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Navigating College Life

Navigating college life has become increasingly more complicated and difficult. College coeds are being faced with a wide range of social choices on an ongoing basis that they are ill prepared to meet. The academic ...

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Navigating college life has become increasingly more complicated and difficult. College coeds are being faced with a wide range of social choices on an ongoing basis that they are ill prepared to meet. The academic challenges are one area; relationships and social decision-making are another.

The first winter break for college freshmen can be very unnerving, especially around grades. Unfortunately, a growing number of college freshmen go away to school with very poor time management skills. Unlike high school, where everything was clearly spelled out and accountability was reasonably tight, college life is the total opposite. Course requirements are spelled out, and due dates assigned, but no one is standing over you to make sure that you meet those due dates with quality work. There is no one taking attendance and threatening to call mommy, if you cut too many classes.

A Residence Advisor and/or Academic Advisor is not going to tell you when to come home, what party to avoid and what classes not to cut. Depending on the school community, there will be advice given, but not imposed. As long as you live under the radar, don t cause trouble or get arrested, you pretty much can do what you please, as a college student living away from home.

Too many freshmen go away to school ill-equipped to navigate the complicated landscape of college life. They re excited about the freedom to come and go as they please and do what they want, but don t often think of the consequences of their choices and decisions. Most college freshmen who get into academic trouble think that they will always be able to catch up, and they just get buried under so much work that needs to be done, that it becomes almost impossible to manage.

Before some freshmen realize it, it s finals week, and they owe a wide range of assignments for a number of courses. The panic sets in because now they re playing catch-up. On some course outlines, in small print, the professor indicates he will not accept any late assignments and therefore the missing assignment will be given the grade of zero.

The student didn t realize how many classes he cut until he tried to get the notes to prepare for the final exam. As he attempted his preparation, he realized it was an exercise in futility. Too much material was missing and there was not enough time to learn the material to effectively pass the exam.

This particular freshman was taking 15 credits at the beginning of the semester. By finals week, he was down to 12 credits. In two courses he was pretty confident of receiving at least B or better. In the other two courses, he was hoping to at least pass.

During Christmas break, he received a letter from the Academic Dean indicating he was on academic probation and in danger of being asked to leave his college. He was shocked with his first semester transcript. He received one B, a D and two F s. He definitely thought he would get by, by the skin of his teeth. The Dean s letter and his transcript were a rude awakening.

The college correspondence arrived right after the new year. It was addressed to him and not to his parents. However, he had to show them his transcript, because they kept asking him how he did.

Needless to say, after procrastinating for a week, he finally had no choice but to show them his grades. They went ballistic. All through the semester, he assured his parents he was doing fine. They were devastated. As parents, they felt so powerless.

They had a big sit-down, regarding his grades and what to do. His parents initially said that they did not think he should go back to school since he acted so irresponsibly. He pleaded for a second chance and agreed that if he did not maintain 3.0 grade point average in the spring, he would voluntarily withdraw from school and repay the tuition he had wasted.

This freshman assured his parents that he would work on his time management skills and be more socially responsible. He also volunteered to access a midterm report card and send it to them to further build up his credibility.

Hopefully this freshman learned something from his first semester.

JK was another freshman home on break who had difficulties during his first semester. He managed his academic life reasonably well. Unfortunately, his social life was a disaster. He got drawn into a female relationship and became consumed with that dynamic.

His dating experience at home was sporadic and nothing very serious. The relationship he developed at school was very serious and very intense. She was a good student, so their academic life did not suffer. However, she was a reckless partier. JK drank sporadically at home, during his senior year and during the summer. He never smoked weed, or tried any other illegal substance.

His newfound love drank a lot. She drank every weekend, and one night during the week. She also enjoyed smoking weed and using Oxycontin. To fit in and feel socially acceptable, JK started to smoke and use Oxycontin. Having a compulsive personality, it wasn t long before he had to smoke every day and use his drug of choice as well.

Right before finals, he was at a party with his beloved and it was raided. He started to run but the police caught up with him. He was high and slurring his speech. They searched him and found a pound bag of marijuana on his person and more than 50 Oxycontin. They arrested him for the possession of drugs with the intention to sell.

His friends bailed him out. He was arrested in a small college town and tried to handle this himself. When he went before the judge, the judge told him because he was under 21, he was to come back at the beginning of February with his parents.

When the notice of his court case arrived in the mail, his parents breached his privacy and opened it and were furious. They were more fixated on the social ramifications of his arrest, rather than on his mental health and possible addiction problems.

They sought a professional consultation. It was recommended that he be given a full psychological and drug screening evaluation to determine the seriousness of his circumstance. It was also recommended that he not go back to school for the spring semester. JK was vehemently opposed to any kind of assessment or possible treatment. His parents were manipulated and disregarded the professional recommendation that was made.

He went back to school in the middle of January. Time will tell what will ultimately happen to this young man. With their son s admitted social behavior, it was dangerous and potentially lethal to not at least get an assessment and know what he is really facing!