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Son failing at uni - how to help?

(56 Posts)
biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 20:23:47

I know there have been a few threads on this theme but will try to keep this as short as possible. DS high achiever at school goes to do economics degree at good uni (top 5). First year OK-ish, ends up with high 2:2 but marks don't count and put it down to adjusting. DS disappointed and resolves to work harder in Y2. End of year 2 and results are even worse - ends up with third. Upset DS but admits tried to cram for exams, not having done much work although some bits of course work were good (couple of firsts). Says he can't make himself do the work as he doesn't find it interesting but on evidence of being at home this summer spends a lot of time on computer gaming although he's adamant he has this under control. Has not got a summer job. Has talked about dropping out but now decided to go back and work harder.

I'm really not sure how best to help. I'm not convinced anything's going to change this year and he's likely to come out with a third or a fail. That's £40k of his money down the drain (he's taken out as much loan as he can). I can see a scenario next year where he comes home and just sits around with no motivation to do anything. It feels like he's in denial and I don't whether it's better just to get tough with him or just be there to give him support. It seems like he's really messing up his life and I don't understand why and I'm not sure if he does either. Would really appreciate some advice from anyone who's been through this.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 24-Jul-14 20:30:35

Hello OP.

Its difficult but your ds in a grown man and you can't reallyhelp him.
He needsto learn and be realistic about what he can and can't achieve with minimum effort.
As for sitting at home all day not being motivated, would you allow this?
My ds2 was like this but A levels not degree, you just have to let them find their own feet at this age OP.
I know its difficult as a mum you never stop being one and you want to support, help and protect, so please don't think I'm being harsh to you or your ds. Its time for him togrow up, but he has to want to.
Good luck OP thanks for you.

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 20:40:37

Thx for the quick reply. No I agree he is a grown man but he is also a young man with little experience. I think trying to help with advice based on other people's experiences/thoughts isn't a bad thing, in the way you'd expect a friend to help, no? Although perhaps just being his mum rules that out perhaps! I agree totally he has to work things out but I don't think that to do that he has to do it completely on his own?

ContinentalKat Thu 24-Jul-14 20:46:05

Having been to uni, albeit in a different country, I have seen a fair few people drop out and find their feet "on the job", so it wouldn't be the end of the world. Just a really expensive mistake to make.

Your ds needs to turn it around himself. Does his uni offer any counselling at all?

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 20:49:50

There is counselling but one of the problems he has (has always had) is an unwillingness to ask for help - including his tutors at uni, both academic and personal.

ajandjjmum Thu 24-Jul-14 20:54:35

This could have been written about a friend of our family. Having made the decision to leave, he has obtained a really good 'school leaver' position with a major organisation, and is looking forward to learning whilst working. Might be worth thinking about?

Selks Thu 24-Jul-14 20:55:10

I wouldn't get too hung up on the degree classification thing - most jobs that require a degree don't care too much what classification it was as long as it is a pass (3 or above). In all my years in my professional level job, having a degree in my field was a requirement, but never once have I been asked what grade it was.

callamia Thu 24-Jul-14 20:55:32

I think it's time for him to talk to his personal tutor about his options. If he's disappointed, and knows he's capable if better, then he needs to work out where he's going so wrong, and work out how to improve.

Is he really being realistic with himself and you about how much work he puts in v. gaming etc? He can't afford to be 'unwilling' to ask for help anymore - his isn't something he can fix without help. You might need to be a little bit tough love and firm about this, and I hope he can go back feeling more confident and like he knows what he's doing.

JellicleCat Thu 24-Jul-14 21:05:54

It's tough isn't it. You want to help them, but know they need to take control of things and all your well intentioned suggestions are seen as interfering.

I have a thread running about my DD wanting to change course after failing first year. I have told her I will support her if she wants a year out, but won't support her to do nothing - she has to find a job. Would that approach help your son?

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 21:08:48

He has been in email contact with his tutor, at our suggestion, and is going to see him when he goes back, which is a small step forward but not one I think he would have made without our encouragement. I'm not sure he is realistic about what degree level work involves, particularly on his course, and I do think he is still in 'a level' mode (which he cruised through). I do think the gaming is a problem, not only because of the time it takes up but also because of the effect it seems to have on his concentration. He finds it difficult to read a novel any more for instance, but he feels we don't understand gaming and it's no different to us watching TV and he might be right on this. I do wonder if his first instinct to drop out was perhaps the better option as presumably if he scrapes a poor degree that would rule him out of school leaver options. He also has no work experience by the way...

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 21:12:03

A year out isn't an option at his uni unfortunately. They seem very inflexible - I did have a loo at the website (is that too interfering.....) yes, trying to get balance between not getting too involved but also feel some responsibility not to stand by and watch him self destruct.

Floralnomad Thu 24-Jul-14 21:13:06

What does he actually want to do when he has finished his degree ? if he has no specific plan or aim I agree that it may be better to cut his losses and drop out . He could always go back to study in the future .

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 21:18:51

He has no idea what he wants to do. Originally he wanted to do a masters and get involved in economic policy, probably in the public sector. But obviously that is now out of the question. He is more interested in the macro side of things and certainly made some mistakes with his module choices last year, which again was caused partly by him not researching them properly before choosing. He is just incredibly passive. He constantly expresses this rather innocent amazement that other students know stuff about modules/tutors etc, when I'm sure all the info is there in the handbook or on the website, or he just needs to ask...

ContinentalKat Thu 24-Jul-14 21:19:55

Does he have an idea what he would do after dropping out, other than coming back home and gaming? Might be worth spelling it out to him...

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 21:23:44

I think that's partly why I felt he should go back as I think he would just come home and spend the day gaming. And although of course we would insist he look for a job he also knows we would never throw him out. I couldn't do that.

timetoclean Thu 24-Jul-14 21:40:43

I would sit down with him and work out what marks he needs to get in his final year modules to get a higher classification. It might be that a specific goal for each module might motivate him rather than a vague 'get your grades up' approach. I find (I'm a lecturer) that we do have one or two that surprise us in the final year. The final year can be weighted more than the second at some uni's too so worth working it out.

timetoclean Thu 24-Jul-14 21:41:25

Oh and get him to actually read his feedback on essays etc. the number of students who don't read it is astonishing and then claim to have never been told where they were going wrong.

JellicleCat Thu 24-Jul-14 21:42:07

There's a big difference between not throwing him out and explaining that he is now an adult and you expect him to contribute to his keep.

Has he any idea what he would like to do workwise? Maybe a trip to the university careers service might be helpful. (Disclaimer, I suggested this to my DD but so far she hasn't taken me up on it!)

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 21:49:08

I suspect he doesn't look at the feedback... Course is 50/50 between years 2 and 3 so much harder to bring things up in third year. He's already worked out that he needs an average of 75% to get a 2:1 but 55% for a 2:2. I also wondered if he could do an extra module this year to replace one of the really bad 2nd year ones but he can't do that either. So he's in a difficult place. A talk to the careers people might be a good idea, yes.

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 21:51:45

One of the issues is that he seems to have enough money from his loan not to have any incentive to work or even think about the need for money. We agreed to pay his accommodation and he spends very little at uni or when he's home.

UptheChimney Thu 24-Jul-14 22:28:31

one of the problems he has (has always had) is an unwillingness to ask for help - including his tutors at uni, both academic and personal

Then he has to learn, or take the consequences.

It sounds as though he's not mature enough for university yet. Was he particularly pushed spoon fed by his school? Sometimes the less pushy schools do the really bright pupils a service by forcing them to become organised & independent learners. Could he think about a year's leave of absence to get some other kinds of experiences? Or a job?

But maybe university isn't for him. It's not compulsory.

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 22:49:55

It was a good school with teachers who knew their stuff and everything was well organised. I don't know if that is spoon feeding? The uni doesn't seem to allow for a year out unless particular circumstances, illness, family issues etc and he really doesn't have any of those. He should really have taken a gap year. I do wonder if he would be better learning while working but I think he's so far in now it's probably better to finish the degree and take what comes. If that's a fail then he'll just have to deal with it although his confidence is fragile at the best of times so it will be tough picking up the pieces. Thanks for all your very helpful thoughts. It's great to air it all. My partner finds it very difficult to talk about it so this has been a great help.

VenusDeWillendorf Thu 24-Jul-14 22:53:38

It doesn't sound like academic life is suiting him.
It doesn't suit everyone, no shame in that.

Maybe he should get out and get a job?

He needs to learn to trust if he's no good at asking for help.
What does he think will happen if he asks for help?
He failing as it is, maybe better to get a job and learn a few of life's lessons?

Want2bSupermum Thu 24-Jul-14 23:05:03

I studied economics. I expect he is doing a traditional course which is nothing to do with business and everything to do with maths. It isn't easy if you find stats or pure hard.

Most people apply for Economics thinking it will be like taking a business course. Economics is about the optimal utilization/allocation of resources, which while applicable to business, is rather more technical than what is included in a business course. I would suggest if he wants to go back he repeat his 2nd year on a business program and see if he likes it. By December he should know if this is a better fit and he can always get a job at this point if his studies are not going to plan.

biker99 Thu 24-Jul-14 23:05:10

What does he think will happen if he asks for help

Good question. I think he sees it as weak, that it will show to others that he is not as good as he would like them to think he is. Yes, he needs to grow up! It's key though as in any job he will need to ask for help otherwise he's going to find himself making a lot of mistakes and not being successful at work either.

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