My College:
Dear Adina

Time Off From College — How Long Is Too Long?

Adina Glickman


Hi Adina,

I have a question (or maybe a few questions!) about my son who has taken time off from college to try to become a professional cyclist. He completed his first two years of college, but has been off for almost two years now. My question is whether, when and how to encourage him to go back. Do you have any thoughts? Right now, we are just trusting to time, but maybe that's foolish.

Also, do you have a sense of what sort of schools might be easier to navigate for a returning student? I wonder if he might feel awkward in a small liberal arts school like the one he started at. Maybe a bigger university would be easier? Thanks, Adina!


Hi Parent!

A dream pursued, and a parent in the cheering section! How fantastic! I can’t tell from your letter where he is in his progress towards his goal, but I’m guessing he has not yet made it to the top which is why you’re wondering if it’s time to return to school.

Stopping out of college is one of the best things young people can do. It’s an adult decision that reveals that they're listening to an inner voice that is questioning predetermined pathways and self-actualizing.

That’s all marvelous, but for parents, when our kid stops walking on that easily understood college path, it can feel like you’re falling off a cliff.

Both of my sisters left college in their second year. My parents, bless their hearts, championed (or at least accepted) their decisions to stop out, and though they may have endured sleepless nights of worry, it didn’t seem to color the that’s-just-fine-with-us message they gave my sisters.

One sister returned years later to become a doctor and single parent. The other returned to get her CPA and was the business manager of a private school for 25 years, and now after retiring is pursuing her Ph.D in Archaeology.

Oh, and my two nieces and nephew also stopped out in their respective second years, and all three are now back in school studying international politics, law, and genetics.

The takeaway: Decisions we make when we’re 19 or 20 help shape us, but they don’t rule anything in or out. When a young adult leaves college before graduating, it doesn’t mean they’ll never return — and in fact can very well mean they will return when they know what they want from their education.

Back to me and my sisters. As the youngest of three, I was determined to be first at something, so I zipped through and graduated in four years with a degree in music. Within five years I had pivoted away from music to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. Who knows what would have happened to those five depressing years in the music industry had I not been so determined to be done with college as quickly as possible. The moral of this story is that a straightforward and uncomplicated four-year college experience doesn’t necessarily signify a straightforward and uncomplicated career trajectory.

I suspect your goal is to help your son achieve his goals, so encouraging him to return to college is only useful if it enables him to progress in his life. You can help him see connections where college might benefit his efforts, but that encouragement needs to be in the context of what he wants for himself. College is many things to many people, so asking why he would want to return is going to yield much better information than where he would want to go.

I have a few thoughts on where to go when he decides it’s time. First, he doesn’t have to go all in at first. Taking a course or two at a community college (alongside many young and older adults who are in his shoes) can be a wonderful and gradual return to academic work. Second, at any school of interest, I recommend looking specifically at whether there are transfer student resources, especially those that work to help students feel part of a cohort.

And finally, I always think that a better question than “where” is “why” someone wants to go to college. The “why” will surface good information on the kinds of experiences the student wants to have, and can help them both narrow the field in deciding where to apply, and give them a real sense of whether they’re finding what they're looking for at each school they're considering.

Good luck to you, and keep cheering!

Yours,

Adina Signature

Have a question? Ask Adina

Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching, which offers academic, life and career coaching to young adults. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at adinaglickman.com.

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    18 hours ago
    CollegiateParent

    Hey Colleges – How About a School Picture Day?

    When my kids were in elementary school, I always tried to volunteer on School Picture Day. It was fun to see all the students each year looking photo-ready, many with new haircuts, outfits, and big smiles. The perk for keeping kids in line all day and refereeing battles with plastic combs was a free basic photo
    package of your child.

    And any parent who has paid for school pictures knows this is sweet swag, because school pics are pricey. And the marketing geniuses at these photo companies know how to sucker parents. They’d send home an enormous packet full of all kinds of glossy photos of your adorable, precious child. Big prints, small prints, wallet-sized prints, bookmarks, and heart-shaped keychain pics. And that was just the start!

    If you went to their website, you could find a hundred more products to purchase, so that every living relative of yours could receive a mug, a calendar, or a magnet. And they made it difficult to simply buy one class photo and a 5” x 7” for your desk frame. Even the smallest packages had stuff you didn’t want, which is why we all have dusty boxes full of kid pictures stuffed away in our closets. (If you don’t, I’m impressed with your purging skills.)

    But what I grasp now is that having our elementary kids line up each year at school on two occasions – for fall and spring pictures – was not really what we needed. Our kids were living in our houses then, and we saw them up close and personal every single day. To the point where we often closed our eyes, took some deep, cleansing breaths, and wished we could just disappear for an hour and NOT see their sweet, little faces.

    Plus, we could take our own pictures of them any darn time we wanted – at their games, their performances, during spirit week, and on their birthdays. We had an overabundance of photo ops.
    But now we’re college parents, and our kids aren’t living with us. We’re not closing our eyes in frustration, sneaking off for a little peace and quiet in our bathrooms. (Or was that just me?) We’re
    closing our eyes and wishing that our kids were about to walk in the door and ask for a snack, just like they did when they were seven.

    Many of us haven’t gotten more than a couple peace-sign selfies since they left home a month ago. We miss their faces, and right now I’d pay a ridiculous price for a picture of my smiling son on a mug, with cheesy, autumn trees Photoshopped in behind him.

    It shouldn’t be too much to ask colleges for a fall photo of our kids. We won’t care about backgrounds -most of their campuses have beautiful architecture and green spaces at the ready. Is it too much to ask for one quick shot, in between classes? I’m willing to bet more of us would purchase a package now.

    Let’s try this, college!

    - Marybeth Loyd Bock, MPH
    ... See MoreSee Less

    Hey Colleges – How About a School Picture Day?  When my kids were in elementary school, I always tried to volunteer on School Picture Day. It was fun to see all the students each year looking photo-ready, many with new haircuts, outfits, and big smiles. The perk for keeping kids in line all day and refereeing battles with plastic combs was a free basic photo
package of your child.  And any parent who has paid for school pictures knows this is sweet swag, because school pics are pricey. And the marketing geniuses at these photo companies know how to sucker parents. They’d send home an enormous packet full of all kinds of glossy photos of your adorable, precious child. Big prints, small prints, wallet-sized prints, bookmarks, and heart-shaped keychain pics. And that was just the start!  If you went to their website, you could find a hundred more products to purchase, so that every living relative of yours could receive a mug, a calendar, or a magnet. And they made it difficult to simply buy one class photo and a 5” x 7” for your desk frame. Even the smallest packages had stuff you didn’t want, which is why we all have dusty boxes full of kid pictures stuffed away in our closets. (If you don’t, I’m impressed with your purging skills.)  But what I grasp now is that having our elementary kids line up each year at school on two occasions – for fall and spring pictures – was not really what we needed. Our kids were living in our houses then, and we saw them up close and personal every single day. To the point where we often closed our eyes, took some deep, cleansing breaths, and wished we could just disappear for an hour and NOT see their sweet, little faces.  Plus, we could take our own pictures of them any darn time we wanted – at their games, their performances, during spirit week, and on their birthdays. We had an overabundance of photo ops.
But now we’re college parents, and our kids aren’t living with us. We’re not closing our eyes in frustration, sneaking off for a little peace and quiet in our bathrooms. (Or was that just me?) We’re
closing our eyes and wishing that our kids were about to walk in the door and ask for a snack, just like they did when they were seven.  Many of us haven’t gotten more than a couple peace-sign selfies since they left home a month ago. We miss their faces, and right now I’d pay a ridiculous price for a picture of my smiling son on a mug, with cheesy, autumn trees Photoshopped in behind him.  It shouldn’t be too much to ask colleges for a fall photo of our kids. We won’t care about backgrounds -most of their campuses have beautiful architecture and green spaces at the ready. Is it too much to ask for one quick shot, in between classes? I’m willing to bet more of us would purchase a package now.  Let’s try this, college!  - Marybeth Loyd Bock, MPH

    Comment on Facebook

    Marybeth Loyd Bock this is too funny- takes me back - I still have those crazy plastic photo keychains! 😂

    Goodness, I’d love a glimpse of my college freshman “out in the wild”!

    I would LOVE this 💖

    22 hours ago
    CollegiateParent

    My daughter has been busy from morning till night with a flurry of activities to welcome new students to her college campus. There’s been mini golf on the lawn, epic games of giant Jenga, bingo nights, spa nights, dorm meetings, roommate bonding activities, and a class photo with every new student sporting their crisp class t-shirts in a beautiful shade of emerald, for they are the new green class of 2025.

    Except my daughter is actually a member of her school’s red class. The class of 2024.

    She is a sophomore returning to her campus as an Orientation Mentor, providing guidance, support and information to new students as they join the college community. She’s been tasked with supporting new students in a transition she never experienced in this traditional way.

    Her own first-year orientation was virtual due to the raging pandemic last fall. And while she was so grateful to be able to start her college experience on campus a year ago (many students didn't have that option), there were no in-person meet-ups, no class picnics and games on the lawn, and no roommate to share a new space and a new life with. Like most of the entering class of 2024, her college experience was lived through a computer screen and socially distanced small gatherings, grab-and-go meals and masked faces.

    My daughter is thrilled to have this opportunity to participate in (secondhand through the freshmen) the in-person college orientation she never had. Although she admits it’s bittersweet as she now realizes all that she — and all this year's sophomores — missed.

    (continue reading this blog post from No Sick Days For Mom—Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Writer:
    www.collegiateparent.com/student-life/our-sophomores-are-still-new/ )
    ... See MoreSee Less

    My daughter has been busy from morning till night with a flurry of activities to welcome new students to her college campus. There’s been mini golf on the lawn, epic games of giant Jenga, bingo nights, spa nights, dorm meetings, roommate bonding activities, and a class photo with every new student sporting their crisp class t-shirts in a beautiful shade of emerald, for they are the new green class of 2025.  Except my daughter is actually a member of her school’s red class. The class of 2024.  She is a sophomore returning to her campus as an Orientation Mentor, providing guidance, support and information to new students as they join the college community. She’s been tasked with supporting new students in a transition she never experienced in this traditional way.  Her own first-year orientation was virtual due to the raging pandemic last fall. And while she was so grateful to be able to start her college experience on campus a year ago (many students didnt have that option), there were no in-person meet-ups, no class picnics and games on the lawn, and no roommate to share a new space and a new life with. Like most of the entering class of 2024, her college experience was lived through a computer screen and socially distanced small gatherings, grab-and-go meals and masked faces.  My daughter is thrilled to have this opportunity to participate in (secondhand through the freshmen) the in-person college orientation she never had. Although she admits it’s bittersweet as she now realizes all that she — and all this years sophomores — missed.  (continue reading this blog post from No Sick Days For Mom—Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Writer:
https://www.collegiateparent.com/student-life/our-sophomores-are-still-new/ )

    Comment on Facebook

    CollegiateParent, thank you so much for this opportunity.

    SUCH good, practical, and wise advice here, Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, for any of our students, really. 💛

    Elizabeth, thank you so much. I appreciate that. ❤️

    Soooo true, all of this. Our sophomores are rediscovering, relearning, renegotiating the whole campus experience. Last year was tough, but I hope that last year's experience has made them stronger and more resilient to anything life throws at them this year. All strength to them! ❤️

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