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. 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 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


330 thoughts on “What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed From College”

  1. I hope that this post is still monitored. I have a question. I have been academically expelled and appealing the decision is not an option as it some time has passed. I am not sure what to do as I was almost finished with my degree it may have been about 7 years ago. If my credits are good, can I possibly get back in to my university or maybe transfer to another? Worse case scenario, have to start from scratch, but still allowed in. Not sure if I have options. I thought of just going to a technical college and getting an associates degree. I would really appreciate any insight you could give me as in my field (accounting), the degree is the only way you get promoted or make the better pay.

    • Doug – Thanks for your question. It’s never too late to complete your degree! I often see students who have been out of school for many years as they took time to work and raise a family and then they return. You should definitely investigate your options. You might start with your original school, but know that if you can get back in you will need to raise your GPA. If you struggled and were academically dismissed, it may be difficult to pull it up. If you apply to a new school, your GPA does not follow you. Investigate the schools you want to consider and get in touch with their Admissions Office. Be honest about your original struggles and ask about your options. Check out several schools and see what they say. Be sure to ask whether any of your credits from your original school will transfer. Ask how long it will take you to complete your degree. Find the school that works best – and perhaps has a larger population of returning students. Many students who take some time away and then return are the most motivated I’ve seen. I’m sure you will be, too!

  2. My daughter got dismissed from the program of nursing. can she appeal legally another worse high a lawyer would help her to be reinstated into the program ?

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  4. Hey, I got disqualified from Cal State Univerisity- Northridge. My overall GPA is 1.95 and i know most schools require a 2.0 GPA. I have completed 3 years at CSUN and don’t want those credits to go to waste, and i want to go to a different university anywhere in the US. What schools would accept me? What should I do?

    • Michelle, the first thing you need to do, before you think about applying to any schools, is to evaluate carefully what went wrong at CSUN. Be honest with yourself, take some time away and create a plan for what is going to be different when you return to school. If you skip this step, you will just repeat your problems in a different place. Once you know you’re ready for a different experience, begin to look at schools you’d like to attend. Talk to their admissions office about what credits they will accept. Most schools will not allow you to transfer any credits for classes under a “C.” Ask about their application process. Don’t go in blind, but use the admissions office to get lots of information about whether you’ll qualify and what credits transfer. Be ready to explain what went wrong and what will be different this time. You might also need to take a few classes at a local community college to show that you are capable of college level work. These credits might also transfer, but will also show the college that you are ready. Take your time to be sure that you will succeed this time. Good luck.

  5. My daughter recently received a letter of Dissmisal and says that if she want to appeal it to write a paper to the the school simply cause she doesn’t have enough credits. Would the letter actually help her you think . She doesn’t do anything but study and I hate that she has to this it’s a waste of time

    • Lori –
      Yes, I do think an appeal letter will help your daughter. The school is looking for her explanation of why she is below credits as well as her plan to make up the credits and/or be sure that she does not fall below again. They are also looking for her seriousness by taking the time to write a careful letter. Your daughter should be sure that the letter is carefully and respectfully written, explaining, but not blaming anyone else for her situation. She should make sure that she clearly explains her plan for moving forward. The school does not want to lose good students, but they need reassurance that she understands that she needs to move forward differently.
      Good luck!


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