I failed college again. What now?
March 20, 2007 6:58 PM   Subscribe

What do I do now? I haven't attended a class since sometime in February. Do I try to go to every class from now on, or just chill out until May since I've already screwed myself. Again.

I'm at UT Dallas, which is apparently difficult to get into (51% admitted) and I, for what ever reason, can't make myself go to class. Even when I do wake up in time to go, I find reasons (poor ones) to justify to myself why I won't go (like "I'll be late anyway" or "I'm not prepared"). As the semester progresses it get easier to justify to myself why I won't go ("it's useless, I won't pass now no matter what"). I did the EXACT same thing last semester and have a GPA of 0.00. I had to talk to an advisor in December to convince him to let me back in school. And I've failed. Again. I've thought seriously about joining the Coast Guard to build self-discipline (of which, I have 0.00) and to get IT training. Hopefully I'll make enough money in the CG to pay back the scholarship that I got for my SAT score. I told my family that I'd do better this time, and I didn't. I've failed college, my mom, dad, uncle, girlfriend, and myself. I'm least concerned that I failed myself. I don't want to end up like my parents (neither went to college, both are making <$25k each).
posted by cellojoe to Education (38 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Take some time off, find some direction. Find something that interests you and makes you WANT to go to school to learn about it/become qualified in it, and then go back to school. Lots smart people don't do well in college the first time around. As cliche as it sounds, take time off and find yourself.
posted by necessitas at 7:12 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: Hells, yes! Go to class. Every class, that you possibly can, even if you just can't for some, from now until the end of the semester. Even if you slip and fail in just this simple effort, get up again, and go and keep trying to go, regardless. If the profs or TA's ask about your newly discovered presence in classes, tell them you are suffering from depression, and fighting to stay in school. Ask questions. Try to do the assignments, and see if you can do any makeup work. Your attitude must be that you have no pride, can't afford to stand on ceremony, and need help. Because, really, you do.

And get over to student health services, and tell them you have this problem. You'll be the 32,674th undergrad they've seen with your issues, but they may hook you up with group therapy, a psychologist, or a doc who will say you have mononucleosis, or something, if you actually do, and give you meds you might really need.

Whether you pass or fail, ultimately, you will have, at least tried. And trying to save yourself is the first step in getting any self-respect.

That's the real lack here. You don't respect yourself. As in, "I'm least concerned that I failed myself." Until you are most concerned about that, you are likely to drown, even in a wading pool, surrounded by ropes flung by well wishers, and more life rings than 10 people could grab.
posted by paulsc at 7:22 PM on March 20, 2007 [5 favorites]

So you missed a month. Big deal, throw yourself on the mercy of your profs, explain your anxiety, and you can make it up. I mean, you've alresy paid for the semester.
posted by orthogonality at 7:23 PM on March 20, 2007

I have been in your exact position. I can't tell you whether you should go to class or whether you should drop out of school. But I can tell you that if you start going to class right now and demonstrate that you absolutely are making an effort, then you will be able to make it through this semester and stay in school. If you start going now and start doing all of your work, then visit with your professors at the end of the term before exams and tell them what you went through and what you did to correct the situation. You will be fine.

However, necessitas may be giving you excellent advice. I am not advising you to go back to class. I am just telling you that you have not failed college. You absolutely can right the ship this semester if you still want to.
posted by flarbuse at 7:24 PM on March 20, 2007

Amen to taking time off to find direction. Just go into it with the plan that you will be coming back (if, indeed, college is something you think is necessary). The worst mistake people make is thinking that college is a necessary continuation of high school. It's not. It is (or should be) both fun and training for being an adult. Too many people have bad college experiences -- either roaring through four, five, or six years drunk and stoned before waking up at the end and suddenly needing a job for which they are not prepared or just staggering through without ever realizing they're just plain sick of being in school. People I know who did really well in college and grad school took a year or two, did something interesting, learned how to live in the world, and then went back and took a balanced approach to school.

This doesn't directly address your question, but I convinced myself to go to some early morning Monday classes by dividing my tuition by the number of credit hours I was taking and realizing that every class I missed cost me (through the loans I'd taken out to attend) or my parents (for the relatively small portion they were paying) a significant chunk of change.
posted by socratic at 7:24 PM on March 20, 2007

Oh yeah, and definitely go to every class for the rest of the semester. It's paid for, right?
posted by socratic at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2007

If you really want to stick around in school, go to your professor's office hours and talk to them. Tell them that you have screwed up, make no excuses for your behavior, and ask them if there is anything you can do to still get a pass in their classes. Then do whatever they say, without fail. Most professors care enough to help you out, but it might be too late for them to do anything at this point.

If you don't care about school and are just there because you don't know what else to do, then don't do this. It would be a dick move for you to convince your professors to give you another shot and then blow them off since it will make the professors less likely to help out other students in the future.

FWIW, my little sister is finally taking college seriously, on her third try (less than 1.0 GPA each time). She worked menial jobs for the last 5 years before she was mature enough and dedicated enough to make it, and she has been Dean's List for the last 3 semesters. Not everybody is ready for college right out of high school, regardless of what most people seem to think. No shame in working until you are ready, and it will make you appreciate school even more. Good luck.
posted by jtfowl0 at 7:30 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: Frankly, it sounds like there's more going on here than you're willing to post - which is fine - and the only person who can answer this question is you.

Whatever you decide to do, I urge you to talk to someone at UTDallas's counseling center (Student Union 1.608, or 972-883-2575) for ideas on steps forward. Tell them that you need an appointment as soon as possible - don't let them pencil you in for three weeks from now. If it's not free, it will almost certainly be low-cost, and that really seems like your first place to start if you haven't gone to class for a month.

Now, aside from seeing a counselor, the semester doesn't end until April 23 according to UTDallas' online calendar, so are your classes truly unsalvageable? Is there no chance of improvement? Conquering your fears of confronting a professor after not being in class for a few weeks is tough, but not talking to them and then seeing them later is worse - especially if they're willing to cut you some slack and let you submit make-up work or other assignments to save your academic standing.

I'm not going to rehash my own story here, but let it suffice to say that I nearly dropped out twice, was nearly kicked out for low grades twice, and still made it through at an institution with similar selectivity. I can't say I've felt what you feel, because we've never met, but I've felt feelings similar to what you describe, and counseling (note: I wasn't prescribed anything) was just immensely, immensely helpful.

You've earned a place there, you deserve to be there, and you can make it if you use the resources around you. Good luck - and call them!
posted by mdonley at 7:31 PM on March 20, 2007

Or, on preview, what everybody else said. Damn, I need to learn to type faster.
posted by jtfowl0 at 7:31 PM on March 20, 2007

I did the same thing a couple times too. It was all part of my special 20-year plan for an ungrad degree.

Go to every remaining class. It'll be bad. Classmates will wonder who you are. The prof will be surprised you hadn't dropped weeks ago. Going to class will make you feel worse than you do now. Facing the people there will make you feel like an ass. Fuck em. Go to every remaining class. When you get hit with academic suspension at semester's end, enroll at your local votech or community college. Learn never to miss class that first time. Keep trying.

You can get discipline from the Coast Guard; if you want build self-discipline, you'll have to do it yourself.
posted by klarck at 8:17 PM on March 20, 2007

See your doctor and the counselling department. Go to class. Every one. Work as hard as you can. When the next semester rolls around, work just as hard. Take the same courses if you need to. Just work at it.

Figure out what motivates you. For me, it was the idea of making as much as my dad did. I was able to do that by the time I was 26. If money motivates you, use that. Just find a focus and use that to push you along.
posted by acoutu at 8:48 PM on March 20, 2007

you're a smart person. you can make up one month of missed classes. you'll have to work like a dog but you can get a passing grade this semester. just start going to class and doing your work.
posted by sid at 8:49 PM on March 20, 2007

also, if you do drugs or drink excessively, i urge you to stop. they don't help. really.
posted by sid at 8:50 PM on March 20, 2007

College/University isn't for everybody.

I have four - FOUR - friends who were in exactly the same situation as you.

One dropped out. Went to work for his dad - eventually got to take over one of his dad's bigger companies. Doing a bang-up job. No degree required. Making mad mad mad $$$ while I worked for a couple of years after undergrad with a magna cum laude, a MSc and working on a PhD and now I'm making a couple of bucks over poverty line.

One dropped out. Went to work for first friend. Was making decent cash. Moved on to another job, making better money. Had women problems, said "screw it," moved overseas and is working and having a hell of a good time.

One dropped out, went to work in the movie industry. Loving it. Making mad cash.

One dropped out. Went back. Finished a BA in Psych. Went into a computer animation studio. He's now producing movies. Making mad cash.

Post-secondary education isn't for everyone and a post secondary education doesn't necessarily equal success in life. Post-sec edu just might not be for you.

I have lots of friends who never went on to post-sec edu. Many of them are very happy with their jobs and have (and are able to afford through said jobs) interesting and expensive hobbies that they love. While I'm stuck in "the lab" and can't afford to do many things that I'd like to do (if my supervisor let me take the time off to do them in the first place).

I think that the important thing is that you don't hate what you have to do to cover bills (a job). If you're thnking the coast guard, why not explore the possibility?

One day, though. One day. But by then I'm going to be old and wrinkly, or at least old and flaccid.
posted by porpoise at 9:43 PM on March 20, 2007

Response by poster: @sid:
one thing I have been able to do is not drink or do drugs. thanks for your concern

damn! that was fast!!
thanks so much. as of now i plan on going to the counseling center in the morning.
thanks again everyone.
posted by cellojoe at 9:51 PM on March 20, 2007

When you take self-sabotage and avoidance to an absurd extreme there is usually this desire for there to be a sort of clear, sharp and dramatic line: there is the big transformation there you are, perfect from now on. But when you actually take a shot at making a change it just doesn't live up, so you put it off again, avoid, run away, maybe get into something really complicated and off the plot like joinin' the Coast Guard!

As you go along with life and tackle some real difficult changes you start to realize that almost all authentic transformation is slow, incremental, starts small, is often ambiguous, often doesn't feel real, is beset by doubt and setbacks. Sounds like it sucks, right? Well it does, kind of, but if you push through all that jack you get the rewards, just the same, and they are real. If you get a leg up on this lesson now it will be the most valuable thing you gain from not bailing on your intentions now.

You also do need to work on figuring out what's going on with this over-the-top avoidance, though. But going to class is probably not a bad place to start. Get a back-up alarm and stop being an asshole.
posted by nanojath at 9:51 PM on March 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

you can make up one month of missed classes. you'll have to work like a dog but you can get a passing grade this semester. just start going to class and doing your work.

This may be true, but it may not be. We run on a quarter system so things are more compressed, but for most classes I've TAd for you could not pass after skipping an entire month. For instance, the class I just was TAing for accepts 1 assignment late, and has weekly assignments. Failing 2 assignments would be enough to cause you to fail the course. So in that class, you'd be screwed, without some serious fast-talking/a doctor's note. Also, if you have missed in-class exams, you probably won't be able to make them up without some serious fast-talking/a doctor's note. Your professors will be able to figure out whether you can pass (and will not hate you for asking) -- explain the situation to them ("I've been depressed and not attending class; I'm trying to dig myself out and was wondering if you could tell me whether it is still possible to pass.") You absolutely must talk to them asap. I don't want to be a downer here but it would not make you less depressed in the long run to do everything for the rest of the quarter and still fail. It's possible that enough of your professors will be understanding that you can withdraw from some classes (withdrawal is better than an F, I wish someone had told me this as a freshman), and still be over the minimum credit limit. Also:

Hopefully I'll make enough money in the CG to pay back the scholarship that I got for my SAT score.

If it's really a scholarship, not a loan, you won't have to pay it back. You may lose it though (I lost my scholarship after my disastrous freshman year. It may hearten you to know that I got through it and went on to academic success...I'm now ABD in a pretty good grad program in my field.)
posted by advil at 9:56 PM on March 20, 2007

Best answer: Everyone else has said this, but I'll say it too:
1. Get counselling. Insist on regular meetings, at least once a week for now. If you have trouble actually making your administrative phone calls (eg to professors, to financial aid, whatever), you might be able to do these during your counselling meetings if you explain to the person that that would help you to get on track.

2. Talk to your profs or TAs. Tell them you know you have screwed up, you've been depressed and having a hard time, but want to salvage what you can. Ask them for an honest assessment, then ask them if there are extra help resources that you could use (eg tutoring center for math, TA office hours for essay-writing classes, etc).

3. Use those resources. Go to the tutoring center. Set up appointments to discuss stuff with profs or TAs (and be prepared).

4. If part of your problem is just getting out of the room in the morning, set up a meeting with a friend every morning. Maybe you could go to the gym and do 30 minutes' exercise in the morning, a couple days a week. Maybe you could meet someone for breakfast a couple days a week. Get yourself the hell out of your room. Whatever's keeping you at home (internet? video game? extra sleep?), don't do that in the morning. Save it for after your last class of the day.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:40 PM on March 20, 2007

Also, this happens to lots of people. (for example) The way to get out is to plug yourself into support systems (eg counselling center, talking to profs and TAs, etc), and to force yourself by whatever means necessary to get out of bed/out of the house and just do what needs doing.

If your profs say it's too late, then withdrawing (or possibly taking medical leave, if you can get diagnosed with a psych problem like depression) is an option. You would need to talk to your academic advisor or to someone in the dean of students' office about this, to see what category fits your needs best. Taking time off from school can be really good, and may be the best option. But first see what your profs have to say.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:46 PM on March 20, 2007

If after the unanimous advice here you still find yourself not making it to class next week, withdraw from school officially. DON'T just not go. Withdrawing officially will allow you to return when you get your act together, it's like taking a leave of absence.

It will be harder (not impossible, but harder) to go back eventually if you "finish" with a 0.0 average.
posted by cali at 10:47 PM on March 20, 2007

Response by poster: @advil: it's a scholarship from the school. i had to pay back part last semester for the same reason as (possibly) this semester.
i've missed a test in a couple of classes, and weekly quizzes and the like. of the 15 hrs i'm enrolled in, i may be able to earn 9hrs credit
posted by cellojoe at 10:50 PM on March 20, 2007

Going back to class will likely go better than you expect. I did something similar several years ago and it was my experience that professors will respond to people honestly and sincerely saying "I screwed up. Is there anything I can do to fix it?".
posted by concrete at 10:56 PM on March 20, 2007

cellojoe, if you're still up and reading this, you could email your profs right now and then come report back to us that you have done so -- whattaya say? Then you'll have answers from them by tomorrow afternoon, and be in a better position to figure out what your next step will be.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:41 PM on March 20, 2007

I agree with others that you need to contact your school's counseling or health services ASAP.

Something else I want to bring up - during a stint organizing the library of a university unit focusing on issues of underrepresented groups on campus, I ended up reading a number of books on first-generation college students (first in their family to go to college) and the difficulties they faced. Their first-person accounts almost universally described huge difficulties adjusting to college during their first one or two years, stemming from the cultural differences of the academy and their own upbringing. And this included things like going to see professors during their office hours and utilizing the various support services available on campus, that is, perceiving the university to be there to serve them. Students often felt lost and disconnected and as if everybody else but them knew what was going on, while the family could not necessarily provide practical guidance on how to navigate college. I'm bringing this up because what you're going through may not have anything to do with your self-discipline or smarts, but may be a kind of "culture shock" response.
posted by needled at 4:27 AM on March 21, 2007

I second everything everyone else has said, really. Great answers.

I've been in this situation. I am still, to a lesser degree, in this situation. It blows. But paulsc has it:

Your attitude must be that you have no pride, can't afford to stand on ceremony, and need help. Because, really, you do.

Next week, make a point to talk to every professor. Every single one, no exceptions. Just come in and ask, "Hey, I've been doing really poorly and I'm trying to turn things around. Where do I stand right now? What should I do?"

I'd also like to add that the coast gaurd academy has very strict admissions standards, and you'd never get in with your current record.
posted by phrontist at 7:51 AM on March 21, 2007

Your family background and self-reinforcing cycle of avoiding class strikes me as a classic indicator of clinical depression. I'd strongly suggest getting some professional guidance there, which may also help turn this into a leave of absence rather than expulsion- though expect to be asked to take Community College classes before you can return.
posted by mkultra at 9:32 AM on March 21, 2007

Depression and anxiety got me into serious academic trouble early in my college years. I had no idea why I couldn't stop being so lazy and useless. As I look back, the only thing that would have helped me was psychological counseling.

Even if you could "discipline" yourself and get passing grades, eventually you'd have to face the real problems, whatever they are. Depression, fear of failure, whatever -- it's not going to go away just because you force yourself to go to classes and turn in assignments.

If the counseling at the health service doesn't help, that doesn't mean you're out of luck. It just means that a particular counselor isn't for you, and/or that it can take time and lots of trial and error. Your aim should be to understand what's keeping you from living your life, and to try to learn what kinds of things really engage you and matter to you -- maybe even what things you really enjoy. It isn't really about being "applying yourself" and getting passing grades, but about learning to make decisions based on what you really want instead of what you think you're supposed to do. And in the meantime (because changing your self-doubt takes time) counseling can help you to make cognitive and behavioral changes to override some of the things that are thwarting you now.

I really wish you well.
posted by wryly at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2007

Response by poster: <2 2 march>
thank you for your point of view. I never really took into account that I'm a first gen college student. My sister graduated 10 months ago. She did GREAT in college and is now living on her own making ~$45k as a nurse. My mom's advice has only been from what she reads. Maybe it's time I called my sister, too.

what motivates me...

-well, i've stay up another night in a row to get linux running well on my laptop, yet, i talked myself out of going to the counselor's office yesterday morning, like I said I was going to.

-right after i my computer case I spent 4-5 hours installing everything (motherboard, drives and whatnot) even though I knew it'd be of no use with out a monitor and keyboard. It sits in my closet until i get those things.

I watched CSPAN all day yesterday (I never watch CSPAN) because I wanted to convince myself that I cared about current events. I don't know why, I chose that day. hmm...

I'm emailing my professors RIGHT NOW (before i click submit). I figure if I let them know that I want to talk with them, I'll be more likely to get out of the apartment and go talk to them

thank you all so much
< /22 march>
<2 3 march>
I can't figure out why I do this to myself...
I don't eat because I don't get hungry. When I do finally get hungry, I'm beyond starving. Yesterday around 5pm, I decided to take a break from tweaking Ubuntu on my laptop. I go to the living room and get dizzy. I drink some water and lay on the couch. I'm starving, but the only thing I have the energy to eat is a tortilla that's on the counter. So I ate one tortilla and drank some water. I felt like I was going to throw up, but I didn't. My face felt really hot, like I was sweating, but it was 70F in the apartment. Now it's 5:30am Friday, and I've only emailed two professors. I'm meeting with one later this morning, and I plan (since I'll be out anyway) on stopping by the counselors. Wish me luck.
posted by cellojoe at 3:33 AM on March 23, 2007

cellojoe, for the next week, try reporting your progress back to us, until you get support systems set up where you are.

Come back and let us know about the meeting, and how it went at the counselors' office. I will be checking back here to see how you're doing. Give yourself credit for the progress you make, and don't drive yourself crazy with guilt over what you didn't do.

For the next few days, promise yourself that you will do two things each day:
1. Get out of the house for at least 2 hours in the middle of the day.
2. Eat at least twice.

If you do those things, no guilt for the day.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:43 AM on March 23, 2007

Response by poster: I'll keep you updated.

I like this idea
If you do those things, no guilt for the day.
I haven't made it to the counselor's yet, I'm going to have lunch (eating! YAY!) then head over.

Thank you all so much for your advice.
posted by cellojoe at 10:38 AM on March 23, 2007

Right on - I'll be checking back tonight to hear how the counselor visit was. :)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:20 AM on March 23, 2007

Response by poster: I made an appointment for Monday at 13:45. I was really hesitant to visit the counselors office, even though I know it was just to make an appointment. We'll see how it goes on Monday.

Tomorrow is Shutdown Day, and I plan on participating, so no updates tomorrow.

Oh! When I got back to the apartment, one of my apartment-mates and I decided to go play ping pong. So I was out of the apartment for 2+ hours. It felt good to have fun, outside of the apartment. Away from xbox, and the computer. I hope to do more of that tomorrow.

Thanks again LobsterMitten. It's nice to hear advice from someone who doesn't know me. I plan on getting more of that from the counselor.

posted by cellojoe at 4:53 PM on March 23, 2007

Very glad to hear it!
I'll look here again Monday, let us know that you've made it to the appointment! :)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 PM on March 23, 2007

Incidentally, when you visit the counselor, be honest. Maybe print out some of what you wrote above, so even if you feel ok the day of the appointment you can tell them "I haven't been eating, I've been awake all night and asleep all day, etc". It might feel like it's a little crazy to say that you can't do these basic life things, but that's what they need to hear, to help you out of this pattern. (And believe me, they've heard it before, so don't feel stupid about it.) Getting to that first appointment is one of the hardest steps, and you're most of the way there now.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:04 PM on March 23, 2007

Response by poster: The first meeting went well. We talked of what I want to get out of the counseling and that was mainly for me to get into a routine (such as a sleep schedule, eating every day (preferably around the same time). She mentioned (and I failed to here) that my poor nutrition may be affecting my ADHD and therefore making it difficult to realize "hey, it's 5am, time to sleep" when I'm absorbed in playing video games online. My goal is to take the adhd meds (which I haven't been taking because I thought the side effects were worse than the benefits) and to go buy breakfast foods before the next session Thursday.
posted by cellojoe at 1:54 PM on March 26, 2007

Response by poster: oh, and I'm not thinking of joining the Coast Guard anymore. At least, not right now. That was the easy way out.
posted by cellojoe at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2007

I'm so glad that you made it to the meeting - and it sounds like you're on your way to a good practical plan. I hope the 2 hrs out of the house/ 2 meals thing is working, too.

Have you heard anything from your profs? (I'm hoping you might also talk to some of them this week, to see what your plan will be in each class)

Good luck with these next few weeks; if you can keep taking small steps and focusing on your forward progress (rather than on how much an imaginary "perfect person" might have done), you'll do great. :)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:06 PM on March 26, 2007

Response by poster: I've decided to go back home for summer school, and I'll go to a community college there for the fall and spring semesters. If all goes well, and I still want to come back to UTD (as I do right now) then I'll get things in order for that.
posted by cellojoe at 11:14 PM on April 13, 2007

« Older Info for a live show on U of Chicago campus   |   Help me learn about politics and law! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.