“Help. Our Daughter’s Failing College. She’s Dropping Out.”

What would you do—if you found out your son or daughter was failing college and dropping out?

Today I’m sharing the frantic email I received from the mother of a South Carolina college freshman in 2016.

(Read on to hear the update on what happened to this girl in the years afterward.)

It’s my hope that this mom’s pain and heartache will light a fire under you to do everything you can to keep this from happening to your family.

(Subscribe to my free email newsletter here, and I will help you.)

It’s also my hope that my answer to this mom will give you help and hope. This letter is used with permission. Details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Remember, you can always find out your child’s current grades by waiting for him or her to ask you for money. When you get the money request say: “Sure, Honey. Would you just log me into the computer and show me all your grades first, though? I like to know what I’m investing in.” — Jeannie Burlowski

failing college

The mom writes:

“So, I haven’t seen our daughter’s final grades yet from her freshman year at Clemson University, but the last we heard she had a B and three D’s. In her first semester, she got an A, a B, a C and a D. I think her GPA was a 2.5. I’m guessing she would be put on academic probation if she goes back next year.

After one year of college, paid for in cash at enormous sacrifice with no scholarships or financial assistance—including a cross-country move so that we could get in-state tuition—she thinks she might want to take a year off.

She was shocked that we would not pay for her apartment lease if she was not a full-time student. She’s also mentioned an interest in an associate’s degree in occupational or physical therapy.

My husband and I are at a loss and are at each other’s throats.

There is a huge communication and relationship gap with her. We feel let let down, disrespected, disappointed. We made a move to a new state to help her with college costs—and we did it with joy. We love our new home. We tried to give our daughter opportunities we didn’t have. Obviously we gave too much, and now even more is expected.

Besides feeling like a complete and total failure as a parent, how can I disciple my kid through this?”

—Kelly M., Orangeburg, SC

 

Jeannie’s answer:

“Kelly,

My heart goes out to you. I can only imagine the hurt and heartbreak this is causing you and your husband. Please take heart. This may actually be the best thing that could possibly have happened to your daughter and to you.

First of all—let me tell you that you are doing the absolute right thing to stand firm in refusing to support her financially unless . . .

. . . she is enrolled in a full-time academic or job training program. As long as you are maintaining this position with empathy and kindness and not one drop of vindictiveness, you are doing the absolute right thing. You are being a superstar parent. Do not forget that.

Second, do not be afraid of the year off.

What she MAY need to deeply appreciate education and all its benefits might be a year in a tiny one-room walk-up apartment with cockroaches and boxes of macaroni and cheese in the cupboard. Coupled with an extremely dull full-time job under a rude, smelly, disrespectful boss that pays her $7.25 an hour. This could be one of the greatest learning experiences of her entire life. This could be a far greater learning experience for her than another year at the college you so sacrificed to send her to.

This learning experience will not be effective, though, if you treat her with any finger shaking anger, sarcasm, or “I told you so.” Prepare yourself to be enthusiastic about her cute little apartment, and encourage her that “some people really grow in fantastic ways working for bosses like that!” Do not support her financially in any way, but do bring her a cute little plant for her apartment, and cookies, and invite her over every Sunday for a big dinner of all her favorite foods. Cheerfully maintain your relationship despite this great and terrible disappointment.

Third, please know that an associate’s degree or a technical school degree that provides real job skills can be a fantastic way to go.

There is absolutely no shame in this. Just be sure that it is not a “for profit” school, and have her ask ahead of time how the new school helps place students into internships so that real jobs result after attending.

Fourth, if your daughter mentions any possible future jobs (such as physical therapy or occupational therapy), privately google the name of that career along with the initials “BLS.”

This will get you to a Bureau of Labor Statistics page that tells you what kind of education is actually needed for that career. I’m not sure there are two-year associate’s degree programs that lead to careers in occupational or physical therapy. Those careers typically require master’s degrees, but I could be wrong. Perhaps there is a two-year program that allows you to be an assistant to a physical therapist or an occupational therapist at a greatly reduced pay rate.

Finally, fifth—can I gently ask you—did your daughter complete the career clarification work that I so strongly recommend prior to her choosing this college?

Did she go into this college knowing her MBTI personality type, her specific interests based on 3 psychometric assessments, and her five greatest personal strengths based on Gallup research? Did she enroll in this college with a sense of purpose, with an exciting career in mind? Or—did she, as SO MANY students do—skip over this step, figuring she’d just take random classes to see what she’s interested in?

If what I’ve just described is her story, that likely explains 90% of what you’re going through.

It is not too late for her to do the assessment work I recommend and make a really good decision about future career and the path toward that career.”

I cover exactly how to do this very important career assessing in my View From the Top of the Mountain online class.

My 3-session View From the Top of the Mountain class retails for $899.00, but parents and professionals inside my TRIBE Membership get it for free. Learn more and get on the waiting list for my TRIBE Membership here.

(Note that the little robot-scored “career inventories” offered at local high schools are not sufficient for these purposes. You’ll need gold standard career assessments administered and interpreted by a certified person. My View From the Top of the Mountain online class tells you exactly how to access the top-of-the-line, most highly recommended assessments—administered by the best people.)

If you’re a parent struggling with this topic, I hope this gives you an excited feeling of hope.

Our kids are TRULY gifted by God to do something beautiful in this life—something that will help this world and give the kids enough money to be able to support themselves.

We can figure out what this is—if we can pry our fingers loose of the old, long-outdated career strategy you may have been sold: “Just get into a good college, and then take random college classes to see what you’re interested in. Career will take care of itself after that.” That strategy has not worked in years; it’s at the root of our student loan crisis in this country; and it is wrecking hopes and dreams left and right. Let’s try to do something different—something far more exciting and effective—for the kids you love.

Kelly’s reply to me one hour later:

“Jeannie, thank you for your incredibly thoughtful and thorough reply. I hope you’ll be able to use what you’ve written to me to help another hopeless parent! I’ve printed out what you’ve said for my husband—so we can talk and pray about it together. As you can imagine, there are emotional and relational undercurrents for all of this. I sooooo appreciate your advice and concern. Thanks so much, Jeannie—I am grateful and now hopeful!”

UPDATE AS OF 3 YEARS LATER, ON MAY, 2019:

What happened in the 3 years after this mother wrote to me? The girl described in this article did finish a 4-year college degree program in a field she absolutely loves. She got great grades throughout the rest of her college career, she graduated 100% debt-free, she restored her relationship with her parents, and today she works full-time in a job that energizes and excites her—and she makes her parents proud every day.

There’s hope for your kids too.

Take it from me—I’m Jeannie Burlowski, the author of:

This article was updated on April 18th, 2024. No part of this article was written using AI.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Hi, I'm Jeannie Burlowski

I'm a full-time academic strategist, speaker, and podcast host, and I’m the author of the book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward.

My writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love.

My work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington PostUSA TodayNerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

I also help students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school from my website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow me on Twitter @JBurlowski.

My team and I are leading a debt-free college revolution. We hope you’ll join us.

Hi, I'm Jeannie Burlowski.

I'm a full-time academic strategist, speaker, and podcast host, and I’m the author of the book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward.

My writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love.

My work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington PostUSA TodayNerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

I also help students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school from my website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow me on Twitter @JBurlowski.

My team and I are leading a debt-free college revolution. We hope you’ll join us.

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