Struggling at community college... any insights?

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-16-2001
Struggling at community college... any insights?
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 6:31am

Niece-girl struggled her way through high school.  She changed schools 3 times in 4 years before settling down with us & coming from behind to finish school on time with her class through our districts alternative high school.  She was so very proud of herself for this accomplishment (and so were all of us - she worked her butt off to get there).

She didn't finish with the most stellar GPA, maybe a 2.4...  She was very excited to be a college girl & started community college this fall.  Coming out of the ultra-flexible alternative high school program (self-paced program, work & re-work a subject until you pass the test) to the rigid college world (go to class, do the homework, learn your stuff, take/pass the test) - it's kind of throwing her & she's struggling a bit.

But she is not giving up, and really is trying hard to keep up.  We got her organized, reworked her room to make it more college-student friendly.  She's got her own lap-top, we got her a planner so she can track assignments, due dates, test dates, etc... 

I swear, if she spent as much time on the coursework as she did bitching & complaining about the coursework, she'd be passing with flying colors!  LOL!  I guess this is my little vent - she's a professional victim - the professor doesn't like her, the professor doesn't answer her questions, it's a stupid assignment, I don't like the topic, etc...  The excuses get a little old.  Welcome to life, kid... 

Anyways...  not sure what my point is.  Is there anything I can do to motivate her? 

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 7:59am
How many hours is she taking? Would it make any sense to back off til she gets into the swing of community college? Is it core stuff or what does she want to do with the CC credits? If she has a clue what she wants to end up doing, maybe have her shadow or volunteer in that industry so she can see what the real world is like, hoping that if that then requires some schooling, she'll be more motivated...

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 8:06am

Have her get a job.  A real, would you like frys with that, job.  There is NOTHING better to teach a kid how to show up, shut up, follow orders, and contribute to the team.  Also, with any luck, it will teach her that she does NOT want to do that for the rest of her life.  And the best way to accomplish that, is to NOT give her ANY money.  She needs to earn her own spending, cell phone, gas, and clothing-beyond-K-mart money.  YOU need to be strong, and not give her one dollar extra.  And believe me, working will not interfere with her schoolwork.  She'll learn to use her time effectively. 

Once she actually begins to take responsibility for her life, then have her look at courses that are designed to get her into the working world in two years, instead of being a lead-in to a 4 year college. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 10:31am

I have a niece who I think has some kind of LD (parents have never said anything but she just seems "different")--she has never worked and doesn't have a driver's license, so something is going on there.  She just started CC but is only taking 2 classes to try it out.  I asked her how it was going and she's very unfiltered in how she talks.  She said that most people probably wouldn't think it's hard, but to her it was a lot of work.  She's taking a class in environmental science because she's really interested in the environment & now I can't think of the other--maybe English.  I know in most CCs they have really beginner classes in things like Math & english for kids who might not really be ready for college.  Or maybe she's not ready for a full course load right away.

As far as the complaining, I think you just have to tell her that this is the difference between high school & college, or between being a child & an adult--in college as well as in adult jobs, nobody holds your hand all the time, you are expected to conform to what the school or job wants--they dont' change for you and yes, sometimes you get mean teachers or bosses--you just have to learn to deal with it.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 12:19pm

"she's a professional victim"---LOL, I love that description! Her complaining describes my dd perfectly when she was that age. The good news is that your niece seems to be hanging in there, attending the classes etc. My dd just stopped going to those classes, as I later learned when grades came out.

If she's taking a full load it may be too much for her coming out of an alternative learning situation. Was that 2.4 GPA for all of HS or just her senior year? Is it too late for her to withdraw from a class or two? And as others said, if she can find a job it could help her a lot to learn about the real world and what she doesn't want to do for the rest of her life. Does she have a specific goal or degree that she hopes to reach? If you suspect that she's not really a candidate for going on to university then encourage her to look into the 2-yr programs probably offered at the CC that teach a marketable skill like medical assisting or cosmetology or radiology technician.

Keep reminding her that this is an adjustment period from her very different last year of HS, and that she found a way to be successful in HS and that you have confidence that she will do the same in college.

Avatar for sandie5
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Thu, 10-04-2012 - 9:01pm

My dd's community college has a department for those with learning disabilities. Although your niece may or may not have an LD, she could probably use this extra help. The college wants people to succeed not fail and you/she needs to get in there immediately and find what resources they have that could help her. Ours has tutors plus they lend out recording equipment to record classes. They also help with learning strategies. 

See if your CC has any type of these resources.


iVillage Member
Registered: 12-16-2001
Fri, 10-05-2012 - 6:59am

Thanks for all the responses!  When she did her assessment testing, she scored quite well (college-level) in math & reading. Her writing score, however, was pretty bad.  Because of the poor writing assessment, many of the classes she'd *like* to take are not yet open to her.  She has to be at a higher writing level in order to take them (including the college math class! ???).  So yes, I believe part of the problem is she feels she's taking "stupid" classes that are not at all interesting to her.  We keep telling her it's just one short semester & once if she can get thru the writing class she'll have so many more choices available.

She's taking 12 credits:  A remedial writing class where they're studying grammar; an Intro to Theater class (counts towards the Communications requirement); a "student development" class (teaches the ins & outs of student life and how to manage at this particular college); and a Microsoft Office class.  The last two classes are done online & it's been an eye-opening experience for her.  She says she'll never do online classes again, she hates them.

Job front - she had a job.  It lasted about 5 weeks.  She quit because the people wouldn't pay her.  She was told $8 an hour when she started.  Then they kept promising "we'll pay you next week."  And then the next week would come and "we'll pay you next week."  Well, after 4 weeks of that, they finally gave her $40 cash & an IOU for another $200 and she quit on the spot. She didn't sign on for a volunteer position.

In the meantime, she's been focusing on her health.  Girl is 5'11", pushing 300 pounds, diagnosed depressive bipolar.  She joined the gym at school, has started working out, swimming, and eating better.  She's lost 12 pounds already! Doc recently switched her to some more effective meds that seem to be doing wonders w/ the disorder.  She's starting to see the positive effects of some of her recent choices & is feeling pretty good. Hoping some of that positivity rubs off on her attitude toward school!

We did talk at length agreed to let her to coast on the job thing for a while in order to focus on school & health issues.  Her 18th birthday is the end of November, and we theororized that she might have a better chance at some jobs when she hits that magic age. When she hits 18, she'll also be eligible to take her driving test and get a license. Hopefully that mobility will provide a few more job opportunities, too.  [I'm not setting an untrained driver out on the roads!  She took driver's ed at 17.  We did the math, though, and figured out that by the time she would have gotten in all her required supervised hours she'd be almost 18 anyway.  So we're just giving an extra couple months driving with an adult.]

In the meantime, we have to put up with niece's father who comes to visit about every other week.  He keeps promising his daughter that he's getting a new job & moving to a house/apartment closer so they can live together. I think it's just divorced-dad guilt talking as he's been promising her this for 2 years now... but has yet to make any changes to status quo:  continues to work in a city two hours away while living on his brothers couch. 


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-06-2009
Fri, 10-05-2012 - 11:05am
Hi ketue, I disagree with working outside of the campus while in school as being the force to show a student the why how or when to apply themselves to school. My oldest quit high school, and after a GED; community college and the folks he met who are still mentors there was his vehicle to turning his life to a successful path. I would encourage being active in school programs, clubs volunteer opportunities even student govt. Surrounding yourself with activity keeps the focus on the importance of school and helps the focus go outside the student to how helping others brings positive goodness to our community and world. If she is struggling with classes yes all schools have tutors and if she is involved she will see she is not the only one needing these helpers. The benefit to my son becoming involved too was when he joined the tour guide group for the school he got credit hours to lower his tuition costs and he met more positive influences in the offices he guided tours too. A writing book that helped him the most was "patterns for college writing".