Information for the parents of college students
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Category — Your Student in Difficulty

The Delicate Balance of Support and Self-Reliance

So much of the college experience is about balance.  Students work at learning to balance social life and studying, independence and responsibility, seriousness and frivolity.  As parents, it is sometimes difficult to watch as our students practice the skill of balance – and sometimes fail.  But just as we had to finally take the training wheels off and let go of the bicycle, we need to step back and watch as our students take off.

One of the balancing acts that many students struggle with, especially at the midpoint in a semester, is the balance between self-sufficiency and relying on others.  New college students, especially, may need to learn that being independent doesn’t necessarily mean they need to do everything alone.  Knowing when to rely on themselves and when to turn to others is part of responsible decision making.

Why wouldn’t my student ask for help if he needs it?

There are many reasons why students may not seek the help they need when they need it.

  • “I didn’t realize that I needed help.”
  • “I’ve never needed help before, why would I need it now?”
  • “Things will get better if I just wait long enough.”
  • “I’ll look as though I’m dumb if I ask for help.”
  • “Isn’t it cheating if I get help?”

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October 24, 2016   1 Comment

14 Suggestions of What to Do If (Not Necessarily When) Your Student Is Homesick

As parents sending our students off to college we’ve been told to expect that our student will be homesick. (We’ve written a post saying essentially the same thing – and it has some good advice). We’ve been told it’s inevitable. That it might happen right away or that it might take a while, but it will happen.  According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, close to 65% of college students will experience homesickness.  So it’s good to be prepared.

Is it really homesickness?

What is almost certain is that most students will experience some unhappiness, stress, and anxiety at some point.  It is a natural reaction to being out of your element and in unfamiliar territory. It’s what happens before you become, as Harlan Cohen terms it in his book The Naked Roommate, “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”  But are our students really homesick?

It depends on how you define homesick.  Are these students really missing home?  Are they really missing us? They hardly talked to us all summer. They’ve worked hard for years to get to this place. Just a few short weeks ago – or maybe days – they couldn’t wait to leave.  They couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Is it really home and parents that they are missing?

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August 23, 2016   No Comments

There is Life After Academic Dismissal! An Inspiring Story for the Holidays

As we approach what, for many of us, is the holiday season, we want to share an inspiring success story with you.  The story comes from one of our readers.

We often receive comments on posts or e-mails from both parents and students.  Many of these messages come at a time of difficulty – often around probation or dismissal or other crises.  It is often a time of struggle and uncertainty.  As often as we can, we offer a few words of encouragement or advice, and most of the time we never know what happens.

Here is a portion of one such comment, received in  the summer of 2013 on our post What to Do If Your Student is Academically Dismissed.


First of all, I really appreciate your responses!  I have learned a lot just by reading them.  I do have a similar issue with being Academically Dismissed.  I was attending school and majoring in Gerontology.  I attained my Associate in Arts degree prior.  I did very well my first 2 semesters, but then some personal tragedies began to unravel my life. . . . Unfortunately, due to my living situation being turned upside down and also my car breaking down and having to buy a new one, school was not feasible.  I stopped attending class because I had to go to work.  I was a mere 20 credits away from my degree. 

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December 21, 2015   1 Comment

Readmission to College: The Application Process

This is the second of two posts about the readmission process after academic dismissal. Be sure to read the first post for some suggestions about working with the college during your student’s time away.

Most students who are academically dismissed from college are asked to spend a certain period of time out of the school. That may be a semester, a year, or even longer. If your student has been working closely with the college after his dismissal, he will be clear about the length of time away, and he will have some information about how best to spend that time. 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.

The decision to return

Once your student feels ready to return to school, the first decision he will need to make is whether he will apply for readmission to his original school or consider transferring to another college or university. This is a very personal decision and should be made in conjunction with his family, and after gathering all of the necessary information from both his original school and any schools to which he is considering applying.

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October 23, 2014   No Comments

Readmission to College: Work With the School

If your student has been dismissed from college for poor academic performance (sometimes called Satisfactory Academic Progress), 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. We have several earlier posts that may help you with these stages of the process.

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

However, 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 – either at her former school or at a new school. She may have questions, but she may not be sure where to begin.

Let your student take ownership

It is important that your student, not you, do the work to prepare to return to school, but you may need to give her some guidance about necessary steps. All calls to the school, all e-mails to school offices, all visits to college offices, all application or appeal materials should be completed by your student and not you. The college is looking for responsibility on your student’s part. She should advocate for herself and make her own case. If you step in, you may actually hurt your student’s chances of being readmitted. [Read more →]

October 20, 2014   No Comments

Three Steps to Take If Your College Student Is Forced to Change Major

Statistics tell us that as many as 75% of college students will change their major during college. Some 10% of students may change their major as many as four times. That is a lot of shifting. However, when we think about students changing their major, we usually think about students changing their mind, discovering a new passion, finding a new field or career interest. What the statistics do not tell us is how many students may change their major – not through their choice: they are not opting out, the choice is being made for them.

Some majors at some colleges and universities have entrance requirements. Other majors have minimum GPA requirements in order to remain in that major. A student who has not done well in one or more courses required for a particular major may be blocked from the major, denied admission to the major, or dismissed from the major. Many departments institute these requirements because they know, from years of experience, that students who fall below these standards will ultimately not succeed. From the college’s viewpoint this makes sense for your student. However, you, and your student, wonder – what happens now? It can be a heartbreaking, and perhaps frightening, situation.

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June 5, 2014   No Comments

Do You Have a Super Senior? Making the Most of the Fifth Year of College

To every parent his or her student is a “super” kid, whether a senior or not.  But the term “Super Senior” is not necessarily the term that parents hope to hear when referring to their college students.

What is a Super Senior?

Super Senior is the term sometimes used to refer to a student who is a college senior in his fifth, or sixth, year of college.  He has already been a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior – and is now a Super Senior – or fifth (or sixth) year college student. One study has suggested that only approximately 39% of students graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years.  The Department of Education actually calculates a six year graduation rate, which comes closer to 59%.

So the term Super Senior is becoming increasingly common. But whether the numbers are accurate or not, or whether five or even six years is becoming the national average for completing a degree, if your student finds that she will be spending a fifth year in college, both you and your student should discuss the situation.


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May 12, 2014   No Comments

How to Tackle Tough Conversations with Your College Student

There are many reasons you might need to have a difficult conversation with your college student, and the middle or end of the year is often a time when that conversation needs to happen.  It might have to do with a poor semester academically, poor social decisions, financial issues, or many other possible situations.  Whatever the topic, chances are that you probably dread the conversation.  It’s important, it’s necessary, but you know that there are so many ways that it could go badly.

There is no getting around the fact that the conversation is probably going to be uncomfortable, but there are a few things that you can do to help it go more smoothly and to help both you and your student be more comfortable with the outcome.  Before you sit down to have that tough conversation with your student, consider a few things.

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January 16, 2014   No Comments

Your College Student’s Senioritis: Recognizing and Addressing It

This is the second of two posts about the senioritis sometimes experienced by college seniors.  In our first post we looked at some of the roots or causes of your student’s feelings.  In this post, we’ll consider what this senioritis may look like and how you, as a parent, might help your student cope.

In many ways, although the causes may differ, college senioritis may look very similar to high school senioritis.  Your usually motivated student suddenly loses interest in his coursework, missing classes and deadlines for assignments.  He doesn’t seem to care about his work and only puts forth a partial effort.  His grades are in jeopardy of slipping and he doesn’t seem to care.

Although it is possible that this may be due to “school fatigue” after sixteen or more years of school, we discussed in our last post several other possible causes.  These causes may lead to other symptoms that indicate that your student is a victim of senioritis.

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March 25, 2013   No Comments

Is Your College Senior Suffering from Senioritis? 13 Reasons Why It May Not Be What You Think

This is the first of two posts about the senioritis sometimes experienced by college seniors.  In this post we look at some of the roots or causes of your student’s feelings.  In our next post, we’ll consider what this senioritis may look like and how you, as a parent, might help your student cope.

We hear a lot about senioritis and high school seniors.  It’s that apathy and lack of motivation that hits in the latter part of their senior year when they’ve been accepted to college and they let their guard down and struggle to keep their grades up and stay focused on school.  Severe senioritis in that last year of high school could even result in having a college rescind a student’s admission, so it can be a serious ailment.

We hear less about senioritis during the last year of college, but it exists.  Often, it looks much like high school senioritis.  Your student has been in school now for sixteen or more years, and he is tired of being a student, loses focus and motivation, skips classes, does poorly on assignments, and generally appears unengaged.

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March 21, 2013   2 Comments