Back in the (college) saddle

Our son is 20, and just completed two years at a school in Boston. On paper, he did fairly well, perhaps 3.3.  But behind the scenes, and unbeknownst to us, he was a mess.  

He found himself as literally the only guy who thought the election wasn’t stolen on his (jock) dorm floor; lacked confidence in his path and major; found an abusive group of young women to glom onto; was isolated like all of us by covid; got behind on school etc.; started abusing alcohol,    (As an example of the “amazing” friend group:  when he tried to take a break from drinking, the lead Mean Girl would shame him in front of 20 people, calling him terrible things). 

All of this led to him feeling terrible about himself.  He became withdrawn, depressed and anxiety-filled.  He went from one of the more enthusiastic contributors—his Freshman teacher said his essay was literally the best student paper he had ever received—to sitting silently in class.

We got an urgent call from his therapist.  He said he thought our son was seriously at risk.  We flew him home from Boston, that day.   That was six months ago.

I have since read of, and spoken with many parents who are experiencing similar things with their children.  It seems to be that the pandemic behind the pandemic has been mental health.

But we are all trying to move forward.   S has been in both group and individual therapy, and is also going to AA meetings.  My wife and I are also working with a family therapist, to do better on our side of the fence, in terms of supporting him.  S is now better, not great, but better.  

However, he’s also beginning to feel like he wants to get back to school.  I’m not excited about this, as he is objectively not ready.  That said, his therapist says, S wants to work towards a goal, and if he gets in somewhere, he’d still have months, perhaps as long as one year, to continue his self-care.

So I want to support the parallel efforts.

I have long been an admirer of this amazing BPN community.   The one slight issue I have is, I can’t always seem to find the right threads among this Library of Congress-esque riches.

There are many many threads about College Advisors for kids in high school, most of whom seem to be driven.

What about advisors for lost transfer students— kids who no longer have the college counselor available at high school (and are not attending JC)?

Does anyone have any experience with a consultant who helped their overwhelmed kid winnow down their interests, leading to a major, and this, the best school fit?  

I’ve been looking into the Meyers-Briggs and Strong Interest career tests.  Those seem great, but I’d rather S work with someone who can lead him through it.

These might be two initiatives: an MB consultant, followed up by a college advisor.  

Any advice would be so welcome.  We lived in Berkeley for many years.  I so appreciate the people in this forum. 

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RE: Back in the (college) saddle ()

What about getting back into college gradually by taking a community college class or 2? I realize he already has 2 years of school but it could be an opportunity to explore different majors/ take prereqs for a different major, re-establish confidence with school, in a very different atmosphere. Community colleges are great.

RE: Back in the (college) saddle ()

Hi there, I can’t speak to the college advisor part of your post, but I can definitely, with true empathy, speak to the pandemic aftereffects on our teens. I have an 18-year-old who is completely lost after being out of school for so long. The pandemic started in his sophomore year. Up until then, for the first time in his life, he’d been doing well and enjoying school, then the school system decided to move to online schools.
This had devastating consequences for my son, who is still recovering, and I’m not quite sure he will ever recover, frankly. When he had enough units to graduate, he left high school early. During online schooling, his grades and interests tanked. He’s been floundering ever since. He plays video games and is online a lot, and thankfully he has a local part-time job, but otherwise has no interest in college or other goals. I think the closing of schools did terrible damage to many students, and it will be impacting their generation for years to come. So while I don’t have any advice, I have empathy and respect for your persistence and support of your child during these difficult years. You’re not alone.

RE: Back in the (college) saddle ()

Hi Dad. I’m sorry your son has gone through this and I understand your urge to protect. But - he’s 20 and he wants to be back in school. IMO you should follow HIS lead and support him 1000%. He’s an adult. Why isn’t he in community college? He could enroll in a class or two right now. Why not? It might be exactly what he needs. And he’d have access to counselors and a community. If you’re near a Peralta school, some of the classes are great.

I have a PhD from Berkeley. I started in College of Marin, after my dads alcoholism triggered depression in me, and I crashed out of the East Coast university that I’d been accepted to. Community college classes saved me, and getting myself on a path towards my future helped me feel empowered and adult, and ultimately put me on a path to significant achievements.

RE: Back in the (college) saddle ()

Sorry that your son is struggling.  And good for you to seek ways to support him.  How about getting him into the wilderness? out into nature to find his own?

Jesse Sachs and Eli Marienthal offer mentoring through backpack trips in the summer that have helped my son find himself and his own motivations while looking at life from a bigger perspective.  They run Back to Earth. Jesse was offering mentoring and purpose finding one on one while outdoors.  He would be worth talking to.

Good luck!

RE: Back in the (college) saddle ()

Dear Oakland Pop,

My son had a similar experience-- he was in NY.  After settling back in in CA, he began taking courses at the community colleges (several different ones) and overtime determined to transfer to a UC.  (There is well defined program for transferring from community college to a UC based on completing core requirements and having a certain GPA that guarantees admission to a UC, though which UC depends on a few factors).  My son has generally been pretty happy with the courses and is on target to apply for transfer this fall.  The one caveat is that you forfeit any credits earned at the school in Boston.  For us, it has worked out well as it allowed my son to pace himself, live at/close to home, continue in therapy etc., while giving him the chance to re-establish his goal of getting back on track re college.

Best of luck to your son, and to you and mom.

RE: Back in the (college) saddle ()

Look up Rebecca Field in Oakland.  She has a website.  She is experienced.  She has an affinity for learning disabled students.  That said, we used her for my son who had chronic illness that was not in remission but wanted to go to a 4-year college (in the end his best choice was community college, and transfer to UC after 2 years).  She administers the Strong Interest Inventory assessment.  We found her very helpful for our son who was flailing, but she is expensive.  She will do an initial consult, which is also expensive.  Good luck!