Review: The Disintegrating Student

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. Visit our Resources page for suggestions of important books for college parents and their students.

The Disintegrating Student: Struggling But Smart and Falling Apart . . . and How to Turn It Around by Dr. Jeanine Jannot is a book that will help any parent with a falling-apart student – or any parent who worries that their student might someday struggle. What Jannot recognizes, and explains so clearly for parents, is that many (most?) students will reach what Jannot calls a “rigor tipping point.” According to Jannot, “These students all had a history of outstanding academic achievement. . . And then, often without any apparent warning, some of the best and brightest of these conscientious, motivated kids seemed to fall apart, both academically and emotionally.”

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Readmitted to College! Now What?

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?

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8 Reasons Why a Summer Class May Make Sense for Your Student This Year

This spring has been unsettling, challenging, and downright scary for many of us, including our college students.  They’ve been uprooted from college and replanted at home, with little opportunity to go anywhere or see anyone other than their family. Like some garden plants, not all transplant well. All require a little extra care — some extra water and not too much sun — while they adjust.

Your student may have made the transition to college-from-home smoothly or may have struggled with this new learning environment. Fortunately for many students, the semester is either over or just about there.  It’s time for a collective sigh of relief.  However it turned out, at least it’s done.

Taking a break – or taking a class?

So why, then, might your student want to turn around and sign up for a class or two this summer — especially if they didn’t like this new online environment? Shouldn’t they just relax and breathe that sigh of relief that they got through it? Don’t they deserve a break?

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How to Drop Out of College (the Smart Way)

No, we’re not advocating that students drop out of college. Staying in college is a good thing and graduating from college is even better. But, unfortunately, a lot of students aren’t able to finish college as planned. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national six-year graduation rate is about 60%.  That means that 4 of 10 students who start college may drop out before graduating.

Why do students leave?

There are many reasons that students leave college.  There may be one overriding factor or there may be multiple factors. According to most surveys, the primary reason for leaving is financial. College tuition costs continue to rise and many students, and their families, find that they simply cannot continue to put together the necessary funds or continue to amass huge college loans.

Another reason for leaving is closely related to financial issues. According to one study, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 54% of students who attend college work full time.  Many of these students find that they cannot continue to balance a full time job and full time student load, and so they drop out.

Students may also leave college for reasons beyond financial. Some students find they are not prepared academically for college level work. Some cite lack of support or social difficulties such as fitting in, finding friends, or getting caught up in a culture of drinking or drugs. Some encounter mental health issues or lack the maturity to be able to function independently.  And some students may simply be unmotivated: perhaps they never wanted to attend college or they are uninspired by their major or field of study.

Whatever the reason, if your student begins to talk about dropping out of college, it can be scary. You’re not sure what to do or where to go from here.

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5 Situations that May Be Paralyzing Your College Student Right Now

There’s a rhythm to a college semester.

There’s the nervousness at the beginning of the semester as students look at the syllabus for each class and realize that there will be a lot of work to do. Gradually, however, routine settles in and work feels more manageable, and not as overwhelming as it seemed at first. This may be a bit of a honeymoon phase.

For many students, the first reality check may be midterm exams and midterm grades. This is the time to discover what has been working and, for some students, a recognition that some things need to change.

As students near the end of the semester, a second reality check occurs. Now there are only a few weeks remaining and some students may become paralyzed as they face their situation. They freeze because they’re not sure how to begin or how to deal with what needs to be done. If you feel that your student may be overwhelmed by any of these situations, start a conversation.

5 situations that may be paralyzing your student and how to take action

Attendance — Your student has missed a few classes.  Actually, your student has missed many classes. They haven’t been to class in a few days, or maybe even a few weeks.

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When Your College Student’s Class Isn’t Going Well

There are many reasons why your student may struggle in a class.  It may be something that your student is, or isn’t doing.  It may be the professor and/or teaching style.  It may be the subject matter. It may be the transition to college, or to sophomore year, or to upper level classes.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the reason is.  If your student is struggling, or doing poorly in a class, you worry.  You want to help.  Perhaps they should come home more often so you can check progress and their academic planner.  Perhaps you should call them every evening to make sure they are doing homework.  Perhaps you should speak to the professor.  Perhaps you should buy a duplicate set of textbooks so you can consult on the assignments to make sure they understand the material. (True story, it has happened!)  Perhaps you should just pull them out of school.

Wait! It’s time to take a breath.

None of these options is the answer.  You’ll still worry.  There’s really no way to get around that, but your student needs to find their own solutions.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t consult and help your student think through the options.  That’s part of your coaching role.  So here are some options to discuss with your student.

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How College Parents Can Help Their Student Avoid Sophomore Slump

College administrators, faculty, and parents place a lot of emphasis on the transition to college and the first-year experience.  We all know that these new college students, and their parents, will be undergoing a tremendous change in their lives as they enter the world of college.  Colleges run orientation programs, offer special classes and seminars for first-year students, communicate with these new students with encouragement and reminders, and often have a ”let it go” attitude when new students make mistakes or miss deadlines.

Once students complete that tumultuous first year of college, they face sophomore year and the changes that it brings.  Our sophomore students need just as much support from home, even though that need may be less obvious. As college parents, we can help our sophomore students realize that the concept of sophomore slump really does exist.

What is sophomore slump?

Sophomore slump refers to the phenomenon in which a second effort fails to live up to the quality of a first effort.  The term is also used in sports (for second year players) and in music (for second recordings by an artist).  At college, students in their second, or sophomore, year often experience both a let-down and a decrease in their grades.  If the word sophomore means ”wise fool,” it is an accurate description of how many second year students feel: they aren’t sure whether they feel wise or foolish at any given moment.

Why does sophomore slump happen?

There are several things that occur during the second year of college that can contribute to the slump that sophomores may encounter.  These are especially troubling if your student is unprepared for the differences during this year of college.  Parents and students need to understand the ways in which this year is different from that first year of college.

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When Your College Senior Hates Their Major

You’re almost at the finish line.  You’ve made it through that somewhat scary freshman year, the potential sophomore slump, junior year, and your student is now top of the heap — a senior!  It’s time for celebration and planning for Commencement.

But then it happens.  Your student decides that they hates their major.  They’re devastated.  You’re devastated.  You’re both at least a little scared.  Perhaps it’s the courses they’re now taking that sealed the deal.  Or perhaps they had an internship or opportunity to get out in the field and hated the experience.  Your student’s upset, depressed and at a loss.  And so are you.  What now?

It’s a very difficult situation and it’s natural to be upset.  Discovering late in the college experience that your major doesn’t seem right can feel overwhelming.  And, as is often the case, it’s almost harder as a parent to watch your student be so unhappy.  But the situation is not unique.  Many students have second, and third, and fourth, thoughts about major and career — even in their senior year.

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Helping Your College Student Cope with Stress

College students experience a lot of stress.  As parents, some of us are acutely aware of our student’s stress levels, and to others of us it may be less obvious.  Of course, not every student experiences stress, and some students actually thrive on a certain amount of it; but many college students find that increased pressure or anxiety are part of the experience of college.

Consider some of the following information gathered about student stress as you think about your own student’s potential stress levels.  Discuss some of these findings with your student to help them realize that they, and/or their friends, may not be alone if they are experiencing anxiety.

College students experience a lot of stress — but it’s not all bad

The Associated Press and MTV conducted a survey of college students to consider college student stress.  They surveyed over 2,200 students at 40 randomly chosen colleges throughout the United States.  Although the survey is several years old, the results have not changed much, or may be even more concerning in recent years.  Some of the findings of this College Stress and Mental Health poll are included below.

  • 85% of students feel stressed on a daily basis
  • 60% of students at some time have felt stress to the point of not being able to get work done
  • 70% of students have never considered talking to a counselor about their stress
  • 84% of students reach out to friends to help them with their stress
  • 67% of students reach out to parents for help with stress

The good news is that in spite of these statistics regarding stress levels, 74% of students reported feeling very or somewhat happy.  Clearly, not all stress is bad.

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Readmission to College After Time Away

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.

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