If your student has been dismissed from college for poor academic performance, it can be a devastating blow. Both you and your student will need to come to terms with the reality, evaluate what happened, and decide how to move forward.
Most students who are academically dismissed from college are asked to spend a certain period of time out of school. That may be a semester, a year, or even longer. The college recognizes that something went wrong for the student when he was enrolled and hopes that some time away will allow the student to address whatever issues interfered with his success.
Once you and your student have evaluated the situation, and perhaps taken some time away from school, your student may be ready to get back on track.
The decision to return
Before your student begins the readmission process he should be very sure that he is ready to return and to be successful. Some students may be ready to return to school fairly quickly. Perhaps the dismissal itself was all that it took for the student to have a “wake-up call” and he is ready to return with a new attitude and approach. Other students may have significant and serious work to do during their time away. Perhaps your student simply needs time to mature and understand the importance of college. Perhaps he needs to find direction and motivation. Perhaps he has serious health, mental health, or family/life issues that need to be addressed before he can return and be successful.
Each student’s timetable may be different. It is important that your student not attempt to return until he is ready or he will find himself in trouble once again. If your student feels ready to return to school, then he may be ready to begin the process.
Begin the conversation with the school early
This is perhaps the most important – and often the most underutilized – step in the re-entry process. Your student needs to be very clear about the process of readmission, about the requirements, and about his status once he returns. The best way to get accurate information about all of these factors is to speak directly to the college.
Your student may begin to determine what he needs to do by carefully reading his dismissal letter and any material that accompanied it. Colleges often explain clearly whether the student can be readmitted and explain the process.
Your student should then follow up with a call or visit to someone at the school. This meeting will help determine what your student needs to do during his time away – should he take classes elsewhere, complete community service, find a job? Through his conversation, your student will be better able to identify the college’s areas of concern as well as weaknesses that he needs to address. Just as your student worked closely with the Admissions office during the original application process; he should work closely with the appropriate campus office throughout the readmission process.
Students are sometimes reluctant to approach the college to ask about the possibilities of readmission after dismissal. But the best source of accurate information and advice is the college itself. Your student will also be demonstrating initiative as well as commitment to returning. Encourage your student to stay in touch throughout his time away.
Help your student think carefully about all of the questions that he may need to ask. He should try to avoid asking questions that are answered in his original dismissal letter. Remember that he is trying to show the college that he has done his homework. Part of that preparation is knowing what questions to ask.
First steps to re-entry
The first step in preparing to reapply will be to gather together all necessary and helpful materials and documentation. Although the school will have a copy of your student’s transcript, it might be helpful to have it to refresh his mind about specific classes/grades.
Your student should gather any additional documentation that might be helpful – verification of employment, transcripts from classes taken elsewhere during the dismissal period, any relevant medical information or doctor’s letters, letters of reference, documentation of finances if relevant, death notices or other documentation if family issues were a factor.
The more information that your student has to support his application the stronger his case will be. Taking time and care to be specific and to do this homework will demonstrate your student’s commitment to returning and succeeding.
Let your student take ownership
Although you may need to give some guidance, it is important that your student do the work to prepare to return to school. All calls to the school, all e-mails, all visits to college offices, all application or appeal materials should be completed by your student. The college is looking for responsibility on your student’s part. He should advocate for himself and make his own case. If you step in, you may actually hurt your student’s chances of being readmitted.
The college may have a specific form that will need to be completed in order to apply for readmission. As part of that form, or in addition to it, your student may have an opportunity to submit a letter describing his understanding of his difficulties, explaining how he spent his time away, and explaining what he hopes to do differently upon his return.
It is essential that your student take time and care with all portions of the readmission application. He wants to demonstrate seriousness and maturity. Here are a few elements and characteristics of a good readmission packet.
- Be completely honest in all materials. Do not exaggerate, do not fabricate, do not omit anything relevant. Explain the factors that caused the original problems as well as his understanding of them.
- The college does not owe your student readmission. Be careful that the letter does not sound angry or that your student does not appear to feel entitled.
- Own responsibility for the situation. Do not blame anyone else – the college, parents, teachers, a boss, a girlfriend or boyfriend.
- Have a plan. This is important. Demonstrate an understanding of what it will take to succeed. Demonstrate that the time away has allowed for understanding, goal setting, and an action plan to reach those goals.
Once your student has been readmitted, his work actually begins. It is important that he understand that he may return on probationary status, may be required to sign a readmissions contract, may be required to meet with a counselor or advisor, may be required to attend success workshops. It is important that he do all that is asked or required of him.
Encourage your student to reach out to all available support. Encourage him to think carefully about potential “what if” scenarios. He may have action plans, but “what if” something goes wrong? How will he respond? Encourage your student to work closely with his Advisor to have a realistic sense of what he needs to do to complete his degree. The more that your student feels in control of his path, the more successful he is likely to be.
Many students who return to school after academic dismissal can be entirely successful. This marks a turning point for your student. This may not be the path that you or your student originally imagined, but it can be a successful path that will eventually lead your student to graduation.