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Articles / Applying to College / Help For Struggling Physics Student with College Acceptance+Merit Aid

Help For Struggling Physics Student with College Acceptance+Merit Aid

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 26, 2014
Question: My son a high school senior – got accepted to large out of state university in their honors programs and with a significant merit scholarship. His ACT was a 33 and GPA 3.4 at selective public high school. He is currently taking AP Physics and really struggling – currently with a D+ for the year. Getting support from a tutor – and his other grades (AP Govt – A; Engineering A, English B, Spanish B and Calculus B. Concerned about best direction to take with the class – he does not need it to graduate – could drop, could move to regular physics, or tough it out and hope. Not sure how to discuss with his university.

Unfortunately, your son needs to bite the bullet and contact the university directly and explain his situation, just as you have explained it to me. He must ask if his acceptance will be rescinded if he drops the course. In cases like these, it's actually more common for an acceptance to be revoked if the student drops a challenging class like AP Physics without telling admission folks than if the student continues with the class and gets a D in it, as long as the student has clearly made an effort to do better.

Thus I suggest that he does this:

1. Calls the university and asks for the name and email address of the admission staff person who oversees applicants from his high school (if he doesn't already have this information).

2. Writes to that official and explains his situation

3. Follows the advice he is given re continuing or dropping the class or moving to regular physics

If he doesn't get a response to the email within several days, he should follow up with a phone call. I advised that he should begin with an email so he will have the response in writing. But, ultimately, he may find that a phone call is the most efficient way to reach his admission rep, especially at a big college.

You do have to steel yourself for the possibility that this single low grade could have an impact on the acceptance, merit grant, or honors program invitation, but I still feel that your son is better off explaining the situation now and seeking advice from the university. As I pointed out above, if he tries to fly under the radar by dropping the class without reporting the change, it's likely to hurt him in the summer when the college gets his final transcript from his high school counselor. So it's better to deal with that possibility promptly, while there's still time to make other choices if necessary … although hopefully it WON'T be.

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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