall was the start of my second year, so after only one year I have failed. One big problem is my first semester I failed 4/5 classes I took. My second semester I retook the four classes but only passed two. This semester it looks like the other two will be failing as well. So it’s been three attempts at the same two classes, which I’m pretty sure is the limit for retaking a class. I will be taking Spring off to reflect and try to get my life together but I will be enrolling in a different CC next Fall. Now I know I will be able to start fresh for the new CC, but I am worried about financial aid. If I do extremely well in the new CC will I start to receive financial aid again? Or will I have to start again at my first CC once the dismissal period is over? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


2 Vicki { 11.21.15 at 1:52 pm }

Jasmine – It is not easy to feel that you have failed, but use this experience as a time for learning. Taking a semester off to reflect is a good idea. Think carefully about why you failed. Was the material too hard? Then when you return, try something more basic. Or were you unable to put in the time that you needed? When you return, start more slowly – perhaps with only one or two courses at a time until you have some success.

I do not have the answer about your financial aid, but the financial aid office at the college will be able to counsel you. They know the requirements and restrictions. And ask at the other college as well. Don’t hesitate to keep asking people questions. Colleges want to see students succeed. Let them help you understand what you need to do.

3 Chavelita { 12.14.15 at 9:24 pm }

Hello Vicki,

I just need some advice I’ve been really stressed out and very depressed about school. I’ve always knew colleg was going to be difficult, but never like this. I started school fall 2014 and I was taking five classes I was doing pretty well until I started losing focus. I ended up with one F, 2D’s, B and one C. My Gpa put me in probation. I ended up taking the following summer off and retaking one class which did help my gpa. I got more confident with myself and I took two bio classes this past fall semester however I’m so overwhelmed and stressed it makes me just want to give up, but at the same time Vicki I aspire to become an obstetrician and I can’t afford not to do good in school. Do you have any advice for me?

4 Vicki { 12.27.15 at 5:09 pm }

Chavelita – It’s wonderful to have a clear goal, but sometimes we need to think carefully about the steps that will get us toward that goal. And sometimes we need to be patient. And then sometimes we need to be open to discovering alternative goals. I don’t know which situation you will find yourself in.

I can only suggest a couple of things to think about. You said you lost focus during your first semester. Why? What threw you off track? Think, too, about why the bio classes overwhelmed you so much. Is it too much? Is the subject difficult? If it is the subject, then you may need to rethink medical school and consider alternatives. Or do you have too many other things going on in your life that overwhelm you? If so, can you eliminate anything so that you can focus on school? Do you need to take some time off – or take only a couple of classes at a time?

There are options, but they all depend on you doing some work to discover what the barriers truly are. Not everyone takes a direct route toward their initial goal. You may need to alter the route, or alter the goal. Be patient with yourself, but ask yourself the hard questions.

5 Devin Quezaire { 01.09.16 at 1:11 pm }

I have been dismissed I went through the appeal process and was denied. I now have to wait a year to reappeal but that to me seems like to long of a wait I have a back up plan to attend community college to get my GPA and credits so that my return I have proof, I can be a capable student but taking Genreal education classes won’t take a year at the most if like Art institute schedule 2 quarters to take the classes I need. Is there a way for me to some how get into school before the specified time, such as I show proof I’ve gone to therapy and recovered from my mental disorder and also while doing so improved my grades with in the last 6 months

6 Vicki { 01.09.16 at 2:54 pm }

Devin –
It sounds as though you have a concrete plan for moving ahead. Good for you. Taking some classes at a community college to demonstrate your capabilities makes sense. In addition to the General Education courses that you plan, is there anything in your major that would transfer? Or perhaps just additional credits? Although most colleges ask you to take a year away after dismissal, if you have a strong GPA after one semester, you could ask about applying for readmission early. It might happen. If not, you could consider taking an extra class or two or just working for a semester to give you a financial cushion.

It sounds as though you are on the road to moving ahead. Good luck this coming semester!

7 Brittany { 02.08.16 at 1:30 pm }

I was just suspended academically for the spring. I started at a technical college back in fall of 2013 and after 4 semesters and 2 half-summer terms chose to change my major entirely to another field, I was not doing as well as I wanted making mostly Ds a few Bs and some ‘s and was not as interested. I switched from Architecture to Physical Therapy and during my first semester under the new degree I had undergone some extraneous circumstances, and failed 2 courses. I am currently choosing to actually take this as a break and fix my situation however I am curious as to if it would be better to switch schools afterwards to continue.

Thank you for any answers.

8 Vicki Nelson { 02.13.16 at 9:21 am }

Brittany – Congratulations on recognizing that you might need a break from school. Sometimes taking a detour may not be the route that we planned, but can give some important time to find what you want. Hopefully, after some time away, you’ll have a better idea of where your passion lies. That insight may help you decide whether you want to return to the same institution or make a fresh start somewhere else. Have patience with yourself.

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