More and more students right now are taking a break from college. Some need a semester off and others need more time. Some choose to leave school and others may be academically dismissed or suspended, most often because they were overwhelmed or unprepared rather than for lack of ability.
If your student is dismissed from college, it can be a traumatic event for both your student and you. Deciding what to do and finding the way back can be a complex but often fulfilling process. If your student is newly dismissed, we have several articles that may help you and your student find your way.
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
This article begins where those articles left off.
Your student has taken some time off, has applied for readmission and has been accepted. Now what?
New status – readmitted student
First of all, celebrate! Your student has done the work to be readmitted, the college agrees that they are ready, and it is a fresh start. Congratulate your student on this new milestone.
Now the real work begins. The bottom line is to do everything the college requires, suggests, or offers in the way of support. Do it all.
- First things first, clarify information about financial aid (file your FAFSA), housing, and a schedule of classes. Think carefully about how many credits make sense. Your student needs to be enrolled in a certain number of credits to be considered a full-time student (important for financial aid and housing), but should be careful not to try to take on too much to “make up for lost time.” Easing back in makes sense.
- Your student should clarify their status. Are they on probationary status? Do they need to meet a certain GPA target to stay? What do they need to achieve by the end of this semester?
- Are there particular requirements associated with your student’s new readmitted status? Do they need to meet regularly with an advisor? Do they need to attend workshops or meetings? Is there an academic success course that they need to complete? Make sure all requirements or recommendations are clear.
- Work with an advisor to understand what is necessary and create a clear path to graduation. Assess current credits and GPA. If your student took any courses while dismissed, be clear about any equivalencies and transfer credits. (Make sure transcripts have been sent.) Determine what requirements remain for graduation and be clear about a reasonable timeline. Your student should ask whether any failed courses can be repeated to improve their GPA.
If your student is realistic from the outset about what will be required of them – and the path to get to the finish line – your student will be more likely to have the motivation to move forward.
A new mindset?
It is essential that your student determine how things will be different this time around. This work began with your student understanding what went wrong in the first place. It helps if your student can put this into words and articulate the lessons learned. This will help your student set out on a new path that will lead to success.
There are several questions your student will need to ask and decisions that your student will need to make:
- Be clear about your reasons for returning to school. Make sure this is not just a default because you don’t know what else to do. You need to want to be in school and want to succeed. Why are you there?
- Decide what you are going to change this time around. This is a new start, but if you do the same things you did last time, you will likely see the same results. What are you going to do differently?
- Anticipate obstacles. Although it is nice to believe that with new motivation everything will go smoothly, very few journeys are without obstacles to overcome. You will encounter difficulties. If you can anticipate what those obstacles are likely to be, you will be in a better position to deal with them. Don’t be taken by surprise. What might throw you off track?
- Determine what you can control and what is out of your control. Anticipating obstacles may help you avoid some of them, but there will be others that are unavoidable. Think carefully about which challenges you can control and which are beyond what you can do alone. What actions can you take to avoid issues this time around?
- Keep your expectations realistic. You might want to complete college as quickly as possible, but it is important not to overreach. Small, solid steps will move you forward more successfully than leaps that lead to setbacks. How many credits can you reasonably manage well? How does school fit in with the rest of your life? Job? Responsibilities?
- Decide at the outset that you will ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to do this alone. Asking for help is a reasonable thing to do and can make all of the difference. Make your list of all of the resources available. Who will you turn to for help?
Take actions for success – Beyond the requirements
As a readmitted student, you may be required to meet with an advisor regularly, attend an academic success class, attend study hall, or take other actions. Your school has imposed these requirements because they know these help students stay on track. At the very least, do all that is required.
Beyond the minimum requirements, however, find the habits that will help you stay focused and in control of your progress.
- Seek out every form of support the college has to offer. Ask your advisor what is available if you’re not sure. Take advantage of a writing or speaking centers, tutoring, study groups, faculty office hours, counseling, advising. Use all of your resources.
- Create goals and action plans – and “what if” plans for when things go wrong. Think about academic, social, financial, and mental health situations.
- Put together an “advisory board” that can help guide you. In addition to college resources, be sure you have personal supports in place. Find your people.
- Create a solid time management and organizational plan. Find a system for dealing with appointments, calendar items, deadlines, files. Use a planner. (One of the best keys to time management and success.)
- Find a good place to get your studying done. (Hint: it may not be your dorm room.) Consider the library. A quiet lounge. Find your corner.
- Go to class.
- Take care of your health – get sleep, exercise, eat well.
- Be honest with yourself. Dig deep and do some soul-searching when it is necessary. Keep your eyes and your mind open and focused on your goals.
Parents – stepping back when it feels as though you should step in
Watching your student on the edge of the failure/success cliff is hard. If your student was dismissed from school or chose to leave because things weren’t going well, you’ve lived through difficult times. Now, as your student picks up and tries to move forward, it’s so tempting to give that extra help to ensure success this time around.
This is the time to step back. Share your advice with your student, but then let them forge their path. Re-entry may not be easy, but it builds self-efficacy (fancy term for believing in your own ability to do what is necessary to get the results you want) and it is a cause for celebration. Most students who leave school and then return are ultimately successful. Believe in your student.
Continue to give encouragement and celebrate each win. Gently remind if you see your student veering off track. Congratulate them for their resilience and perseverance. These are essential qualities that will serve your student well for the rest of their lives.
Every journey is different, and sometimes it is in the difficulty of the journey that we find the most valuable rewards.
Help! My Student Wants to Drop Out of College!