When Your College Student Is Struggling Or In Trouble

You send your college student off to college with high hopes.  It was a long road of applications, SATs, essays, and finally decision making.  You and your college student have survived and now you are ready to sit back and watch him thrive in the environment that he chose.

Suddenly, things are not going as planned.  Your student is struggling and having difficulty.  Your student may or may not be sharing details with you, but you sense that something is wrong.  You feel completely helpless, and you want to help.  This is every college parent’s nightmare.

Your student may be struggling for any number of reasons — from lack of preparedness, lack of motivation, lack of perseverance, too much partying, mental or emotional difficulties, or just plain homesickness.  Whatever the reason, you’re at a loss for where to turn.

Here at College Parent Central, we want to help you navigate all of the phases of college parenting, and for many families that includes navigating the dark waters of a student in trouble.

This post is an index to get you started.  Find the articles that most speak to your situation.

We hope you’ll also spend time browsing the site to find the articles that are most useful to you now — and in the months and years to come.

Here are a few things to think about right away —

  • How do you and your student face the immediate crisis?  Having a clear understanding of  the problem will help.
  • Are there underlying causes that led to this situation?
  • How can you and your student work together to find a solution?
  • How can you decide on a course of action?

The Crisis

When something goes wrong, you and your student are both in crisis.  It may help to know that you are not alone.  It may also help to remember that the definition of crisis is a moment when a decision needs to be made.  Something isn’t working, and you and your student will need to face some decisions.  The beginning is to clearly understand — and discuss with your student — exactly what the current situation is.

Signs That Your College Student May Be in Trouble

What FERPA Means for You and Your College Student

What Are College Parental Notification Policies?

What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed From College

Academically Dismissed from College? Time for a Reset

Academically Dismissed from College?  Ten Steps to Move On

What To Do If Your College Student is On Academic Probation

What Do I Do If My College Student is Homesick?

Help! My College Student Wants to Drop Out of College!

When Your College Student Is Unhappy

How You Can’t Help Your College Student Stay in School

Understanding Causes and Difficulties

Once you understand what the situation is, you and your student will need to try to understand what caused the moment of crisis.  If your student can’t get to the root causes, he is likely to find himself back in this situation again.  This may not be an easy process, but once the causes are discovered, the repair process can begin.

Nine Poor Decisions You Hope Your College Student Will Avoid

Help Freshmen Overcome First Semester Challenges

Is Your College Student Getting in His Own Way?

Is Your College Student Academically At-Risk?

Beating the Procrastination Monster: How Parents Can Help

The Smartest Word Your College Student Can Use — Why Students Don’t Ask for Help

Soft Skills, Strong Success: Fifteen Skills for College Readiness

How is Your Student’s Work/School Balance? Four Factors You and Your Student Should Consider

Working Together Toward a Solution

Your student may need your help to begin to move forward toward a solution.  It is important to remember that your role may be largely to act as a sounding board.  Your student will need to be the one to take action, but you can help him think about the best action to take.

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

How Parents Can Help College Students Value Their Mistakes

How Parents Can Help Their Student in Trouble

Ten Suggestions for College Parents to Help Students Through the Stress of Midterm Exams

Talking to Your College Student About Grades

Helping Your College Student Reduce Roommate Conflict

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

Talking to Your College Student About Stress

Helping Your College Student Be a Better Student: Twelve Questions to Ask

Twelve Things You Can Do to Help You Listen to Your College Student

Deciding on a Course of Action

Depending on your student’s situation and the factors that caused the crisis, the course of action may be clear or it may involve difficult decisions.  Help your student to realize that his goals are attainable only if he can create the action steps that will get him there.  You may need to help him break down the bigger goals into the smaller, immediate actions that will help him resolve his situation.

How to Help Your College Student Use the College Appeal Process Effectively

Ten Wise Decisions Your Student Can Make to Improve His GPA

Should My College Student Consider Retaking a Course?

Five Steps to Help Your College Student Turn Around a Poor Semester

Why Your College Student Should Talk to Her Professor If She’s Struggling

Help Your Student Get Started Talking to Professors

9 Ways to Help Your Student Get a Fresh Start for Second Semester

A Five Step Plan to Help Your College Student Salvage a Poor Semester

Eight Campus Resources Your College Student Should Know

Helping Your Student Find Support on Campus

Helping Your Student With Goal Setting — and Action Plans

The Smartest Word Your College Student Can Use — How to Ask for Help

Should My College Student Consider Summer Classes?

Should My College Student Consider Withdrawing from a Class?

Should My College Student Consider Withdrawing from College?

How to Help Your Student Who May Be Taking a Break from College

How to Make Sure Your Financial Support Helps Your College Student

How to Drop Out of College (The Smart Way)

Many students will encounter difficulties during their college career.  The lessons that they learn from these difficulties, and the way in which they handle these difficulties, can be some of the most valuable lessons they will learn.  Remember that you and your student want the same thing — success, however you both define it.  Your support and guidance can make the difference in how your student faces challenges.

FirstTerm banner ad

11 thoughts on “When Your College Student Is Struggling Or In Trouble”

  1. Kirsten – It sounds as though your daughter has been successful with the part-time classes that she has taken. If she doesn’t feel comfortable following up with the Dean at her former college or exploring new options, perhaps the part-time route is the one that will work best for her. It may take her longer to finish, but if she can do it comfortably, the important thing is reaching that finish line. She may need to get comfortable with an alternate route. What is important is that she sees that she is making progress even though it is not the path that she originally envisioned.

  2. I just found this website and there are a lot of really helpful articles.
    I am wondering what resources there are for a student who has withdrawn but now has trouble identifying what direction (major, school) she wants to pursue. My daughter attended college for three semesters and struggled with stress-related problems. She withdrew for a semester but it has stretched now to three. She’s worked and taken classes at the local university during this time. She’s very bright and intellectually curious but has not followed up with the dean of students at her former school to return there or looked seriously at what school she would like to transfer to as a matriculated student. She’s been seeing a therapist who feels that she’s gained self-confidence but he doesn’t have any idea on how to identify potential new majors or colleges. A friend suggested a life coach–but there are boatloads out there with no specific qualifications. Her high school counselors were mostly involved in checking off application items, not helping assess interests and recommending appropriate colleges. She’s feeling like she’s in quicksand, with no sure sense of how to get out of it without sinking. She’s feeling particularly down now as her high school friends will be starting their senior year in the fall and she’s working a retail job. Any advice on how to help her get back on track would be appreciated.

  3. Sara – It is so difficult to watch a child struggle. I know this must be hard for you. If your son is less interested in college right now, even community college, it might be good to take a break. Or perhaps, for now, he can take the courses that interest him and that may inspire him to other things. Is there someone in your local area to whom you might turn for advice? Perhaps a counselor or clergy member or therapist? Others may have more experience and suggestions. And your last comment about brain development may be truer than we think. Recent studies are confirming that brains develop later than many of us realize. It’s wonderful that you continue to be so supportive of your son.

  4. I have a 20 year old who just wants to lift weights. He has a job and goes to community college but I’ll get into that later. But he has no goals even with lifting he just likes the clam feeling he states he gets after 2 hours of it and lifting more weight. Now he hates his job gets panic attacks and OCD over wildest things and he stays lifting fixes that and lots of beer helps to. He has also never had friends and never got along with adults but yet he was quiet just blew them off and put his head down in high school. When all high schoolers would be out haven fun there he is lifting all night and playing Xbox. He did play football but got a bad injury due to lifting and over working himself when he knew playing in college was over I feel he just gave up on inside. He also didn’t do well in high school classes he does good in college unless it’s common core and I have a daughter who is 15 that does it for him and she even state he just don’t get it. He is so kind he will give anybody anything they need it’s just nothing has come easy to him unless it’s something that’s just out there. I have to give him refences for his jobs because he doesn’t know anybody that will back him. I fear if I die he will be lost in a world that doesn’t care. My son is 20 by way. I hope maybe his brain will just get there one day.

  5. Linda –
    Thanks for sharing your story. Your son does seem to be struggling, and having a twin brother who is doing OK must make things even more difficult – for both you and your son.

    The one piece that is not included in your description of the situation is what your son has to say about all of this? You talk about his grades in his summer class, but his explanation might be helpful. Does he truly feel that he has been putting forth all of his effort and simply cannot do the work? Or if he is being totally honest, does he admit that he hasn’t put in the work that he needs. And then the question is why not?

    What does he think about the prospect of not returning to school? Does he understand your concerns and your financial limitations?

    No one can tell you what to do as you know your family dynamic and limitations best. It does seem as though the one thing that may motivate your son is the ROTC which you say he loves. Will he be able to continue with that if he cannot return AND maintain better grades? Has he talked with anyone in the program about getting help?

    It is important that you work together with your son to create a plan. Many of the articles linked in this post should help. Talk with him about his goals and his plans to reach them. Share your limits. It may mean that he will need to spend a semester at home and show that he can get better grades. It may mean that you will let him return, but with the understanding that it will be only one semester – and with a plan in place to make use of all support services and tutoring that the college can offer. Perhaps with a restriction on the fraternity or other social activities. Ask your son what HE thinks got in the way of his success.

    Whether your son stays at home for a semester or returns to school, agree together on what you both expect as he moves through the semester and what it will take for him to either return to school after a semester at home or leave college at the end of another unsuccessful semester. Make sure that he has an action plan in place.

  6. I need an unbiased opinion about our situation. We have twin sons that attend different universities. Our issue is with our son who just completed his first year at a large university. He only earned 19 credits in his first 2 semesters as he took smaller loads and withdrew out of a difficult class each semester. His first semester he did pretty well not counting the dropped class. He earned around a 3.35 GPA. His second semester, he joined a fraternity(which we had strongly advised against due to his father’s experience with that) and joined the Air Force ROTC (which he loves). He became more social and earned a 1.8 GPA the second semester. Since we are cash flowing their college, we have always told them that college was on a semester by semester basis- we have always been very clear with our expectations. We told them if you screw up because you werent attending class or studying, you would be coming home the next semester. At the beginning of the summer, we told our son that he would need to take a class at the local community college and that if he didnt earn an A, he would not be allowed to return to his school in the Fall but would have to remain at home and attend CC here. This was not an unreasonable request-his work hours allow for alot of down time in which he sits at a desk with unlimited wifi access. A couple of weeks ago, we found out that he had not done so well on his first exam. Two days ago, he took another exam, which he studied 2 days for, and he felt very confident about it. He ended up with a 72%… Last night, we made him pull up his grades and his average in the class is a 73%. His final is Tuesday and it is very unlikely that he will even be able to get a B. As we looked through all of his grades, we see that he has done very poorly on lecture quizzes as well. This professor has so many graded assignments that even one major screw up would not have harmed his grade. Now we really have to determine if we will let him go back in 2 weeks. Are we being too harsh? Intellectually, he is smarter than his brother but he lacks time management skills, study skills, and work ethic. He was diagnosed with ADHD in 7th grade but hasn’t taken his medication for a couple of years (once I stopped reminding him to.) He doesn’t want to take it because it would ruin any chance of a career in the Air Force. He needs help in gaining time management and study skills but I’m not sure where to go for help in that. I know that we have probably lectured him more than we should have but it’s been a very emotional situation and will be even more so in 2 weeks when his brother gets to go back to college but he doesnt. In your opinion, what should we do???

  7. I’m glad the information here can help, Melissa. The important thing to realize is that there ARE steps. Sometimes the timetable – or the path – is not what we planned, but it’s possible to move forward. Good luck to your son and to you.

  8. So glad to have found this site. My son was just academically dismissed… and as parents we are feeling lost. Your articles are really helping us plan the next steps! Kudos and thanks!

  9. Thanks, BK. I’m glad to hear that you’re finding the information helpful. There’s a lot more to know than we may first realize.

  10. I spent 5 years attending Long Beach University and I needed just another semester to finish my career. Unfortunally I failed twice a test Right before the end of school year, they told me they could not offer that major to me any more. Any advice about what to do? Feeling destroyed.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Log In


Log In to Favorite articles and Post listings

Enter College Name to See Local Results

Log In

Contact Us

Forgot your password?

Your new password has been sent to your email!

Logout Successful!

Find Your School

You just missed it! This listing has been filled.

Post your own housing listing on Uloop and have students reach out to you!

Upload An Image

Please select an image to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Provide URL where image can be downloaded
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Please enter First Name Please enter Last Name Please enter Phone
Please enter Email
Please enter Message

By clicking this button,
you agree to the terms of use

Please enter Email

By clicking "Create Alert" I agree to the Uloop Terms of Use.

Image not available.

Success, your registration has been submitted

An email has been sent to you with a link to verify your registration
Image not available.
By clicking Get Started or Sign In you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service