When Your College Student is Struggling or in Trouble

It was a long road of applications, SATs, essays, and finally decision making. You sent your college student off to college with high hopes — and sometimes a few concerns as well.

And now your student is struggling or in trouble. The road is suddenly harder and longer than you anticipated. Your student may or may not be sharing details with you, but you know, or sense that something is wrong. You want to help, but you’re not sure what to do. This is every college parent’s nightmare.

There may be many reasons that your student is having difficulty. They may be academic, social, physical, emotional. The college may be able to help, or you may feel that the school is part of the problem. Where do you turn?

Somehow, you’ve found your way to College Parent Central, and we hope we can help. Our goal is 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.

We probably can’t solve your student’s problems, but we’d like to give you some things to think about that may help during this time as you and your student explore options and make decisions.

What do you need help with?

There are lots of topics to explore as you work at supporting your college student, but here are two categories of articles that might be a good jumping off place.

Your Student in Difficulty
Supporting Your College Student

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? Defining and understanding the nature of the problem will help.
  • What are some of the 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?

Start Here

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some articles to help you begin to think about your student’s situation and how to begin to work together for a solution.

The Crisis

When something goes wrong, you and your student are both in a moment of crisis. It may help to know that you are not alone. It may also help to think about one definition of crisis as 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.

Recognizing Signs That Your College Student May Be in Trouble and How to Help
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?
Should My College Student Consider Withdrawing from a Class?
Help! My College Student Wants to Drop Out of College!
Should My College Student Consider Withdrawing from 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?
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
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. It will be important that you help your student 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?
How to Help Your Student Who May Be Taking a Break from College
How to Make Sure Your Financial Support Helps Your College Student

Each path is different

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 the challenges ahead.

Connect with us and continue to get information that will help.

Take your time reading the articles on our website, bookmark the site and return as you need more information.

But please sign up for our e-mail list to receive our monthly newsletter. We’ll let you know what’s new on College Parent Central and also send information about important and relevant topics. We promise not to overfill your inbox — and we never share your information with anyone else.


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