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A University Withdrawal the Friday before Finals

How parents can support their young adult after an emergency withdrawal in college, and what is needed to be mentally ready to return.

Realistically, if a young adult waits until the very last day of the semester to withdrawal from their coursework it has to be seen as a red flag.  This late in the semester, getting any tuition money back is completely out of the question.  How could a student possibly throw an entire semester’s worth of coursework away, you ask?  Well, a lot of reasons.

What is more common than not for a student to withdraw that late could really only be for extenuating circumstances.  Situations that are so rich that the young person cannot cope with the remainder of the semester and completing a university withdrawal is the only way to salvage grades for that semester.  What are examples of extenuating circumstances?  A death in the family, an illness, or significant trauma.  All scenarios where it would be unfathomable for a student to be able to focus on academics and succeed. These are bumps in the road that could have happened two weeks into the semester, or two months. Regardless, their impact was profound enough to uproot your young adult in being able to focus on their studies. It happens more often to young adults than we realize!

What does a withdrawal really mean?  A withdrawal means all their classes show up as “W” instead of impacting their GPA.  Maybe they were going to get a 0.0 GPA due to not going to any classes all semester.  Withdrawing would preserve any GPA they might be able to protect.  But by withdrawing don’t think students get away Scott-free from no impact.  If a students has Financial Aid, a full-semester withdrawal can mean the difference of receiving aid and not moving forward.  They have to complete a percentage of their coursework each semester in order to remain eligible to receive Financial Aid.  For a student who is struggling with issues that are distracting them from being able to make rational decisions, the consequences can end up hurting them even more than whatever was impacting them that semester to begin with.

In addition to dealing with the aftermath of the personal struggles that you’re your student to withdrawing themselves, now they are dealing with the worst post-withdrawal response: shame.  Often young people cannot separate themselves from what they did as shameful.  They see themselves are being a shame, instead of what happened to them as something that can be healed.  Shame is a nasty little bugger.  When you are dealing with crossing t’s and dotting i’s to get back on track academically, in the back of their mind is a growing voice that will continue to kick them while they are already down.  It is so imperative that as a parent you rush to be there with them, in solidarity and empathy. 

Strongly voice your concerns of your young adult returning to school without having dealt with their traumas, grief, etc.  That has to be the true definition of insanity.  If you wanted to waste money, why not just put it in the fireplace and burn it?  Sending a young adult back to the same university where they just withdraw, without having gone to get help for whatever their struggles (mental health, substance abuse, legal troubles, grief, loss, etc.) is setting them up to repeat the exact thing that just happened – having to make a decision where they walk away with no proof of their participation and effort, and a growing amount of shame.  It sounds catastrophic if you ask me.

Help your young adult out.  Help them get help.  College isn’t going anywhere.  Untreated and unhealed wounds will only fester and get worse. Connect with a professional who can help your young adult!  Not someone who works for a college or university, but someone who truly understands behavioral healthcare and the importance of getting your young adult connected to the best supports immediately.

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