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Child failed out of college,first semester, HELP!!


Anonymous January 2, 2009

My child has just failed his first semester in college, away from home. He has the ability, although mildly motivated. It seems like he skipped many classes and assignments. I had an incling there was a problem and visited the small school about a month and a half ago. Professors said my child missed many classes. My child also admits to socializing too much with his new freedom. It appears as if drigs/alcohol are not an issue.
I'm lost as what to do. We drove up today to empty his dorm room, it was so sad.
I work in a school and deal with these issues alot but when it becomes personal.I feel lost.
The plan is to maybe enroll him in a community college, bring up his grades, and he'd like very much to try to re-enter the college that dismissed him, or enroll him in a local branch of a larger university for now. This local branch is not a large school.
Any suggestions, please!!

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healthy11 January 2, 2009

Welcome. I, too, have a son who just completed his first college semester but is currently on academic probation. His problems are not related to skipping classes, as much as poor organization/time management and probably too much socializing. I know that many students find their first semester at college to be a "rude awakening," so colleges often give freshmen the full year to get "their act together." If your son's school doesn't allow that, then
your plan of having your son attend a community college for this coming semester is wise, with the hope that it will allow him to bring up his grades, and remain eligible for insurance, etc. as a full-time student.
I'd like to invite you to join more of us in the College and Beyond Group at


tryingtohelp January 2, 2009

Thanks so much for your advice. It's so interesting that I work in a HS & deal with these issues, but now that it's my turn I feel immobilzed. It's been a bad week. My son isn't really a talker and says that the works not hard but the freedom was a problem. We appealed the dismissal but my som had not responded to the colleges overtures to help. Not good!
My son feels the local communituy-college is a " bad" school because it's a community-college. I do not feel this way. He thinks he may want to try the local branch of a larger state university. My fear is that it may be too challenging, maybe not. I'm thinking whether I should allow him to choose the community-college or the local state university branch. He will be living home for now, so many of the distractions of being away from home will be gone, although I only realize too well that other distractions exist. Your opinion?
Your kind to reply, I need to get this angst off my chest.


SoCalGal January 2, 2009

Tryingtohelp: So sorry to hear your news. As you know this is not an unusual situation. The bad news is that just because your son prefers the state college, it's a definite possibility that he won't be accepted before he completes 12 to 24 units at the local community college anyway.

The good news: one or two semesters at the local community college with good grades will most likely get him back into his original college. Your best bet is to have him spend a bit of time with the admissions counselors who can tell him exactly what he needs to do to be reinstated. This way, in the end, he will have a degree from that school and employers won't know that he didn't complete all of his units in one school.

It's very, very important that he takes the lead in handling this situation. Which means that if he prefers the four year school, let him put in the effort to get accepted. He'll take it more seriously and the pay-off is that he will be less likely to make this mistake again.


MagnetMom January 2, 2009

Hi Anon,

Just remember, when it comes to college graduation, it's not necessarily *how* he gets there, it's that you want your son to eventually arrive.

Some kids start at a four-year, but plenty start at a two-year (some of those to save money, some because they didn't focus in high school, and others because they start somewhere, and retrench).

When I graduated, most of my friends went to a great community college, and all of them went on to four-year programs. They stayed at home, spread their wings a little at a time and still had parents to gently remind (they might have used the word "nag") them to focus.

On the other hand, one girl went to a prestigious local college, hated it, came home to the community college, and ended up a year later moving on to a nearby state school. One of the kids I've coached in the last five years went to a renowned midwest pre-law program, and surprisingly didn't take into consideration the weather would be an issue for at least three months of the year. Without his own car, he was dormbound, and had dropped out before finals. He redirected at a great SoCal community college known for transfers, and was on his way.

Bottom line, your son's misstep isn't the end of the world. He needs to level with you and take responsibility for his scenario. I like SoCalGal's suggestion of talking to the dean as he exits and see what he needs to do to be reinstated. Ultimately, he needs to be responsible for his own behavior (and homework), but it might be a little easier at this point if he knows you'll be around to keep an eye on him.

Good luck, and I definitely welcome you to join the College and Beyond Group.


healthy11 January 2, 2009

Tryingtohelp, I had another detailed response ready to submit, but for some reason my computer, or this website, "burped" and deleted it.

I personally believe that the biggest challenge most freshmen face, and what "trips most students up," is their own lack of good time management and maturity, not academic content...Mom & dad aren't around to remind them to study, eat properly, and get adequate rest and exercise. Since your son will be living at home next semester, it may not matter as much which college he attends, assuming he can get admitted and cost isn't a deciding factor for your family. You'll be keeping an eye on him.

My son's situation is one where he already earned some credits at our local community college during high school. He wanted to attend a good 4-yr. university specifically for the opportunity of living independently, away from home. I just hope he has learned from this past semester, and makes necessary changes to be more successful next semester. Hopefully, your son will do likewise.

For future conversations, please do join more of us in the College and Beyond Group at


tryingtohelp January 3, 2009

Thanks to all of you who responded to my plea for help. They were helpful. Keep the replies coming, please.


jdaffron January 5, 2009

I'm assuming your son is 18, since that's the general age for first semester freshmen. If so, may I ask a question? What are you, as his mother, doing contacting his professors/teachers? He is legally an adult; ergo, Mom, you need to keep HANDS OFF. Now, I know how hard that is for a lot of parents - they've become "helicopter parents," unable to let go and let the kid FAIL and LEARN from his/her failure. If you don't, they will never learn.

I've got an 18 year old daughter who has, as you described your son, ability but no motivation. It's not, as her HS teachers have constantly told me, that she can't do the work, it's that she won't do it, on time, and turn it in, on time, to get the grades she should have. In our school district, here in Va., the teachers are instructed NOT to fail kids, only to give them "Incomplete". So, the kids never fail.

What in God's green earth does that teach them?

IF she goes to college next year, and she's fully expected to, she will have to pay for it herself (I refuse to relinquish the funds in her 529 plan because of her grades) and she will, if she lives at home, have to pay rent and utilities as well. I will no longer be involved in making sure she's up and out or that she has her homework. Once graduation day hits, I QUIT. She's all the time declaring she's an adult, well, then, she'll have to act as one.

While I understand your concern re: your son, you HAVE to let him FAIL and let HIM deal with it and let HIM get himself out of it. You are NOT helping matters any going to his teachers and him being in college. That's a line that should NEVER EVER be crossed. If he's to learn, just as my daughter is going to get a VERY rude awakening, then HE has to deal with it, NOT YOU.


healthy11 January 5, 2009

jdaffron, some colleges are more "supportive" than others and realize that few students magically turn 18 and become fully independent. If your student is over 18 and either gives permission for the school to talk to parents, or if a parent submits a copy of their latest tax form, showing the student is still a dependent, then the school may communicate with them.
While I understand your saying, "once graduation day hits, you quit," you haven't had to face that day, yet.
I hope your daughter goes to college and does well, and you don't have to face it. Please let us know how things are going a year from now.


MagnetMom January 5, 2009

jdaffron, I do find that position a little humorous. My son was 17 when he went away, and the laws are very complicated. I often found myself asking my son how he wanted things signed so he could take over midsemester when he suddenly became a "man."

Man is in quotes because as much as I'd like to think I'm completely off duty, the reality is life is rarely that linear--especially when discussing maturation.

While I advocated that the original poster's son handle this situation himself, the poster obviously doesn't want a repeat (what's that saying about the definition of insanity?), so as a caring parent, it's important to make sure the student has a different game plan so that a different result ensues.

There is a difference between supporting an adult child and still tying his shoes. I never got the impression the original poster was doing the latter.


831anne January 27, 2009

Do not despair! My first son also had a dismal first year in college, at an excellent state college, which turned out to be a very social situation for him. We brought him back home, and he enrolled him in a local community college. After one year at home he returned to the city of his first school, enrolled in their community college and took a full two years to get his AA. But he also learned study skills, scheduling skills between school and his part time job, and improved his motivation and initiative. We required that he pay for any class he had to retake because of any grade less than a "C" and after his first year all his grades and attendance improved. He graduated last year from a prestiguous UC school and has moved on to a good job.

Our second son also went to a state school away from home. His grades were fair but he also lacked motivation and discipline. He returned to our area but went to community college and lived with three roommates for three years. It took him three years to complete his AA but he has worked part time to help with finances. He is now finishing his senior year at a top UC school, and is applying for law school in one year.

CA's community colleges are an excellent preparation for both state and UC schools, but particularly the UC's. It provides a great preparation for four year institutions, provides great tuition rates, and most importantly, gives your son the time to mature and strengthen his study skills and learn how to make his way.

Best of luck; he can do it.

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