Dear Annie: I’ve never commented on a column, but I felt the need to comment about the letter from parents whose daughter has abruptly announced she wants to leave college after a dear friend left. I saw red flags all over this post. Students, especially female students, who abruptly leave often do so due to something bad happening, especially sexual assault, in which their sense of security, and thus identity, is affected.
I am not saying this happened to “Sally,” the friend, but I would encourage these parents to read between the lines about causes for leaving and understand their own daughter could have heard, seen or known about something happening that has changed her sense of security and safety on campus.
It would be a good idea to encourage their daughter to seek out a counselor (probably NOT on campus) to talk about why she wants to leave, which may give the parents better insight into what may really be going on here.
-- A College Professor Who Has Seen It Before
Dear Professor: I so love hearing from people who work with college-age students and can lend their perspective. Thank you for your letter. I hope that is not the case for this young girl, but sadly you might be correct, and if not in her specific case, no doubt you are right about many other similar situations involving unreported sexual assault. But there are other reasons for students wanting to drop out as well, as explained in the next letter.
Dear Annie: This is in response to the letter from “Worried Mom,” whose daughter wanted to drop out after a friend did. I went through something similar.
I called my mother during my sophomore year of school and told her I hated it and wanted to come home. The reality was that I was struggling in one class and just had blown it out of proportion. My mother listened and very calmly responded, “Don’t do anything drastic; finish out the semester, and we can talk about your options when you come home for the break.”
I followed her advice and returned home, and we discussed my options (vocational school, getting a job, choosing another college), and by the time the next semester started, my mind was clear and I was ready and eager to go back.
Years later, I responded the same to my son when he called with a similar concern. I finished school and now have a Ph.D. and work as an administrator at a university. College can be an exciting adventure and a scary place as students learn to “adult.” Mom should be willing to listen, encourage thoughtful decisions and know that this is likely just a singular uncomfortable moment in her college experience.
-- Been There, Done That!
Dear Been There: Thank you for your letter. I hope it gives other students who feel similarly to how you felt a chance to know that the tough time will pass, and if you ride it out, great things can come out on the other side.