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What Is Academic Dismissal?

By Susannah Gruder · April 16, 2021 · 5 minute read

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What Is Academic Dismissal?

Whether students are struggling to adjust to the heightened workload, or a personal event upends someone’s study plans, there are many reasons why a college student may be subject to academic dismissal. After a phase of academic probation, academic dismissal may follow. This can happen after a student performs below a university’s standards for a series of semestersi.

At most schools, students must maintain a 2.0 grade point average in order to graduate, although this might vary between majors and programs. When a student fails to meet the school’s standard, the school may signal that the student needs to either improve or risk dismissal by placing them on probation.

If a student faces academic dismissal or has been forced to leave their academic institution, there are ways to get back on track in order to either overturn the decision, return to school, or start on a new path that’s a better fit.

Reasons for Academic Dismissal

Everyone’s academic journey is different, and for some, the transition to college-level work can be more challenging than for others. A student may struggle with grades because they chose a major that’s not compatible with their specific skill set. Or perhaps they faced too many distractions, from personal events or hardships to an overwhelming list of extracurriculars.

Whatever the cause, a student may meet with an academic advisor to discuss the underlying causes and develop a plan to improve grades or take a step back from school for a set time.

When teachers and administrators notice a pattern of poor academic performance, including a GPA below 2.0 or a failure to attain enough credits (as a result of dropping or failing to complete enough courses in a semester), they may put a student on academic probation.

If a student fails to bring up their GPA by the end of their probation period, they may face academic dismissal. Academic probation is not meant to serve as a kind of punishment, but more as a wake-up call to students who are falling seriously behind.

Depending on the school, academic probation may make students ineligible for certain university activities. This makes sense, as probation is meant to be a time to focus seriously on grades in an effort to avoid eventual academic dismissal.

Academic probation or dismissal can also affect a student’s financial aid. The United States Department of Education requires students to maintain “satisfactory progress toward completing their degree” to receive financial aid—which applies to recipients of federal, state, institutional, and private resources, including grants, scholarships, work-study, and student and parent loans.” There are still options for students who lose their financial aid due to poor academic standing, including select private loans and some scholarships.

How to Appeal Academic Dismissal

If a student ultimately faces the prospect of academic dismissal, there are multiple routes they can take to try and handle the situation. First, it can be wise to take a moment to reflect on what may have caused the decision to dismiss, and reassess one’s priorities. Perhaps a student was up against too much pressure, or was pursuing a subject area that didn’t quite suit them.

If a student decides to appeal the decision, they should be prepared to present a strong and sincere case. Luckily, most schools will allow students to appeal academic dismissal. Most school authorities are receptive to select reasoning or excuses for a poor academic performance. These usually include extenuating circumstances like financial issues, psychological or mental issues, or a family crisis, including an unexpected death in the family.

Approach the case with understanding and humility instead of anger, and try to fight the battle without parents. Students may want to prove that they can handle the stress and academic rigor of college on their own, which involves a certain degree of maturity and independence.

Bouncing Back After Being Dismissed

Applying to college after academic dismissal can be a good idea, but only if a student has taken the time to reflect. This is especially true if a student is re-applying to the same school.

Some schools will require that students wait at least a year before re-applying, and some will have students show that they’ve received a certain number of credits from community college while on hiatus from the institution. Research each school’s particular policy on reapplying before taking any specific measures.

It can be helpful to talk to professors and academic counselors to determine if going back to college is the right decision, and if so, if a student should re-apply to the same school.

It can also be helpful to research schools that have lenient policies around past dismissals when looking to re-apply to school.

College is not for everyone. Other options may include getting a job, pursuing a trade at trade school, or completing an apprenticeship. There’s not one route to a career, so bouncing back may look a little different for everyone.

The Takeaway

It can be invaluable for a student to have a support system when dealing with the prospect of academic dismissal. At the same time, it’s key to let the student fight their own battles.

Academic probation can prevent a student from receiving financial aid, which can worsen any academic challenges they’re already facing. This is one reason why it’s important to handle academic probation and dismissal thoughtfully and methodically, assessing all available options and identifying the issues that may have caused a student to fall behind in the first place.

If college is still on the table, set a goal to improve grades, whether through tutoring, time management strategies or a peer study group. There’s a lot a student can learn from an academic incident like probation or dismissal, and ultimately, it can help them be the kind of student they want to be in the future.

Students who have lost their scholarships or other financial aid due to academic issues may consider borrowing private student loans.

Learn more about SoFi’s private student loans.

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