Colleges for kids with substance issues

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Colleges for kids with substance issues
By Mom60 (Mom60) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 11:34 am: Edit

A friend has asked me if I had any advice for her niece who wants to grad. a year early. She will have all her high school requirements done so that is not a problem. She currently attends a very large public school. She has a 1590 SAT at the end of soph. year. The problem comes that the girl has had some substance abuse problems and has been through a treatment program. Her aunt did not know her GPA but did know that she had done some classes at a community college and had taken 2 AP tests with passing grades of 5. So the girl is obviously extremely bright. The girl feels like she would like to go away to college. Does anyone know of any colleges that have strong support for recovering teens. The Mom is in denial and things her D will be fine but the aunt is very concerned.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

Go to a woman's college. Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Agnes Scott (not Scripps, where major entertainment is drinking over at CMC, etc.). Seriously. First of all, rates of binge drinking, alcohol and drug abuse, dependence, alcohol-related hospitalization are much, much lower than their coed counterparts. They exist, of course, but at much, much lower rates. Secondly, all of the women's colleges have strong mental health/counseling programs. (most colleges these days also have an na/aa or equivalent on campus.)

Or one could go to a dry campus (like Earlham, for example.) Doesn't mean alcohol or drugs don't exist - they do, but at much lower rates, and there will be strong support for drug-free lifestyles.

Purely statistically, avoid schools with frats, with heavy commitments to athletics, in the northeast and south, and with large numbers of wealthy students. (That's a very tall order, and why I think the two approaches above would be safer.)

On most campuses these days, roughly 20% of students don't drink or do drugs at all. With the necessary personal commitment, one could find oneself among them. The problem comes with what the rest of the social scene looks like.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 12:37 pm: Edit

Augsburg College in Minneapolis has a program for people who are recovered from substance abuse. It's a good school but probably a step below her academic level. However, I suspect it might be a good first contact.

Also in Minnesota, St. Olaf College offers EXCELLENT academics and a relatively substance-free environment in a very supportive environment.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 02:36 pm: Edit

I knew Augsburg would be a good place to start. Through their StepUp program site, I found a link to a list of schools with similiar programs:

Also, keep in mind that many schools also offer substance free dorms.

By Dadofsam (Dadofsam) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 03:07 pm: Edit

Mom60: My 2c (can't find the cents sign)

I don't know that I would be suggesting that a girl with a substance abuse history go away to college a year earlier than usual, no matter what her intelligence level or what programs are available.

With her being a year or more younger than her classmates, social issues can be very problematic in general. Also, she might not yet have the maturity that's needed to run her own existence, and she won't have the family on hand for support.

When I was in college, my classmates with the greatest problems as a group were those who came from boarding schools and were six months or a year younger than most of us. Many of them were not ready to cope with the freedom, the number of options, and the social and intellectual pressures.

If she goes to college next year, I would hope she could at least be very close to home if not commuting.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 03:24 pm: Edit

Dad -- I was thinking the same thing. Would one option be to consider a productively-spent gap year (or two, since she's already a year younger)? Perhaps in a program with some structure and supervision?

By Cangel (Cangel) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 03:33 pm: Edit

I'm with Dadsofam, the fact that Mom's in denial is very worrisome - Mom needs to be in support and in supervision and in a lot of other things. I think the advice you've gotten is good, mine is assess your friendship before offering any but the most generic advice - this sounds like a friendship destroying situation. I would tactfully carefully (assuming this is a close friend) feel out what the relationship between your friend and her niece is. For ex if your friend is acting as mentor to a niece who is getting her act together, making a new start, etc and has little support at home (Mom in denial), then specific info about colleges, and encouragement to go away might well be helpful. Otherwise, I would try to keep it general. and lean toward Dadsofam's sugestion of keeping close to home.

By Arizonamom (Arizonamom) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:04 pm: Edit

Pepperdine is a pretty dry campus from what students in the town told me and a good school. Many schools have on site counselors for alcohol who rip up their notes after the sessions are done to encourage students to seek help and maintain confidentiality, there will be no records left in school files ever etc.I don't think necessarily staying close to home is an answer as that will be where her old drinking buddies are and it is too easy to fall into old patterns. I think a support system needs to be in place and set up wherever she goes.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:14 pm: Edit

Rather than go to college, maybe she could do her final year at a therapeutic boarding school--which will in turn help her select an apporpriate college? They are expensive...

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

It really depends on the individual situation, but with Mom in denial, getting away from home (to the right place, of course) could be the best thing that could happen. But you'd have to choose carefully, and would Mom be particularly helpful?

By Mom60 (Mom60) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 04:28 pm: Edit

I only know the aunt. I have never met the Mom or the D. The aunt is a woman who I worked with years ago. I only speak with her occasionally. I happened to be at an event where she also was in attendance so we got to talking as she knew we were looking into colleges. So I told her I would ask around. She also feels the girl should not go to far from support network but the Mom thinks everything is under control.
The girl is a Jr but will be 17 in November so she could actually be a young senior. She also has access to cash for education thru an inheritance from her paternal grandparents that can only be used for education before age 26. That gives the girl some added freedom in deciding where she wants to go. Mom did not go to college and Dad has never been in picture except financially.
I will pass on the names of the schools.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit

For senior year of boarding with therapy, check out the Buxton School...

By Kinshasa (Kinshasa) on Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - 06:56 pm: Edit

Tell her to schedule an appointment with a good educational consultant in her area. He/she will know the "5th year" boarding schools and colleges that would be suitable.

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