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How to Deal with Academic Dismissal


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As parents of college students, we have high hopes for them to succeed in school. Sometimes, though, our students struggle.

It starts with failing a course here or there. If F’s become a pattern and your student’s GPA falls below 2.0, they could be put on academic probation, which is intended as a warning that they needs to reverse course or risk being academically dismissed.

If your student is currently under academic probation or facing academic dismissal, it’s important that they understand their options. Let’s start by explaining what an academic dismissal is.

What Is Academic Dismissal?

Academic dismissal is what happens if your student cannot get their GPA above 2.0 by the end of their probation period. The length of academic probation varies from school to school, but is typically just one or two semesters long.

Simply put, academic dismissal means being asked to leave the school because of continued poor academic performance. It doesn’t mean your student can never go to college again; it just means they have to put a stop to their education at their current institution for the time being.

In most cases, an academic dismissal will show up permanently on your student’s transcript, so even if they go on to get a college degree in the future, it will remain part of their record.

Can Your Student Appeal Their Academic Dismissal?

Your student may have the option to appeal their dismissal decision — it depends on the college and the specific circumstances.

If an appeal is on the table, talk to your student about whether or not they should do it. If there were personal factors that led to their poor performance, like an illness or grief over the loss of a loved one, then an appeal might be a good idea.

Or maybe you and your student have identified some issues that could be worked on to help improve their grades after a successful appeal.

If you can make a plan for better time management and more energy dedicated to schoolwork, as well as getting a tutor and joining a study group, your student may very well find success if their appeal is granted.

A few tips for appealing an academic dismissal:

1. Do it in person if possible.
  • If your student’s college allows for in-person appeals, this is a chance for your student to impress the school’s appeals committee.
  • Encourage your student to dress nicely, show up early, express gratitude for the opportunity to appeal, and be sincere about their past mistakes and desire to improve.
2. Be honest in a written appeal.
  • In the case of submitting a written appeal, encourage your student to write thoughtfully about why they struggled in the past, and to describe the changes they will make to improve their grades if they’re allowed to re-enroll.
  • Politeness, humility and honesty are the name of the game here.
3. Parents should stay on the sidelines.
  • You may want to do everything you can to help your student get back into college, but an appeals committee will not be impressed if you have to hold your student’s hand through an in-person appeal.
  • They want to see that the student is capable of speaking up for themselves and outlining their failures and plans to fix them.

The same goes for a written appeal. If your student isn’t able to articulate on their own why they’ve struggled academically or how they plan to succeed in the future, maybe they aren’t ready to go back to school.

If your student feels disenchanted with school and doesn’t think they would do much better if they successfully appealed their dismissal and re-enrolled, it might be time for a break to assess their future.

What Should Your Student Do if They Are Academically Dismissed?

If your student is dismissed for good, you have a few options:

Immediately apply to other colleges
Re-apply to the school from which they were dismissed
  • Each school has different policies around re-applying after dismissal.
  • Usually, dismissed students have to wait at least one year.
  • Some schools require them to get a certain amount of credits from an accredited institution like a local community college as well.
Take a break
  • An academic dismissal is an opportunity for you and your student to consider their options for the future.
  • A semester off might give them some clarity about what they really want. If, after this break, they feel strongly about applying to college again, then that could be the best route for them.
  • They may want to start out at a community college, and work their way back up to a 4-year institution from there.
  • Keep in mind that college isn’t for everybody. Your student may be able to reach their goals without a bachelor’s degree.

How to Support Your Student the Next Time Around

If your student is allowed to return to their school or decides to enroll in another school in the future, they need a strategy to avoid going down the path that led to their dismissal in the first place.

There are so many possible reasons for a student to have difficulty with their grades.

Maybe they struggle with time management, or it’s a challenge to balance school and employment. Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are common during the college years. Stressed students struggling with money, personal relationships, homesickness or the impacts of the current unsettling public health and economic situation may find themselves performing poorly in the classroom (whether in person or virtual).

Your support can make a big difference.

Encourage your struggling student to:

  • Ask the professor for help
  • Talk to an academic advisor
  • Seek help at their school’s tutoring center
  • Join or form a study group with other students
  • Develop time management skills — get time management tips for students here >

Read about how to help your student with that one tough class here >

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