Reply To: Placement for young adult who failed Freshman year college

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Interesting timing. I am a student success advisor at a university in the rocky mountain region and have several, actually a lot, students I work with that have some learning issues. Most of my “clients” end up speaking with me because of a poor start his/her first semester of college and I have had a few over the holiday break. College can be ruff for any student the first semester due to expectations in the college / university environment that they weren’t prepared for; size of classes, workload, schedule of courses/labs, living environment, etc. A great example is CALC I… I see students all the time struggling with CALC even though they blew the doors off the math section of the ACT/SAT, scored high on AP courses or even took a concurrent course through the local community college. The student does real well the first couple of weeks and then struggles. Why? Because college/university CALC course tend to cover everything you learn in High School the first two weeks and then are off and running with a bunch of whole new ideas/theories. It is important to remember the workload for this one course is easily three times what the student ever experienced in high school on top of that. So our objective should be helping a student figure out what tools they need to have in their tool box as the move forward. Sometimes the best tool is knowing when your are losing focus, run out side and yell at a squirrel as a reset button.


The first issues is the parent/student expectation they will receive the same hands on service they received in K-12 with an IEP. That will not happen. Second issue is the hesitation to ask for help when things start to go bad and we/you can work on this by finding that student success advisor on your campus within the first week of classes to build a connection. The danger for students with learning issues such as adhd or autism spectrum is they are often very bright and hard on themselves for not doing well. After all, we are our own worst enemy so we need to boost the self-efficacy. I am see more and more students dealing with depression and a part of that is because they are not meeting their own expectations or what expectations they may perceive from parents or former high school teachers. Once a kid losses focus and hunkers in that dorm room in becomes a spiral down hill and they start looking for that dark corner in the room to hide. It is that academic probation letter that shows up in the mail at the end of the first semester when parents find out all is not well at college. Third, Life Happens. So fit of the learning environment is most important for a kids success. If the place fits the student will persevere to succeed. If the environment is in uncomfortable they will start looking for that dark place in a room.

So… Moving forward. Discussions of life style, extra-curricular activities, comfort zones and programs of interest need to take place. That will give you an idea of how far away from home or what specific region may lend to strengthening motivators. Settle on few colleges/ universities and try to visit them. I knew which college my daughter was going to pick the minute we stepped on the campus and we had visited a couple of others already that week (she did well). When visiting a campus ask the questions you want answered. The key is to watch and listen to how the folks at the campus you visit interact with your daughter and not you. Does she respond, smile, seem relaxed? I can tell by your concerns, you are aware of making a lifetime investment in your daughter’s future.

With all that said, I will make my disclaimer/disclosure… I am not a licensed therapist, certified school counselor, and do not speak for any institution I have worked for or currently employed. I am a Ed.D. with a bunch of years working with college aged students and struggled as a student throughout my academic career. If I can be of futher service just give me a shout.