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My son failing after 1st semester of college


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onehen January 9, 2013


My "honors" student just failed a course & did very poorly in his 1st semester of college; a very prestigious one (meaning expensive). Do I get involved by calling school to ask what he can do going forward, or do I let him go back for 2nd semester where he promises he will do better (consequences = come home, pay rent, community college)? I understand the whole let them take responsibility & fix it on their own attitude, however, I also worry that he won't be able to get past this. Any ideas?

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MagnetMom January 10, 2013


Hi onehen, and welcome to the Parent Community at GreatSchools.

I understand where you're coming from. My son was gifted and sailed through high school and I was worried that entire first semester while he was on his own. It turns out, it's a very common phenomenon for gifted kids to get to college and struggle because they're not used to having to study and stay organized.

You need to have an honest talk with him about what he will do differently. And he will need to talk to the school. Typically colleges do not want parents to call; instead they will want your son to call. There will be homework and study resources on campus. He should meet with the professors he failed under last semester, and he should also plan on meeting with every new professor simply to introduce himself and be ready to visit office hours regularly. He may need to hire additional tutors.

There are lessons to be learned here, and there is no right answer. He could stay at the college, and work harder (and work differently) and be fine. Or he could come home, recoup, and attend community college and work toward getting back to the university.

Many kids go off and struggle with the new freedoms and figure it out. Others will opt to come home and be closer to friends and family and a watchful eye.

It's a life lesson, but one he can learn plenty from. And you can learn that he can handle it himself as well.

Good luck, and let us know what happens.

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onehen January 10, 2013


Magnet Mom: Thank you for your response; his father & I basically told him exactly what you suggested. We've had a long week of discussions & offering guidance, but ultimately it is his responsibility. It's just hard to know he's going back & to be worried that he won't follow through or fall into the same pattern. I'm not a helicopter mom, so I wasn't sure if I should reach out to the college to let them know our concerns. I guess this is the "cut the strings" part for real! Thank you, it's good to know other people went through the same thing.

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jkgraff2 January 27, 2013


Have you gotten in contact with the parent support group at your college? It may also have resources to help you (and son) deal with this. My very bright son also did much worse in several classes than I would have expected, but I was somewhat prepared for this. The parent outreach "class" during new student orientation made sure we knew what we could/couldn't do, who to contact, what forms to fill out to get access to records, and most of all who to contact for parent-to-parent support. I already knew some of the problems bright students often have (I teach GATE students), but it was reassuring to know that the parent group and the university advising staff also were experienced in dealing with the same issues. Good Luck!

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jaclynkb88 January 28, 2013


I feel as though this is becoming the norm, even for highly intelligent students. There is such a huge difference in expectations in high school and college. For example, in high school, there are daily grades (homework, classwork, WORKSHEETS, etc.) in which contribute highly to your overall class grade whereas, in college, you are responsible for 2-4 assignements per class per semester. In other words, you have less of an opportunity to build your grade. Also, in high school, the assignments are mostly teacher-instructed, as opposed to college where they are independent. College is a whole different ball game and I feel like high schools do such a poor job preparing students for the transition. I agree with MagnetMom, your son will have to go about accessing resources on his own and work differently than last semester in order to be successful. I feel as though he likely learned his lesson just from doing poorly the first semester, but having incentives and consequences is always a good plan, as well.

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TeacherParent January 28, 2013


What went wrong? If your son is over 18, colleges often won't talk with you unless he signs a permission slip - though you're paying the tuition... You can try talking to a Dean - these days many colleges will let you take the class and substitute the higher grade if you get a higher grade this time around. It would be easy to find out if that's possible usually on the college's website.

Students can make promises but for his promise to have any weight to it, he should be able to tell you what went wrong in his "F" class. Did he attend regularly? Did he do poorly on tests? Why? Did he not understand the material? Did he hand in all the papers?

Likely one of the answers will be 'no' - and I'd check out the college's website - sometimes there were midterm grades posted - did he get a midterm grade for this class?

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britfan789 January 29, 2013


I would suggest that you have your son pay you back for the courses that he failed. I do not recommend that you contact the school or join a support group for parents. It is time for your son to be on his own. There are far too many helicopter parents out there already. If he does not take responsibility for himself, you may be dealing with a maturity issue, in which case, perhaps a job and some part-time classes at the community college would be appropriate.

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onehen January 31, 2013


Thank you for the responses! My son is doing well so far; he met with academic advising & is utilizing the learning center/tutoring at the college. He is very happy with his courses this semester & is staying on top of all his assignments. (he had to provide us w/his password to check his progress). I think he at least learned what he doesn't want to major in & is sampling different areas. Always hard to expect an 18 yr old to know what he wants to do for the rest of his life. We did not contact the school, I still feel it is his responsibility to fix the problem. I worry, of course, but I have to let him grow up & learn from his mistakes. He already has a job for the summer, so he knows he'll be paying to re-take the class he failed.



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