Freshman Year of College Didn’t Work Out for My Son. Now What?

College was never a given for my son. He wasn’t a fluent reader until middle school. Math was always difficult. And his made it hard for him to stay on top of schoolwork even in the subjects he was good at.

But with a lot of school and family support, he passed his classes and earned a high school diploma.

He applied to seven colleges. He got into six of them and picked one that he, and we, thought was a good choice.

But when college started, he didn’t take advantage of the or supports that were available to him. The worse he did in class and the more the work piled on, the less he seemed to try. At the end of the year, his grades were too low for him to stay.

Now he/we have to come up with a plan B.

He said this spring that he’s interested in going to two years of community college (a fresh start) and then finishing up at a four-year school for his bachelor’s degree. But he hasn’t filled out the applications yet. I’m trying to remain calm—and help him research other options, too.

One thing I looked into was a program in our state that combines apprenticeships with community college. He could learn a trade and make some money doing it. And at the same time, he could get an associate’s degree.

Another idea was for him to volunteer for AmeriCorps NCCC. It’s a national community service program for people 18–24. They work (and live) for 10 months in teams around the country. If accepted, he’d get free room and board and $4,000 for living expenses. He might also be eligible for grant money to put toward education.

I like AmeriCorps because it would give him independence and broaden his experience. Maybe it would give him a sense of direction. That’s always been lacking for him.

Lately, he’s expressed an interest in criminal justice as a career. I found a program at a community college close enough for him to commute to. It offers an associate’s degree in criminal justice that can transfer to a four-year college. I told him about it, and texted him the link.

That was a few weeks ago, and he hasn’t looked into enrolling yet. When I ask why, he says he doesn’t know, or he’ll do it later.

The thing is I know that when he’s clear about what he wants, he’s fearless about getting it. He’s stuck his neck out repeatedly to create a social life for himself—both in high school and in college. He put himself on the line at a stressful job in high school. He picked himself up after a nasty breakup last year and started dating again, saying he’d learned a lot from the experience.

I’m trying hard not to push him too much. At this point, I think the desire and initiative have to come from him.

Of course, I can’t help worrying about his future. He’ll have more employment options if he gets a college degree. But he’s not a kid anymore. I know I need to let him take the lead.

So I’ll keeping trying to take deep breaths and have some faith that he’ll find his own way back to school. And I’ll keep suggesting different paths that might work for him. For now, that’s our Plan B.

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