My College Freshman Daugher Told Me She Failed First Semester at University:(

Updated on December 18, 2018
B.N. asks from Orlando, FL
9 answers

I know she tried but also slacked off at times; and she admits it. I’m at a loss on how involved to get or even how involved I can get. She promises to work harder, join study groups, and not miss classes next semester. She feels horrible and embarrassed about this. I want to encourage and not beat her up when she’s down but I too am concerned. Any ideas from a parent who’s been here? She’s always been a good child who works for good grades, and doesn’t drink or do drugs. She has had self esteem issues that she’s still working on. Thanks for any words of wisdom.

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So What Happened?

Update as of December 19, 2018. I am so grateful for all your answers, and support with this; it has truly helped so much. Of course we’re not out of the woods yet, but it has opened the door to actions that need to be taken, regardless of how this situation ultimately ends. Yesterday after another discussion, my daughter did make an appointment with guidance counselor, (earliest she can get in is Jan 2nd); although she is on Christmas break until Jan 7, she understands the importance of dealing with this head on, and with professional advice. Thank you all for the encouragement!

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answers from Anchorage on

This will be a learning experience for her because just because she failed doesn't mean she doesn't still have to pay for those classes, now she will be forced to pay for them twice, unless you are paying her tuition in which case she should have to pay for any retakes. That was how a friend of mines parents did it, and the first time he had to pay himself to retake a couple of classes he got himself straight and started studying more.

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answers from Portland on

This was me, first semester. I had been a A student going in.

I was overwhelmed and found it very hard to keep up. I found campus life and being out of the house hard. It was my first time experiencing freedom. I was a very 'safe' kid - in that I followed rules and I finally had some freedom, and blew it. I missed classes and just got behind, which set me into a panic, and it snowballed.

Talking to guidance counselor and getting a grip and back on track - I pulled it together. Being involved as a mom to offer support - to help her to help herself - is all that is needed.

Knowing mom believes in you still, even though you feel like a total #$(#$)# up is invaluable. That can make the difference in throwing in the towel to the whole education plan and picking up and dusting yourself off, and moving on.

It happens to some of us - we just aren't quite mature (?) enough to handle it the first year. It's a bit overwhelming and then we get behind. We panic and then nosedive. Or that's how it happened to me. I really liked the rules and limits at home (which were never really said or enforced, they were just there). When I went away, they weren't. I missed home and was homesick.

Maybe just touching base a bit more frequently and not keeping tabs (you have to encourage her that she can do it) but some kids need that bit of positive reinforcement because you're right - this can take a hit to her self esteem. Good luck :)

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answers from Boston on

This is actually pretty common. They go from high school where there are checks and balances to college where nobody cares if they show up, turn in papers, etc. They are responsible for everything in their education. They run with the rights no not do things and forget about the responsibilities about having to take charge of getting things done.

I think you need to have a sit down with her to go over what happened last semester and how she'll avoid those pit falls going forward. Its not beating her up over the failure its like a team reviewing the tapes from the last game and figuring out how to do it better the next time around. .

Most of it is just time management. If she's not good with time management she'll struggle. Since almost every class put out a list of what is due when she can get out an agenda and write down every single date. Small projects should have a reminder 1 week before they are due. Bigger projects should have a reminder every week starting a month before they are due.

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answers from Atlanta on

First, you do need more information from her about what she means by 'failed first semester.' Since she is over 18, the school does not give you access to her grades or anything related to her schooling without her permission, so she will need to show you the grade report. I think you'll want to think carefully before that conversation about how you will balance between the two of you figuring out what went wrong and formulating an action plan for next semester. As you say, you don't want her to feel 'beat up,' however the only way to figure out the next steps is by seeing what went wrong. Once that is clear (and from the bits you said, it sounds like a combination of not doing all the assigned work and missing classes), then move into finding resources at the school which will assist her. One thing I noticed is the bit about missing classes. I teach at a college, and we are told that one of the first trouble signs is a student missing class. It's also an indication of depression or other mental issues. You may want to ensure that she has support lined up with a counselor or some kind of mentoring program through the school. Finally, she may be best served by working with the academic support services at her university. Informal study groups with friends/classmates are great, however the formal services may be even more crucial for her. This is NOT the end of the road, by a long shot. The institution WANTS to keep her as a student, and it has resources in place. She needs not to feel like she is a failure, but rather like someone who is transitioning to a whole new way of life. Good luck to both of you!

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answers from Boston on

Many freshmen go through this. They are in a college with a whole bunch of kids who did as well as they did in high school. Suddenly, they aren't necessarily at the top of the heap. College professors expect students to be independent, and they don't give as many daily homework assignments that are turned in and checked. Professors expect students to do the reading whether there's anything to turn in or not. Often there are fewer quizzes/tests so kids don't realize they aren't up to par as early in the semester as they did in high school.

Also, professors expect students to assess themselves, and to ask for help before things slide too far. That means your daughter should go to professors during posted office hours, or at least ask after class when she can have a conference.

Your job is not to get involved with the college or professors. Most schools don't even allow that. You should encourage her, tell her this happens to many first year students, and remind her that the college's and the professors' desire is that she succeed. They are not in the business of accepting students who will fail - it's not the goal of educators anyway, but it also would be a very poor business decision because it's expensive to bring kids in and then boot them out and have to recruit transfers to replace them. So help assure her of their willingness to help. She should show some initiative and figure out ways to make up the work - she can take a summer class a few times, perhaps, and maybe get an incomplete or two instead of a failing grade. She should investigate academic support services that the college offers. But she has to take the initiative to ask and to say she wants and will accept the help.

If you think she is suffering from depression and requires treatment (counseling, meds or a combination, even short-term), then you should encourage her to speak to someone. Since she has a history of self-esteem issues, but you don't say what you mean by "she's working on that," so I hope that doesn't mean she's doing it alone. Maybe she needs a counselor, maybe she needs a life coach to get her fired up and in touch with her many strengths. It's okay to lose one's way, you know? One just has to be willing to work with a map and a navigator to get on track.

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answers from Houston on

This is a very difficult issue. I have know several parents that experienced this same issue including myself. With some school was not their forte they just did not know how to tell their parents. The best thing parents did was to not enable them and let them go out into the world to take care of themselves. With others it was mental health and this is a constant battle. With others it is drug and alcohol use. For me it was mental health and drug and alcohol use( self medication which made the depression worse) It has been a battle. It is important to reevaluate your expectations while maintaining high standards. Small positive steps toward larger goals. Getting through a few classes instead of a full load is a good example of a way to achieve success. Community College while living at home has worked for others. Living off campus away from the fray has worked for some. Counseling is good unless they refuse to attend or accept their issues. Drug testing would be good too just so you know. Hang in their and stay supportive. The best thing I ever did was decide I was in a fight for my child's life, realize this is my child's journey that they are choosing to make, make a committment to stay connected and supportive with frequent visits and calls (It was expensive but worth it in the long run) and counseling for myself CoDA groups can be helpful if you find the right one. I also had great friends going through the same thing. My son has two semesters left and ever single one has been a battle for him and left me on pins and needles. His grades are not great (he was a star in high school) but this is his journey. I call often, text a lot and visit every month. He has ADHD, depression and anxiety. He is also battling drug and alcohol use which is abundant and a big part of a social scene on campuses. He made it this far because he decided he wanted to and he has learned slowly that he has to commit to studying and a healthy life style. In the mean time I am slowly seeing maturity and that helps. Find support for yourself. Your daughters journey may be just one semester where she failed and learned and moved forward. I would believe in her unless you see other signs. Freshman year is extremely difficult, lots of adjustments and difficult to navigate college systems that unfortunately are not student friendly. Good luck you are in my prayers.

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answers from Norfolk on

She had the grades and SAT scores to get into college, right?
So she should know how to do the work.
She might be having trouble handling the freedom of not being at home.
She will have to talk with her guidance counselor and retake her classes - she can't move on to 2nd semester classes without passing the first.
It's hard for some to become self regulating but that's the most important thing she needs to learn right now.
Her GPA will have a hard time recovering from this - so she might have to transfer to another school at some point.

Her self esteem should take a hit from this - college is expensive - what does she MEAN she missed classes?!?
There's no excuse for that - it's not important you ask or listen to the excuses for it.
In order to redeem it she needs to bootstrap herself and get on track.
College guidance has seen it all - so she really needs to work with them to help her focus.

I know something about this because I failed a few college courses myself.
I explored what I really wanted to do after Organic Chemistry culled me out (went to the guidance counselor and took some assessment tests) and changed majors and then transferred to another college.

When I started I wanted to be a pharmacist - then I discovered programming but didn't like scientific programming and then switched to a school which had a good business programming degree.

While some kids know when they are 8 what they want to do it's more common than you think for kids in college to change their minds.

But even with that - failing an entire semester is something else.
It could be she is not ready to commit herself to college.
Some students take a gap year off between high school and college - they work for awhile and then are more settled when they start.

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answers from Washington DC on

it's got to be hard, but since your daughter seems to have set herself up for success (good grades, hard worker, no vices, owns up to slacking) i think it would be best to look at this first semester as her training period.

if she fails a second time she may just not be college material. but don't write it off yet.


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answers from Pittsburgh on

College is a huge adjustment. I believe many high school programs are not challenging so kids never develop good study skills and aren't prepared for the effort needed in college. Acknowledging her short comings is a a good first step. Is she ready to make the adjustments needed to be successful? Learning what resources are available to her will also help her succeed. I would not beat her up but help her develop a plan to move forward.

2 moms found this helpful
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