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Articles / Applying to College / The Party's Over: Help for Student Who Fled from Wild Dorm Life

Nov. 8, 2012

The Party's Over: Help for Student Who Fled from Wild Dorm Life

Question: My son went to college for two months and he lived in a horrible party dorm (drinking, drugs, partying 24/7) and the school refused to move him. I tried dealing with the Dean of Residential Life but she didn't care. I paid for him to stay at a hotel nearby so he could get his work done and get sleep. I couldn't afford it anymore. He decided that it was not the place for him which I supported. He has taken a leave and wants to go to a new school. He had gotten into 6 other top colleges but those spaces are now gone. Can he apply next year as a freshmen and call this year a gap year and just wipe away this bad experience? What suggestions do you have for him?

Sorry to hear that your son's introduction to college life was such a disaster. It seems like you got no help from the school officials that you’d counted on and were not guided toward a saner solution to the problem (e.g., a visit to the college counseling services might have netted your son a mandate to move to a quieter dorm).

When he reapplies to college, your son will be considered a freshman since I assume he earned no credits at his old school (right?). BUT ... he CANNOT wipe the slate completely clean and submit applications that include no mention of his recent debacle. If he pretends that he never attended college at all and then the truth comes to light, he risks being expelled from his new school. (I heard of that happening right on the eve of a student's graduation!)

So, once your son decides where he wants to enroll, he should contact admission officials and ask how to proceed. Chances are, they will tell him to apply as a freshman but to also include an explanation of why he enrolled and dropped out, along with a transcript from his first college. Even if he never finished any of his classes, he will still have a transcript. Have you seen it? Does it say WP ("Withdrew Passing") next to his classes or "W" ("Withdrew") or something else? (If his transcript indicates "Withdrew Failing," that's a separate issue ... and "Ask the Dean" question ... entirely.)

Another option your son can consider is to telephone the admission offices at the six colleges he turned down and explain the circumstances and ask if there is any space for him to enroll in the second semester. (He should request the name of the admission staff member who oversees applicants from his former high school and then telephone this person directly.)

It may go without saying, but your son should not re-enter college life without a thorough evaluation of the campus environment. If the other six colleges on your son’s list were similar to the one he selected, then obviously he might make the same mistake all over again by choosing one of them. While sometimes bad luck can determine if a student lands with a raucous roommate or at the wild end of the hallway, a little research can help your son hone in on colleges that are known for attracting more bookworms than party animals.

Good luck with the next steps ahead, even though you surely didn't expect to be back in the college-admissions quagmire so quickly. As John Lennon wisely noted, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

(posted 11/8/2012)

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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