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02 May 2006

I'm even sadder [More:] In the previous post, I talked about the tough time my son was having at college. We've come to grips with the fact that he will likely lose his scholarship; sh!t happens.

We talked to him yesterday and went over his exams and where he was doing well, and not so well. He could still keep his scholarship if things go well, but even if he doesn't, we were hoping he does his best. He had one exam left, for the Music Theory class that's been giving him all kinds of grief.

But my wife just got a call from him at 9:30. He had just woken up and his exam was at 8:00!!! Apparently he set his clock wrong! He went to the test room and the professor was already gone! (It was supposed to be a two-hour exam.) Anyway, he was going to try to find the head of the music department and see what could be done. We told him to call us and let us know what happened, and it's been over an hour now, so we're hoping no news is good news; maybe they'll let him take the exam after all? I dunno.

Whether or not he keeps the scholarship is beside the point, really. Damn, my heart breaks for him. At this point he just wants to come home. He's no doubt feeling pretty low about now.
You know, Doohickie, this makes me want to recommend a counselor more than ever. It's exactly the kind of thing depression can cause (oversleeping, confusion, lack of will). Have him try to reach the professor, make the case "I've been struggling a lot to keep up with this class and have really prepared for this exam, but I'm also fighting off depression, and that caused me to miss the test." That is enough of a medical reason that he should be able to retake the exam. If the prof refuses, take it to the dean or provost. Seriously. Fight it. And see about getting some treatment for your son!

I speak from experience. This reminds me of my troubled first year in college. I did this more than once.
posted by Miko 02 May | 11:13
I empathize. I'm not in the exact same situation, but I can foresee no way other than an act of God by which I pass even half of my classes this semester.

Counseling is good. Don't be scared to ask for another counselor if it's not a "good fit". I went in as a freshman for help in spring of '98, got no help, and so I foundered for the next three years. By the time I got a counselor that worked for me when I went back for more help senior year, the only option was a medical leave of absence.
posted by Eideteker 02 May | 11:22
He had just woken up and his exam was at 8:00!!! Apparently he set his clock wrong!
I still have that nightmare. Now I overcompensate. Yesterday morning I ran over to a meeting at the city planning bureau only to realize that the meeting was actually supposed to be today. I told the receptionist that I'd had a brain tumor for breakfast.
posted by pieisexactlythree 02 May | 11:23
I still don't have very clear memories of the two years I spent in grad school the first time around because I was dealing with depression and some other pretty serious life issues that affected my mental health. Luckily I was able to be tough enough to graduate, and I had a lot of outside help. Good luck and strength to you both (and the rest of your family as well).
posted by matildaben 02 May | 11:37
My best friend in college spent a frustrated first year just not getting things, until he withdrew from school following a family tragedy. He spent five years travelling the USA, working here and there, seeing things, growing up. Then he went back to the same school, said "This is what I did, and I'm ready for college now," and they accepted him back and he cruised to a 4.0, far more mature about work and play than any of us (he was 23 and a sophomore when I met him). He's a hell of a guy.

Obviously there's no guarantee that this will happen, as everybody grows differently and follows different interests and muses. People move forward all the time, whether they stay on the same track or not.

I know this is anecdotal, and kinda scary, actually, but great good can come of seemingly unpleasant surprises, especially when kids are concerned. Sounds like you've got a good kid; sounds like he'll make a good man.

On preview, the counselor's a good idea. Thhe depression diagnosis could be wrong or right, and talking or finding out could really help your son a lot; it might at least help with the college giving him a second chance. Good luck.
posted by Hugh Janus 02 May | 11:56
There really is no simple answer to a situation like this. It is worth recalling that you're typically not penalized in any way for simply taking a break in the middle of college. The length of the break is unimportant. Now might be a good time to give something like Peace Corps a shot. I kind of whish I'd done something like that, b/c now I don't think I'll ever have the time and financial means to up and split for a year or so. You could suggest something like that if it's the kind of thing he'd be interested in. All my friends who did that sort of thing speak glowingly of those times.
posted by pieisexactlythree 02 May | 12:06
Pi, you can still have a shot at it if you make it a priority. I never could afford to travel when I was young, but I'm going to make it a priority in my current decade of life.
posted by matildaben 02 May | 12:10
Doohickie, I can't remember if I posted this the last time or not, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself.

I failed out of college in the middle of my junior year. I was majoring in literature at a small, private liberal arts school. I thought the world had ended. It was humiliating. But I did a year at community college, switched my major to journalism and transferred to a very large, urban university. I graduated near the top of my class with honors and awards out the wazoobie and got a job that I loved right after graduation.

The point of my story is two-fold:
1.It's very, very possible that your son is struggling because its just not a good fit. He may do better and feel better somewhere else.
2.No matter what happens, there are alternatives. He'll be OK. Just keep telling him that.
posted by jrossi4r 02 May | 12:51
I took a year off halfway through college. In addition to having spent a semester or two on academic probation, I was also unsure about my direction; I was pretty sure that I was in the wrong major (for me), and I needed a little time to figure things out and get my act together.

The year off was great. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, and ultimately changed majors when I returned to school. I also worked full-time in retail management, and if I needed any convincing that I wanted the options that come with a college degree, that was it.

I went back to school following the year off, and did much better than I had before. I don't regret it at all.
posted by amro 02 May | 12:53
What saved me was a semester abroad. Even if you spend the whole semester fucking up (and I did) it hit a reset button in my head. When I came back I was raring to go.

Worked for my little brother, too, and he was in way worse shape than me academically and motivationally.

posted by small_ruminant 02 May | 13:05
He had just woken up and his exam was at 8:00!!! Apparently he set his clock wrong!
I still have that nightmare.

Not only do you still have that nightmare, but I wake up in a cold sweat from it. Except my version involves forgetting that I was even enrolled in a class and realizing it on the day of the final exam. And, of course, this is my last semester of school and I need that credit to graduate - if I don't graduate, how will I start my new job that summer? Man, this dream freaks me out.

Anyway, back in real life, I did miss a lot of classes when I was in college. I slept through several mid-term exams. Luckily, one prof just decided to give me the average of my other two exams that semester (which was an A-, so fucking lucky me) and the other classes had a "drop the low score" policy.
posted by mullacc 02 May | 13:10
I took a semester off during college too. Had a job at a publishing company. I didn't change majors or anything when I came back, but I sure needed the time off.
posted by matildaben 02 May | 13:13
er, Not only do I still have that nightmare
posted by mullacc 02 May | 13:27
If I have a lasting regret, it's not taking a year off before/during/after uni to go dig ditches in Africa. It's too easy to get caught in the HS->degree->job pipeline. Not going back to school might be what he needs right now.
posted by bonehead 02 May | 13:49
I agree with those who've suggested some time out from school doing something else. Something that involves travel to a foreign country might be a good idea, if only for the experience of a different culture.
posted by essexjan 02 May | 14:47
Well I've spoken with him a few times today, and we all realize it's not the end of the world. I don't know what he thinks about it, but the Peace Corps (or AmeriCorps) sounds groovy; he might like that.

In the meantime, I'm trying to help him negotiate the missed final- is there any way to take it at this point, etc. He knows he wants to take a leave of absence from the school, then decide whether to switch schools or return.

Part of my problem with all this is I did the HS -> college -> job pipeline and don't know anything else, so it's kind of tough. I do know several people who didn't follow the same pipeline and turned out fine, so I'm not that worried about the long haul; he'll figure out what he wants to do... eventually.
posted by Doohickie 02 May | 14:49
I went through a rough patch my junior year. Switched from the music school at Michigan to liberal arts, got almost all A's that first semester, then nearly dropped out. (I had a free plane ticket and $1200 in the bank and a plan to get to Honolulu where I'd waitress and hike volcanoes.) I dropped down to two classes (lightening the load helped) and worked in my dorm cafeteria to afford therapy with my former psychopathology professor. For the first two weeks, all I did was cry on his couch, but it did really help, talking to him (I've never had a good therapist since, I'm afraid, so it is good to shop around, if need be).

Music Theory. I took four semesters of it. It didn't seem fair to me; half the students had perfect pitch and could take dictation like writing their names. The other half were like me, practicing endless arpeggios.

And my father still had that nightmare about missing finals when he was eighty. Makes me wish I had gone to Honolulu.

In any case, I hope it all works out. My father wasn't always the most understanding person about grades, but, in the end, he was supportive, and showed me that I mattered more than the grades, which meant the world to me. I was back on track senior year. Of course, I subsequently tried law school and dropped out, then an endless series of jobs, until I settled on teaching (and hopefully writing). Somehow, we find our way?

Sounds like you're very supportive... All the best.
posted by Pips 02 May | 15:05
Some time off might be helpful. Decompress and all; get perspective.

Definitely talk to the professor, though. Often they'll work with you, maybe give him an Incomplete and a chance to make up the exam. (At some schools, you can have up to a year to finish an Incomplete.) If the professor's uncooperative, definitely talk to a Dean; any grade or situation can be appealed. He should maybe try first, but a parent can often get results, too. In my experience, schools generally want to do everything they can to help a student succeed; then, with that class taken care of, he can decide about continuing, etc.

Again, all the best. Hope this helps.
posted by Pips 02 May | 15:15
Yeah, I'm trying to get him to do that. If the prof lets him take the exam right away, no Incomplete will be necessary. He tried to call the prof but didn't get her; he left a voicemail on her home phone. I told him to talk to the head of the music department to see what he could do to help. I'm leary of intervening too much; at some point he's got to do this for himself. I'm trying to give him ideas on what to do next, though.

He has kind of a complex personality- smart as hell, very talented, perhaps a little too arrogant at times, and maybe a little lazy as well. Not unlike his dad....

I can look at his situation and know what *I* would do in his situation with the benefit of my life experience. But he kind of wants to do this for himself and doesn't want mom and dad's help. But he does. But his pride won't let him. Or something like that.

Kids these days......

(Now I have some inkling what I put my parents through.)
posted by Doohickie 02 May | 16:11
Yes, my poor father. He was a yeller, but, looking back on things (he passed in '98), one of the most patient people on planet earth.

Again, good luck with everything. Sounds like you have a great son.
posted by Pips 03 May | 09:30
Well, he finally got a hold of his professor and will be taking the exam today. He's put in for a leave of absence from school and I leave for Iowa tomorrow to pick him up. Although we've been kind of obsessed with the downside lately, things could work out very well... If he scores well on his final, he could keep his scholarship and perhaps return. But even if he doesn't go back and finishes somewhere else, at least he won't leave unfinished business behind like he would have if he never took the final.
posted by Doohickie 04 May | 11:35
Reading my last post... okay... so I like closure....
posted by Doohickie 04 May | 21:54
Thanks for the update. Glad to hear it worked out with taking the final and all. As you say, everything else will sort itself out. All the best--
posted by Pips 05 May | 13:06
Got back from picking him up. Drove 14 hours up to Iowa by myself on Friday, then 14 hours back to Fort Worth on Saturday, getting home at midnight with an Elantra full of stuff:

≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by Doohickie 07 May | 19:30
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