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Preparing to Return After a Difficult SemesterJennifer Sullivan
You may have thought getting into college was the tough part (for your student and you), and in four years your family would be celebrating a graduation.
However, for many students — possibly including your own — a detour is necessary.
Even under ordinary circumstances, it's common for students to take time off from college. During the 2020–21 academic year, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to shifts to online/remote learning and restrictions to campus life and activities, more students than ever are thinking about taking a break.
It's natural for parents to worry when this happens. What if your student never goes back?
Jaimis Ulrich, Assistant Director of Admissions at Whittier College, says that when students use their time off from college wisely, they’re often more motivated when they return. The key is to formulate a plan to complete their studies.
Parents can help. Here’s how.
Some students don’t have a choice. If they’re not making “satisfactory academic progress,” they receive a warning or are put on academic probation and, if grades don’t improve, face dismissal.
While poor grades are the number one reason students leave college (in a typical year), Matthew Bambalough, Academic Adviser at Indiana University, says there’s usually an underlying reason. For example, “a student may say he didn’t attend class. Why? Because I was playing video games. Why? Because my grandpa died.”
Poor grades can stem from:
Other reasons students need or want to step away from college:
No matter why the break was needed, make sure your student stays in touch with college staff. Even if they are granted a leave of absence, there will be paperwork and deadlines. Ulrich stresses that, when students return from short breaks, they must talk to professors and ask for what they need, such as an extension or extra help.
In case of academic dismissal, your student should talk to their academic advisor about their options. You can help them examine what went wrong and make a plan to ensure it won’t happen again. Consider tutors or counseling.
Together, research the college’s requirements for reinstatement. “If students leave…with a game plan,” Ulrich says, “they are more likely to return.”
Help your student become comfortable talking to you about their challenges. Share your own struggles and life detours — we all have them.
Learn about campus resources together so you can encourage your student to self-advocate and make full use of all the support that’s available when they return, whether it’s classes in time management, academic advising services, or mental health/counseling services.
College move-in is approaching! Help your student prepare by making sure they have everything they need for a successful freshman year.