I failed out of college. Appeal advice needed.
May 27, 2009 6:53 PM   Subscribe

I failed out of college. Appeal advice needed, because I'm pretty terrified.

Years ago, I failed out of college. It was completely my fault. It was, however, a great learning experience, apparently greater than the previous 3+ years at college had been. Since having been kicked out, I've completed my AA in an unrelated field, and have secured a job in a position on the order of VP/Department Head. I'm still in my 20s, and would like to finish my degree in the unrelated field (which I am very interested in), as it's important to not only my family/friends/career, but also to myself for confronting and rectifying the irresponsibility of my youth. And that whole closure thing.

I have 2 options for returning to the university (a state school, by the way):

1) Appeal my disqualification based upon extenuating circumstances.
2) Wait an additional 2+ years, as there is a "statute of limitations" if you will on academic disqualifications.

My actual reasons for failure are as follows:

++ Disinterest in the subject matter of my major. I was interested in the application of my major, not the subject matter. I was not interested in being a statistician(for example), I was interested in what a team of statisticians could be used to do.
++ Mild mental issues, for example mild to moderate depression or moderate to severe ADHD, for which I've had multiple doctors prescribe medication.
++ Work.
++ Relationship/roommate issues.

I am granted a hearing for the appeal, and I will be interviewed by the dean of the college I am attempting to enroll in and potentially given a letter of recommendation to give to the hearing committee. My exit GPA was under 1.8, my GPA while I attended school for my AA was over 3.5, and my program GPA for the major I've switched to and will be attempting to enroll in is over 3.5. Basically, academically, I've done significantly better than I did at any point in my previous coursework, in addition to currently holding a full time job. I feel like I will have to get a strong endorsement from the Dean, and then play up my current achievements during the appeal.

I don't (feel like I) have a legitimate reason for "extenuating circumstances". There was no death in the family, extreme illness/injury, crime victimization, etc.

SO, I need advice on how to frame my case. I'm not sure if I should attempt to emphasize that I could not balance work and school, and could not quit work due to money issues, or that I should mention/emphasize treatment for my medical issues.

Also, I've considered going to a different school, but many of them require that you be in good standing with all of your previous universities, and I do not want to/cannot (due to work) move to a new city to go to school. Waiting 2 years would put me in the 30 range, and I'd like to graduate while my grandparents are still alive.

Having heard people's experiences dealing with other college appeals (parking tickets!!!), I'm not sure if this appeals board is looking to reject everyone with all but the most extreme of excuses, or if they're just attempting to legitimately ensure that they readmit people who can be successful and will be upstanding graduates.

I doubt that it matters, but I'm on the West Coast and switching from Engineering to Finance.
posted by anonymous to Education (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Having heard people's experiences dealing with other college appeals (parking tickets!!!), I'm not sure if this appeals board is looking to reject everyone with all but the most extreme of excuses, or if they're just attempting to legitimately ensure that they readmit people who can be successful and will be upstanding graduates.

The latter more than the former.
posted by phrontist at 6:57 PM on May 27, 2009

"I don't (feel like I) have a legitimate reason for "extenuating circumstances"."

BS! You clearly had some problems, you have gotten your proverbial poop in a group, obtained an associates degree. If I was on the appeals board you are EXACTLY the kind of person I would bend over backwards to give a second chance to.

You have shown initiative and responsibility. Bravo. I wish there were more like you.

Congratulations on recovering and best wishes!
posted by Ponderance at 6:58 PM on May 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

In my opinion, depression and other mental issues are exactly the reason appeals like this exist. Just because no one died doesn't mean you weren't ill.
posted by sugarfish at 6:59 PM on May 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

Your 3.5 GPAs are pretty much all that the appeals committee will need to see in order to convince them. I've been there before, and the good grades sealed the deal.
posted by zsazsa at 7:10 PM on May 27, 2009

You have everything you need for a successful appeal. You are exactly the kind of person this process was developed for. You have proven that you have an interest in study and have gotten your act together. They want to know (a) have you addressed your problems sufficiently to manage yourself in a program of study and (b) are you likely to finish. The answer, as you describe it, is yes to both.

Mild mental issues, for example mild to moderate depression

Most colleges today are very sympathetic to this situation. A truly astonishing number of people drop out or fail out of school every year; a large number of them for mental health/life transition reasons. It won't be anything they haven't heard before. Your case is far better than most. You don't need a catastrophic reason that you encountered problems; a difficult transition, needing more time, and struggles with depression are plenty and make for a fairly simple explanation of earlier failure. Treatment and a demonstration of serious study successfully completed are all that's needed to argue for readmission.

I encourage you to proceed confidently. If anything, from your list of reasons that you encountered trouble before, the one likeliest to get you a sympathetic hearing will be the mental health issues for which you have now been treated/learned to manage. That is safely something beyond your early control and something that is solvable. Build your statement around that, and around the clarification of your study and career goals, and I think you have a very strong case.
posted by Miko at 7:19 PM on May 27, 2009

I failed out of engineering school, appealed right away, was not granted readmission. A different school at the same university admitted me. I was having similar medical/mental issues at the time. I ended up not finishing school the second go round either...took 6 and a half years off, and now my GPA is pretty close to 4.0 on the third and final try.

My point is that you will probably be fine, be honest with the admissions people (or whomever.)
posted by schyler523 at 7:20 PM on May 27, 2009

You have an external story that is quite reasonable, with a number of reasons it didn't work for you before, and an internal story that you have no reasonable grounds for appeal. Let go of that! You had issues the pushed down your performance and have now addressed those issues and demonstrated a new path. In my mind that is plenty of grounds.

Is there anyone you can ask for input on what the reviewers will be looking for? I wouldn't rely too much on 'official descriptions' of what they do, but rather is there anyone in admissions, your old department or other guidance facility that can talk to you about this before the hearing? That might help you hone your appeal.

You've convinced me, now you just need to go convince them.

Good luck!
posted by meinvt at 7:20 PM on May 27, 2009

Just one thing to consider: if you re-matriculate at your old school your 1.8 GPA might be averaged into your new GPA along with any new credits you earn. Trust me, it takes a lot of credits to pull up a low GPA. It's worth looking into having your old grades wiped from your record as part of your re-admission. Also, at a different school, you may be able to transfer the credits from your AA and previous undergrad work and start your new GPA from scratch.
posted by abirae at 7:35 PM on May 27, 2009

Though IANYA (I Am Not Your Advisor), and I don't work for your college, I am an advisor who spent a number of years at my former college sitting on the Scholastic Committee, whose primary task was reviewing and deciding on appeals for readmission from people who'd been academically suspended.

Our three main criteria in making these determinations were:

1) Does the student clearly understand and acknowledge whatever got him/her off track academically in the past?

2) Has the student put into action some concrete, tangible changes that will ensure those problems will not recur?

3) Does the student have an academic plan which will realistically enable him/her to finish a degree, in a reasonable timeframe?

In your case, the documented extenuating medical conditions address number one; a clear statement about how work and roommate situations affected you would also be germane. Items relevant to number two would of course be the demonstrated change in academic achievement, along with the the change of major, and if you could say something about adherence to medication or other treatment ameliorating the medical conditions, along with change in work hours, roommate situation, etc., that would also be good. And finally, the change in major also addresses number three.

From my perspective, as someone who reviewed probably dozens of appeals for readmission to a major research university, you have a really strong case, and I'd have voted for you without hesitation. Having said which, it would be great if you could sit down with an advisor or other knowledgeable person from this college, and find out what specific criteria they use in deciding on suspension readmit petitions.
posted by Kat Allison at 7:40 PM on May 27, 2009 [8 favorites]

I agree that you should be pretty confident of gaining re-admission as long as you are honest about your past and make sure the committee realizes how well you are doing now.

The one thing I would say is that, of the reasons you listed that you failed out, I would only bring up the work and the mental illness issues. Academics are unlikely to be sympathetic to the first one and, well, everyone has shitty roommates at one point or another. In fact, I would try to focus as little as possible on the past - focus on how well you're doing now, and how excited you are about your studies. If asked, I would just say "I wasn't ready for college when I was 18" - this is common - "but I am now."

Good luck!
posted by lunasol at 7:50 PM on May 27, 2009

I could have written Kat Allison's answer word for word, as I was also on Scholastic Committees as part of a state system as a college administrator in student services. What Kat outlines so well is right on--down to making an appointment with an advisor to review your case before you go forward.

(btw, I have seen less convincing and less well-written official statements than your askme question that were submitted and approved for readmit--and I was part of a respected system in the northwest.)
posted by rumposinc at 8:00 PM on May 27, 2009

One word of advice: don't treat this like an adversary process (possible exception if it's a really bureaucratic school where the decisionmaker will be some stooge who doesn't care about people, but this is unlikely even in big state schools). That means don't be defensive, don't talk in terms of "extenuating circumstances" and all that, but keep it positive and upbeat, "here's all the great stuff I've done since then, and here's how they show my potential." Most people probably don't even bother to get this hearing, so you're already ahead of the game.
posted by paultopia at 8:14 PM on May 27, 2009

Meant to add -- chances are, the dean will be looking to find excuses to bring you back in, not looking to find excuses to keep you out -- nobody wants to have a heavy record of people flunking out of his program.
posted by paultopia at 8:15 PM on May 27, 2009

(btw, I have seen less convincing and less well-written official statements than your askme question that were submitted and approved for readmit--)

*Totally* seconding this. Also -- really, honestly, institutions of higher ed *want* the students they admit to go on and (eventually) finish their degrees there, if for no loftier reason than that it helps their completion stats. What they don't want is to string along people who for whatever reason (wildly unrealistic goals, bad mismatch of interests to institutional offerings, intractable mental health problems, persistent lack of focus, whatever) are just never going to successfully get over the finish line there--people who just can't or won't turn things around. You've already turned things around--just tell them your story. And the bit about talking with an academic advisor there is just so you know how specifically to pitch and tailor your appeal.

Be not afraid. In my own (very protracted) undergrad career, I was academically suspended once, and was able to fast-talk my way back in. I went on to get admitted to one of the most competitive PhD programs in my field in the country. What matter is learning and changing as you go, and honesty is also a good thing.
posted by Kat Allison at 8:15 PM on May 27, 2009

I failed out of an engineering school after my freshman year and wasn't able to transfer to another college within the same university because they required a 3.0. My interests were definitely not engineering, so there was no way that a 3.0 was gonna happen. I ended up in another state at a much more affordable state school getting a double major in religion & psychology. That school wanted a copy of the transcripts to understand which courses could be credited, but other than that there was not a good standing requirement. If you do decide to look elsewhere, just be up front with them and explain what you're trying to do. Many schools are more than happy to admit a slightly older & wiser student. Either way, I think you've got good reason & motivation to finish off that degree and you'll work it out. Good luck.
posted by pappy at 8:17 PM on May 27, 2009

Talk to as many people as you are comfortable with discussing the issue on what to expect from the appeals process so you'll have a good idea of what questions will be asked. I'd check at the campus health center for therapy too - many campuses will have someone to talk to without much waiting for an appointment. (They can at the least reassure you that you're dealing with more than you may realize - depression definitely can make things tougher.) Think of everyone you talk to as part of the support system that the college has provided for just such times as you're going through.

Don't be too hard on yourself - or at least try. Sometimes all sorts of things happen at once, and some area of students' lives suffer - most people understand this. The main thing that makes it easier on the administrative people - letting them know as much factual information as possible. What may help is if you make up a written timeline of dates things happened. This is especially helpful if many things occurred at one time to make your life even crazier than the usual college experience. That list of points you posted - that's great. Start with that. Add details about work expectations, and things that may have made work more demanding if that was an issue.

Even if you run into people who don't seem empathetic to your situation - don't let that get you down. There are instructors and administrators who will care and want to help. Sometimes the trick is just tracking them down.

Also - you do not have to have a major medical or life issue (death or illness) to ask for help. (Though don't discount depression - it made my college career a bear, and definitely something I had to fight against.) In my experience students trying to manage both school and work already have a full plate, and add any other variable and it can make time management tough. It's not a sign of weakness. In fact learning how to ask for help and use the resources presented can be something you can look back on and feel that you've done well.

Hang in there. Just from reading your post it sounds like you have a plan - that's good. Just try not to beat up on yourself for not having "a good enough excuse." Don't compare your situation with other people's that way - everyone gets different challenges to struggle through, and it sounds like you're dealing with a lot.
posted by batgrlHG at 8:20 PM on May 27, 2009

Apply to Harvard. Just for fun.
Fun aside, they just might take you, and if they do, the world's proverbially your oyster.

Good luck.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:29 PM on May 27, 2009

I dropped out of school twice before finishing my BA at age 29. The last few years of the degree were a whirlwind of learning, stuff which I still use every day (I got a degree in the sciences). At times during the dropout phases I was adamant in my position of not returning to finish my degree. But I did, and it sounds like you will too. What someone said upthread is true, many people "drop out" and my own opinion is that "dropping out" for a while makes one a more rounded person and many university admins realize this. Tangentially, they may have dropped out themselves, and will sympathize with the returning student.

I recall I had to write essays both times explaining why I had dropped out and the last time I wrote something to the effect that "I just wasn't mature enough before now" (which was very true) and I got back in no problem. Finished the degree in the minimum amount of time too.
posted by telstar at 9:28 PM on May 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you want to keep the credits/classes you have taken? Either appeal or transfer to another school. If not, then just pick a place. I have failed out of a college (moved on my birthday), went to another, studied a different major and graduated just fine.
posted by CodeMonkey at 6:34 AM on May 28, 2009

I was in your exact position a few years ago. My extenuating circumstances were that I was young and stupid and not ready. I told them that I older, wiser, and most definitely ready

They let me back in.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2009

I am in the same boat and reapplying after 8 years away from school. Im currently trying to write my readmission essay. Im trying to reapply for a different major, but Im below a 2.0 GPA. I want to state in the essay, that I believe I failed out due to my disinterest in the subject matter. I really just think i didn't care, because it wasn't interesting to me. I've currently been working a job for two years now that i absolutely love and want to pursue a degree in it, so Ill have the opportunity to advance. Is this a good idea, or since my GPA is low will they say no. If either of the two posters who were ex-admissions members want to contact me direct please ask for my email. Thanks.
posted by RickN at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2010

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