Tales of a college drop-out

I am in a pickle. Hoping some others have gone through this and can offer some advice or comfort.

I’m being thrown out of my university. I hid the circumstances leading up to this from my parents, my dad got my dissmissal letter first. They’re ripped, to say the least.

I’m not just sitting here twiddling my thumbs – have been working on appeal paperwork all morning. But I’m hoping somebody on here has gone through something similar, and might have some wise words for a dumb college kid who’s wasted way too much of her parents money.

What are those circumstances?

I can’t really give too much comfort perhaps, but I was basically kicked out (or kicked myself out, I’m not sure which) of my Ph.D. program after spending years as a rising star. It sucked, but at least I had time to do stuff like learn languages, read books, etc., once it all happened.

Give yourself a few years to settle down, and then maybe you’ll get into something more interesting to you?

That’s all I got. Good luck?

Don’t panic. Talk to your professors/deans of your college. Some universities have a dean of students who is now (during winter break) dealing with literally hundreds of other students in the same predicament so you may not be able to get back in for Spring, but maybe next fall. You can also lose some financial aid even if you are re-admitted.

I work in the housing department of a university and you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to keep track of who’s dismissed. The folks who do assignments work this whole break cancelling housing for spring for hundreds of students and un-cancelling dozens who get back in by making deals with deans. The thing is the dean of your college doesn’t want to lose students so that’s to your advantage.

Don’t panic but you should do what you can to stay in or get back into school. I dropped out when I was 19 but I was on my own and not with my parents so that’s an advantage for you. I did okay but it took me 20 years to complete a degree. You don’t want to be 35 (believe me it’s coming!) and wondering if you’ll have a bachelors by the time you’re 40.

Thanks for the responses.

The short of it that I failed two classes last spring semester, then another this past fall. I have real issues asking for help, and I feel like I’m in this major downwards spiral of hurting myself academically. I’m in contact with a therapist to try to work this out.
Have been e-mailing back and forth with my advisor today, hoping I can get through to one of the deans at my college to talk.


Same here.

I have a friend who didn’t quite drop out, but did change his major from physics to I think it was German when he wasn’t doing very well. He graduated, went to work for the IRS for a while, then came back and got his physics degree. He was a good student in physics the second time around and ended up going to Caltech for grad school.

Thanks AnneNeville.

I’m a physics student myself, although not a very good one, obviously – I originally came in as English, but hated it. No idea what I what to do now, I feel that I’m not very good at anything.

How does one go about making a deal with a dean? I’ve talked to the the director of Academic Services, which handles these things at my university (UConn, btw). She said that what I’m doing, ie getting my appeal paperwork out, is all I can really do.

What are your immediate housing/employment plans?

Just saying, maybe you will get back into school or not, and even if you do, it might not be for a while. As someone else said, maybe college isn’t right for you, at least not that college right now.

So don’t put all of your eggs into a single appeals basket. While your college situation settles out, you need to come up with a plan for putting food in your mouth immediately. IMO this is important even if your immediate plan is to move back in with your parents. If they feel you were less than upfront with them, they will very much welcome some serious signs of increased responsibility on your part.


Well, I’m living with my parents currently - I had a sortof part-time job at my dad’s company, but I think that’s gone now.
Food and housing is covered right now, at least until the end of month (which my Mom has threatened to kick me out by).
I do feel like I should be looking at employment, but completly unsure of where I’ll be living in a month. Looked at the military earlier this morning, but my advisor doesn’t think that’s a good choice for me.
I’m definately transfering to a community college, I just don’t want this dismissal on my transcript forever.

Is there any way you could do volunteer work/internships related to the classes you failed? For example, maybe volunteer in a lab if you failed science classes (and could convince them to take you.) Being able to show that you’re working to fix the problems that led to your failures might make your school more inclined to re-admit you.

I confess, I’m perhaps not quite as sympathetic as I should be - but I can’t help thinking that any college worth it’s salt is going to have lots of resources available to struggling students. Professor office hours, student tutors, and so on. Physics is hard - but failing undergraduate classes (as opposed to just getting mediocre grades) is also darned hard.

My point is, you may want to use this time to think very, very seriously about what you’ve been doing wrong. I’m not referring to therapy-related issues, but more practical matters - are you spending a lot of time playing videogames? If so, the console has to go in the trash. Too many late nights out with friends? Switch to coffee. Sorry, but what you’ve been doing clearly just doesn’t work. It’s not likely that you aren’t capable of handling your material - colleges try to weed out the people who can’t hack it in the admissions process.

That’s good.

What classes did you fail? In your major, or not? Why did you fail them?

What year are you?

My friend left physics, then came back to it and found he could do it. As you probably know, you don’t get into grad school in physics at Caltech if you aren’t good. This doesn’t mean you will never be any good at physics.

When I was in physics, I found that the upper-level classes were a lot harder than the freshman and sophomore ones. The level of time and effort I’d been putting in for the earlier classes wasn’t near enough for the higher-level classes. Fortunately, I realized this early on.

But admitting you need help and asking for it is very hard for some people.

Yeah, well, if you want living at home to remain an option, you will want to figure out how you might be able to convince your folks that you are doing things differently than you were before.

One of the first things you are going to need to do is decide whether or not you WANT to keep living at home. Or what serious alternatives might exist.

If you DO want to stay at home, you need to bust your ass to convince your parents that they should let you. For starters, I suggest you be painfully honest with them, and ask them for their help, and then follow what guidance they are willing to offer you. Looking for work is a biggie, but in this suck economy, you might not be able to find much of anything. One suggestion would be to ask what - if anything - you can do to help around the house (assuming you are not in a position to pay room and board.) Offering to clean the house, prepare meals, and do whatever other other chores there would certainly look as tho you were taking this situation seriously, assuming responsibility for getting into this situation, and taking steps to assume more responsibility.

I’m not saying you need to don a hair shirt and exist on bread and water, but this sure isn’t the time for large discretionary expenditures, late nights on the town, or marathon video game sessions either.

Good luck.

Why? Is it because of the college thing, or something else? If it’s something else, work on whatever it is. If it’s the college thing, try to find a job and help out more around the house.

Keep in mind, you’re upset now. And understandably so. Your parents are also upset. Try not to say or do anything on the spur of the moment that you’ll regret later. Don’t burn your bridges with your family and others. And bear in mind that your parents may be upset and may have said things they don’t really mean in the heat of the moment.

This, too. And that goes whether or not those things had anything to do with your failing your classes. It’s like the bankers getting bonuses from bailed-out companies- it might be legal, but it just doesn’t look good.

Been there. On the last day of exams, before taking my temporary suspension, I met up with an older friend who was working on his PhD. His comment: “I wouldn’t worry about it. When you want to learn, you’ll learn.”

I finished up, and went on to receive a graduate degree. It’s a huge deal now, but will probably seem like a distant memory at some point in the not-too-distant future.

It certainly was for me – despite a number of professors offering suggesting this very route.

One thing that made a huge diff for me was organizing absolutely all of the spare paperwork, documents – being in an institution like UG or grad university tends to attract ungodly amounts of paperwork. Simplify it as much as possible by intelligently cataloging what should be retained. If you have to get drunk to get through the task, so be it, but make sure all of the detritus gets sorted through, especially if you are living at someone else’s house.

If you are indeed starting a “new chapter in your life,” the last thing you need is a bunch of physical junk from your previous life holding you back.

Sounds simple, but it worked for me. Sort of. :slight_smile:

For whatever it is worth, I found myself in a similar situation after my first year of college. I went to university on the other side of the state (TN) right after high school to study Journalism. Since I never had to work to get decent grades before, I decided to stick with those same (non-)study skills that had garnered me such success previously. Needless to say…that didn’t work out so well. I never went to class, and thus failed everything. Seriously, everything. I took a full load of classes for two semesters and came out of it with ONE credit. Even more distressing was the fact that that one credit came from a C- in a weight training class.

So, yes, kicked out. I was told that if I completed a few semesters at a community college and got excellent grades there I could return. But, I was generally sick of school and no longer felt compelled to be a journalist, so I felt there was no good reason for me to go back. I then worked some quite enjoyable, but incredibly low paying jobs while living with my parents. I got to an age where it felt somewhat unacceptable to still be at home while not in school and decided to leave the city I hated. Of course I wasn’t making enough money to get my own apartment in a very affordable town, so how was I going to survive anywhere else? I figured I could join AmeriCorps in order to have a job in a new place. I ended up making even less money (just over $600 a month … my rent was $400 a month), but it forced me out on my own which I needed. After that I worked a number of terrible call center and data entry temp jobs, the last few of which actually paid somewhat decently.

Anyway, I left school in May of 2001, and in spring of 2007 I signed up for summer classes at the CC. I have been in school since, and am doing a much better job now. I was going full time while trying to keep a full time job and it turned out that I am not one of those bad-assed people that can pull that off. So, initially my grades weren’t great, but they were good enough and I stuck with it and got my Associates degree which allowed me to enroll at a University here where I am now doing quite decently.

So. In conclusion:

Even though I am somewhat self-conscious about my age (at 28, of course I am not old but compared to the other students…) I think that taking the time out was the best thing I ever did. I think any time off can help to refocus and mature quite a bit. Instead of going to school because that was what I was supposed to do and that’s it, I am now enjoying my classes for what they are rather than solely as a means of attaining some specific career (and it is a good thing I feel that way, as I am working on a History major …).

Advice, if you are still reading:

See if you can talk your parents into letting you stay at home while you either take a year off (I highly recommend doing AmeriCorps. It can be good experience, and you get an award at the end --albeit somewhat small-- to apply towards tuition or loans), or start at a CC where you can get your generals done and end up with an Associates degree. Hopefully after that you will have found what you really want to study and perhaps change your major into something that you can devote yourself to a bit more, or generally improve your work ethic/motivation and be able to eventually finish the BA/S. Having to worry about a place to live, and having a jobs that earns enough obviously makes it a lot harder to focus on staying in school. If you can either stay at home rent-free, or pick up a part time job to pay for cheap rent with roommates (or live on loans, like I am currently doing–not terribly advised) I think you will best be able to do well in school.

After writing that essay, I now realize that most of is probably irrelevant. My point is, basically, though you may feel it right now … you’re not fucked.

I didn’t get kicked out, but I didn’t bother to finish. I got a job, worked hard, got promoted, got a different job, got married, got promoted, had kids, got a different job (there might be a few other jobs and promotions in there) and at the age of 40 finished my B.A. (switching majors in the process, which took me from needing to write a 12 page paper to taking three years of coursework).

When you want school, school will be there and you will do well. You don’t need it - at least not now. You do need to repair those bridges with your parents, acknowledge you screwed up, ask for their help, and give yours.

Gosh, do I ever know that story. It’s a sucky place to be, and even though everyone will tell you it’s not the end of the world, it doesn’t make it feel any less so right now.

That said, it’s NOT the end of the world.

You’ve done the right thing by getting help. That’s a big step, and it will probably earn you a little extra goodwill from the dean if you’re appealing the dismissal.

It may also be possible to speak with the professors in the classes you’ve failed to see if they’re able to work out a deal with you… I went through a major depressive episode in my third year of uni, and while I was lucky enough not to get kicked out, I still did some serious damage to my academic record. Lucky for me, one of the profs who’d given me a failing mark agreed to let me retroactively drop the course on the basis that I hadn’t attended for nearly two months and had a note from my therapist confirming I was getting treatment for my depression.

Lastly, it might be a good idea to take a breather and think about what you’d really like to do. Don’t think about what you’re good at doing, but rather what you geniunely enjoy doing… think about the stuff that lights a fire under your ass, that you get a real kick out of doing. Getting a BA is all well and good, but it’s not going to help you out much if you’re not interested on getting a job in your chosen field when all’s said and done. Your counsellor might be able to give you some advice on how to approach that, BTW.

Good luck. Deep breaths. It’ll be okay… maybe not right now, but eventually.

Remember that you don’t have to go back right this minute - you can take a year off, get a job, etc. Straighten yourself out. Alternately, you can change majors, or go to a community college, or any number of things. The important thing is, why did you flunk the classes? Depression? (I had a major spell of depression my senior year of college which left me graduating with a senior GPA of .5. Seriously.) You don’t like your major really? You’re not any good at it? You lack some prerequisite skill, like math skills for physics? You have to figure out why you didn’t do well before you can do anything about it.

In your position, I’d be tempted to bum around Europe for a year or so - work in a hostel for a pittance (but with a free room), hare off around the Continent whenever you get enough spare cash. If you don’t have student debt, or not much, that might be doable - but whether it would help straighten you out for a return to school (or a real job), I don’t know. It would get you out of your parents’ house, though.

How are you doing today?

What does he (or she) have to say about all this?

If the problem is depression or anxiety, you need to look into getting treatment for it. Your therapist can help, or may refer you to a psychiatrist.

Mental illness is not a character flaw or a sin- people who think that do so because they are ignorant. And we’re against ignorance here :wink:

Don’t be afraid of treatment for depression or anxiety, whether it’s therapy or medications. It won’t totally change your personality, like some people think (well, I believed it). It won’t make you incapable of feeling any kind of emotions. If one medicine has intolerable side effects, you can switch to another one. Being treated for a mental illness won’t mean you can’t get a job, or even prevent you from having a security clearance. I know all this firsthand.

It isn’t, really.

If reading about things that would be the end of the world would comfort you (sometimes it does for me, when I’m feeling bad- yes, I know I’m weird), I’d recommend reading Death from the Skies by Phil Plait. Also The Five Ages of the Universe by Adams and Laughlin. That’s about time scales on which this won’t matter- this won’t matter in 10[sup]92[/sup] years, when the black hole at the center of the galaxy evaporates from Hawking radiation.

It may not be a huge deal if it is. I didn’t see my friend’s transcript when he applied to grad school at Caltech, but since he didn’t have to start over with the freshman and sophomore physics classes when he came back, I suspect his earlier attempt at majoring in physics was on there. He got in.

If you’re thinking grad school in physics, they’re not as perfectionist as a lot of undergrads think. I had another friend who told me that you couldn’t get into a good grad school if you had a W (withdrawn from a course) on your transcript. I made him eat those words when I got accepted to MIT and Caltech (in planetary science)- gave him the choice of saying that those aren’t good grad schools (they’re the best in the country), or admitting he was wrong. He admitted he was wrong.

Oh, and it won’t be on your transcript forever. Your transcript will go away when protons decay, and will almost certainly be lost to history before then. It will cease to matter within your lifetime. If you go into academia, you won’t get asked for it when you apply for faculty jobs (I know this, because I got to watch the whole gory process while Mr. Neville went through it). If you leave academia, you probably won’t get asked for a transcript beyond your first or second job after college. After a while, your transcript just won’t matter any more. That’s a bit of a blow to some of us, but a blessing for others.

Well, one day you’ll be 35 anyway (in less than a month, for me- WHERE did all that time go? :eek:), and probably thinking about what things will be like when you’re 40. My understanding is that that happens whether or not you’ve gotten or are getting a college degree.