How to Handle an Academic Dismissal
Academic Dismissal: Advice about this topic is something none of us want (or plan) to need.
But, things happen and there are many families who unfortunately have to deal with it at the end of every semester.
I know because twice a year, dozens of people reach out to me for any guidance or advice I might have that could help keep their student from being kicked out of college due to their last semester’s grades.
Parents Are Usually in the Dark
At most colleges, after final grades post, letters of suspension/dismissal are sent to students at home essentially saying,”Your student cannot return for the next semester, but they can appeal this decision if they really want to.”
And surprisingly, it’s often the first time parents hear that their student was struggling.
Now for the good news:
It’s VERY common.
And thankfully, there is hope.
Can Threat of Academic Dismissal Be a “Good” Thing?
As upsetting as this situation can be, it often serves as a wake-up call for students.
This announcement can be scary, but the possibility of them no longer being in college may be enough to get a student to realize just how much they actually want to continue in college.
Many students may have originally gone to college because they were expected to, and didn’t really have any plans for what else to do.
But after getting involved in their college environment and culture, they find they actually do want to be there.
Which is certainly better than feeling like you have to be there.
Make no mistake about it, however, suspension or dismissal letters are not warnings.
Facts About Academic Appeal Letters
There really are some students who need a wake-up call this drastic to re-prioritize their lives and their academics.
The expression that states: “A college education is a privilege denied to many” feels different when it’s suddenly being denied to you!
There are some things to keep in mind:
1.This may be a blessing in disguise that can ultimately re-motivate a student to focus on being serious about attending their classes and being diligent about completing all of their assignments.
2. You should know that the overwhelming majority of academic dismissal appeals are successful. One college I researched cites 84% of all appeals were won in the previous year. This makes sense since colleges dismissing even their non-performing students hurts the school financially. Dismissals also negatively impact a school’s retention rates. It’s in the college’s best interest to get underperforming students to meet academic standards versus just kicking them out. An appeal is a strong indication that the student is willing and motivated to try and improve.
3. Read the dismissal letter carefully, and do whatever it says to launch an appeal. Read the student handbook about the college’s academic benchmarks, policies, and procedures. Check the college’s website. Don’t be afraid to have the student call if they have any questions.
4. When writing the appeal letter, the self-introspection required can be illuminating, especially for the student. This is a humbling opportunity to evaluate what went wrong, consider any mitigating factors (including physical or mental illnesses, roommate problems, financial stresses, family problems at home, etc). And it is an opportunity to describe what will be different in the next semester. (Getting adequate medical treatment, solved roommate issues, settled finances, or improved family issues, etc.)
5. Include any documentation that corroborates these factors. Have someone proofread their appeal, and submit it in a timely fashion according to the school’s instructions. The college may request a face-to-face appeals interview. And if so, the student should consider this a lifeline. It’s an opportunity to be candid, yet optimistic about what they will do differently going forward if given another chance.
More Things to Consider
If the student had a scholarship that is now at risk as well, may I suggest you tackle that AFTER getting allowed to return? This is the time to focus on being allowed to return at all.
And knowing all about the college’s resources such as tutoring, professors office hours, academic success programs, etc. can only help.
Lastly, if your student confesses that college simply isn’t for them, and they’re mostly feeling relief about not being able to return, accept that as a possibility.
After recovering from the shock/hurt/surprise of the letter, resist the urge to condemn or shame them.
Humiliation, shame, and disappointment are almost never helpful at obtaining any kind of beneficial outcome.
Instead, help the student find and establish a career path that may better suit them, at least for now. A student in this situation needs love and encouragement now more than ever.
Help them recover from this temporary setback equipping them to emerge stronger. It is not the end of the world. Although it can certainly feel like it is to a young adult.
Getting kicked out of college is definitely not fun. But don’t despair.
There really are things a student can do to win an appeal, and ultimately move on even if the appeal is denied.
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