Sunday, July 16, 2006


As I mentioned a few days ago, one of the less delightful things awaiting me in my campus mailbox when I returned was a copy of a letter from our dean to one of my advisees, explaining that her petition to remain a student has been denied, so she's suspended from school. To return, the letter explains, she'll have to reapply for admission.

She's not a stellar student; since I've been her adviser, she's been on and off probation (for grades) a bit. I tend to send out emails to students on probation, inviting them to come talk to me about how to do better and such. She hasn't responded. When she was in my class, she never came in to talk about the texts, ask questions, get help on papers, nothing. So it's not a surprise. Still, I feel somewhat responsible.

I emailed her a short note, inviting her to come talk to me (or call me to talk) about strategies for reapplying, what she should do in the meantime, and so on.

She emailed back that she knew when she came reapplies in spring, they're going to make her take a study skills class.

One of us is confused, and it might well be me. I'll have to call over to the dean in the next couple days and see. Either she's right, and readmission is going to somehow be a breeze, so taking the study skills class here is the worst of things. Or I'm right and she needs to do something while she's off school to demonstrate that she's made some academic change.

I didn't think about the first possibility when I emailed her back, though. So I suggested that in order to reapply successfully, she should do some things to show that things have changed. I suggested taking a study skills class at a local community college (if there's one near her), and at least one other class.

I've never had a student suspended for bad grades (or anything else) before, so I'm sure I should have thought of several more, or more useful suggestions. Help, please? What do you suggest?

I don't think I'm in a position to step up and advocate for her to come back as things stand. I'm not sure college is the right place for her. But I'd love to see her turn things around and change my mind.

How would you help her do that?


  1. Oh, gosh - this brings back memories. I think I was this girl when I was in college. I'd done well in high school, I loved to read and to learn, but my emotional state at 18 (ok, and 19 and 20, too, and let's not talk about 35 either) was so fragile that I simply was not ready for the impersonal environment of college. If I knew then what I know now about myself, I'd have taken a few years off and grown up a bit. When I took two classes to complete my degree when I was a married, fulltime employee and 28 years old, I got stellar grades. Just a whole 'nother world. Plus, I was paying for those classes myself, which opens up another topic for consideration.

    I'm probably not being too helpful here, am I? I'm just asking myself whether someone like this really should be in college at all, at least right now.

    Just my .02.

  2. Diana may be right -- perhaps the best thing you can do for this student is to recommend some time to mature.

    Although teaching faculty don't do advising, I've had my share of informal advisees.... and more than one in trouble. You may be the only person who cares about her academic life .

    If you can get her to talk to you, it may help to have the following kinds of information:

    You can learn a lot from finding out about her class attendance...

    was her class attendance good? if not then....
    -- is she depressed or has she had a mental illness? Often students will fail to perform because they are depressed and thus don't go to class...

    -- if she has a learning disability, or the indications of them..

    -- if there was a family problem that either made it difficult to concentrate or that would keep her out of class... or, did her economic circumstances keep her from regular class attendance?

    if her attendance was good (and, of course define "good" for her)
    -- if she has a problem with preparation... at what point does she fail classes? Does she pass classes with a paper requirement and fail if she has to take an exam etc..

    Overall, someone whose academic performance is bad enough to be suspended generally forms a pattern. Your job is more or less to figure out the pattern and then have her demonstrate actions taken to reverse that pattern.