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


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

  1. Angel – Your boyfriend is in a difficult situation and it certainly must be discouraging. Obviously, one important lesson that he has learned through all of this is that doubling up on courses in order to try to complete more credits doesn’t work for him. One of the hardest things for him to do may be to be patient. Take fewer courses at a time so that he can do well. There seems to be a bit of a “Catch-22” here – he can’t get back into the school without raising his GPA, but he can’t raise his GPA if he can’t take more credits. Although cost will certainly be different, one option might be to investigate a smaller, less selective, private college. They may be more willing to take a chance based on previous history of success in some semesters. He might be able to complete his degree there or at least take appropriate courses to raise his GPA. At least talk to admission staff at a couple of schools to see if they can offer any suggestions for transfer. Good luck to both of you.

  2. Hi,
    I’ve been looking everywhere for anything to give my bf and I hope. He got academically disqualified this quarter. He first went to community college for three years and had a high gpa, he got into ucsd for physics but his counselor told him he could switch into engineering if he finished the required courses and apply after the first year. While doing that, he had a difficult time and was bullied which affected his grades. he was first on subject to disqualification, then got out of it was doing good until he crammed physics courses together to graduate and the curve just wasnt in his favor. he was disqualified his second year, winter as a transfer but petitioned and got back in right away and did good spring and summer until this winter when he tried to cram again 5 courses. after his first exam he was just really depressed but did okay in the other classes but it was not high enough for him to raise his gpa enough not to be disqualified. We have called state schools to see if he can transfer out and they have told us that he has to go back to community, raise his gpa and then apply. but we looked into it further and becuase he had done pretty much every class for his major in community, there are not enough courses for him to be able to raise his gpa and the state school counselor basically told him it wont be worth it to apply. He’s extremely depressed and we just really don’t know what we can do. He’s willing to do whatever he can to get back into school, we just dont know what to do. He’s so incredibly smart, I know he can do it I just think he can do much better at a different school, we just dont know how to get there. any advice would be greatly, truly and sincerely appreciated.

  3. Hi, I need some guidance about my son. He was valedictorian of his class in high school. He started college in the fall of 2011 and was in a 5-year co-op program (school 6 months and work full time 6 months for 5 years, no summers off), When he started, he had a much needed academic scholarship and was getting good grades. By the end of year 3 his grades dropped and he lost the scholarship. Year 4 was a disaster for him academically and he was dismissed in the spring of 2015. He lost his focus and was just burned out. He has been home since and working full time.

    Now he is ready to go back to another college and finish his degree, but his GPA is 2.3 and doesn’t meet the transfer student minimum requirements of most colleges. His transcript does show good/decent grades for the first 3 years, but the cumulative GPA is low because of year 4. My advice to him was to send a letter to the college he wants to attend along with the application explaining the bad grades. My question is what reasons would a college look for in order to be convinced to accept him with a low GPA? What reasons should he not give? Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    • Grace, your advice is right on the mark. Your son needs to send a letter (and possibly ask for an interview as well) to explain – honestly – what happened. Then one of the keys is to explain what he has learned and how he plans to do things differently this time around. Being honest is the first key and showing that he has learned and has a new plan is a second key. Colleges understand that things happen and some students hit roadblocks. When it comes to admission or readmission, they want to know that there is a plan in place so that it won’t happen again.

  4. Summer – Sometimes taking some time off from college to decide what to do is a good thing, even though it may not seem so at the time. It sounds as though you’ve used your time to make the decision to return to school. Good for you!

    The decision of whether to return to your original school or to transfer is an individual one. I suggest that you talk to people at both places. The advantage of applying to transfer to a new school is that you will have a fresh start with your GPA and you will not need to dig yourself out. But you would want to see how many of your courses will transfer. How many credits will you lose? If you return to your original school, you will have some credits, but will need to work harder to pull up your GPA. Talk to both schools so that you can make an informed decision.

    Good luck on your new start!

  5. Hello Vicki,
    I was academically dismissed in Jan of 16 since then I’ve been wondering if going back to school was the best choice. I have concluded that it is I am ready to go back and continue my education. I have decided to change my major. My question is should I go back to my old college and appeal to readmission or is it better to go to another school and start fresh. And would I need to appeal for that or do I need to apply as a transfer.

  6. Duong – Ask your college whether there is an appeal process. There may be a way to continue to receive aid for a semester or a year with an academic plan to improve your grades. If not, although it may not be the path that you want to take, you might need to take a leave of absence and spend some time working to be able to pay tuition. Or take a few classes at a community college that will transfer.

  7. Hi, i just got financial aid disqualified but not dismiss ,so whát should i do . Right now i am worrring for my life .can you anwer me as soon ass possible

  8. Susan – It sounds as though you have obviously had a very difficult time. Although you have shared many details, without knowing the whole situation, I wouldn’t begin to give you advice. 45 is definitely not too late to create and work toward goals, so don’t give up. One option, although it requires patience, is to begin by obtaining your GED. That first step will allow you to enroll in a reputable online program somewhere. Many online programs allow you to move at your own pace, so you may be surprised at how quickly you can progress. Good luck and stick with it.

  9. Manjeet – You will need to deal directly with your college to ask about completing your degree. In the meantime, if the problem was attendance, work to find out or to correct the reasons you were missing so many classes. If the problem still exists, you will not be able to be successful.

  10. I am 45 and have been expelled from the 22 and up program. Not for grades as I am at the top of the class. Rather because I didn’t fit in and was bothered each day with shameful adult class bullying. I ignored most instances. However, it only made the others continue by stealing flash cards and making constant snide remarks. Even instructors joined in the fun. I eventually got upset and a few choice words were said in the halls and on the phone to other students. this got me in trouble. I was upset when they said they were going to dismiss me from the program and cried. They said this made me seem unstable and unable to do the job I was studying for. My average for this course is a 98%. At 45 I am lost. I don’t know what to do next. I am staying with friends and have nowhere to go. No job skills and no GED to get into even an online course. I feel cheated. These other students are failing the course and will no doubt be discharged for grades and attendance . The student who caused the last incident was sent home for the remainder of the day and reprimanded for the same type of thing the following day I was expelled and wasn’t the one standing up and yelling. there were three of them and I never left my seat. I had appealed and found they had made their decision and could not be swayed to spite my perfect attendance and superior grades. Being told by teachers and administration that I would be impossible to place in a job, was unteachable because I had no GED and shouldn’t be there were among many discouraging things I have been told by the staff as well as that I am an expressive personality and the teacher would like to smack expressive personalities. I don’t know what to do. I went through the WIIA program to get my books and they refuse to give me the rest stating that the purchased them. this is only true in that they purchased them with money from the willing program allotted to me in my name and the teacher was giving them away to another student the day I was dismissed before I even made it home. who do I speak to where do turn what can I do. my ability to pass is clear . my desire equally so. it is up to me to find employment after the fact it is up to them to allow me the education without saying things like smack or shouldn’t be here. They say it is not the end of the world and that my life isn’t over. I am 45 practically homeless on welfare and have no job or job skills outside of house painting which I physically can’t do anymore. Please tell me what to do.

  11. Hi Vicki,
    I got dismissed from Nassau Community College in May 2016. Problem was that I failed one class couple times and that’s why I got dismissed.

  12. Amy – Good for you for getting back on track with your grades! Generally, the dismissal is part of your permanent academic record and it cannot be removed. However, whenever you apply somewhere, you should include a letter that acknowledges the dismissal, briefly explains what happened, and then talks about what you have done to overcome the problem and prove yourself since then. That is what colleges are most interested in.

    As far as applying to other schools, the best thing is to talk directly to the admission office of the school you would like to attend. They can let you know whether you are eligible and what paperwork you would need.

    Good luck as you move forward!

  13. Hi Vicki,
    I was academically dismissed in Jan. 2015 from a UC. Since then I have attended community college and have gained enough credits for transfer. I am going to apply in the Fall and my question is, how do I get rid of the dismissal? (if possible) Also, am I able to apply to other UC’s for next year or am I dismissed from the entire UC system? Finally, do I need a letter from the Dean at my previous university in order to transfer elsewhere?
    Thank You

    • Hello, I just recently checked my grades and saw I was academically dismissed. Thing is I transferred home and started in Spring semester instead of the Fall (which wasn’t the best decision. As I only had the spring Semester, I failed two of my classes and passed the other two which ultimately resulted in my dismissal. As I worry about disappointing my mom and my family, I worry about telling her what happened since the school I attended was one of my first choices for university and since I was dismissed, I feel like a failure. But I have to know, should I immediately ask to be readmitted or appeal as I didn’t have the whole year to have a substantial grade improvement? Or should I wait the whole year out and attend a different community college?

      • Amanda –
        Discovering that you’ve been academically dismissed can sometimes come as a shock. There are a couple of things that I would suggest that you think about at this point.

        First of all, while you failed 2 classes, you say you also passed 2 classes. That isn’t the result you had hoped for, but it isn’t a total failure either. You succeeded in 2 classes. Hold on to that thought. The first semester after transfer can be difficult.

        I suggest that you think about what the difference was between the 2 failed classes and the 2 successful classes. This will help you analyze what went wrong. You need to discover what you need to change going forward to be successful. You obviously did something right in 2 classes. How can you build on that?

        Second, talk to your family. Once you have thought about what you need to change for success, let them know that something didn’t work, but that you have a plan for how to succeed in the future. Let them know that you’ve learned from the experience. I’ll bet they will be there to support you!

        Finally, to the question of whether to appeal or apply for readmission, see what the college policy is. Then decide whether you are ready to make the changes you’ve analyzed. If you think you’re ready now, appeal or re-apply and be sure to include in your letter or application what you’ve learned and what you plan to do differently. Take responsibility, but let them know you are ready to make changes. However, if you think you might need more time before continuing, consider taking a semester or even a year off to be sure that you are ready to move forward.

        Lots to think about, but there is a way to move forward. Best of luck! (Although it’s more hard work than luck.)

  14. Past comments are now back! Not sure what happened, but it should be fixed now. So many interesting stories contained in these comments – I’m glad they haven’t disappeared permanently.

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