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Articles / Applying to College / Clean Slate for Student Who Failed Freshman Year?

Clean Slate for Student Who Failed Freshman Year?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | May 13, 2014

Question: My grandson failed his freshman year for non attendance of classes. He appears to have grown up and now wants to reenter college. Can he make application and request only high school transcript. There were no credits earned at his first attempt in college.

Your grandson MUST report his ill-fated college experience. However, admission officials can be very understanding when it comes to students who made a false start as your grandson did and then mature. But all college applications ask about previous college experience, and failure to disclose the truth could land your grandson in hot water. I have heard cautionary tales about students who were not forthcoming on their applications and who were later expelled from their college on the brink of graduation, despite a successful experience there.

When applying to colleges this time around, your grandson should write an essay or supplementary letter about how he screwed up and why he feels as if he’s ready to buckle down now. Ideally, he can provide references that corroborate this. For instance, if he has held a job or taken any courses, there may be an employer or teacher who would be willing to write about how he has matured and/or succeeded.

Do you, as the grandma, also see evidence that your grandson is ready to try again? If so, you might want to encourage him to take a community college class or two this summer just to prove to himself—and to others—that he is prepared to be a full-time student.

As noted above, college admission officials recognize that some teenagers who are not suited for college straight out of high school may turn into strong students even a year or so later. But if your grandson can provide tangible evidence that he can handle a college workload, it will improve his acceptance odds at whatever college he hopes to attend and will also boost his confidence and give him a running start when he returns to school full time.


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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