Suspension happens.  In fact, it’s a common occurrence.  The larger the school, sometimes the more suspensions.  Know that it doesn’t mean that your college career is over.  In fact, it’s the university’s way of saying to a student: “Let’s hit pause, immediately.  You need to make some changes.  Once you’ve made them, come back and let us know and we’ll seriously consider your readmission.”  What’s important to know is that there are steps to take, and steps not to take.  I’ll highlight the distinct different in how this can be handled by the college student and their parents. 

I got a phone call from a frantic out-of-state parent just yesterday.  Through tears of hysteria she said to me point blank “I don’t even know what to do or where to start!”  At the very end of this, I’ll list some resources for those who might be able to step in quickly to help.  Know you don’t have to do this alone!  In the meantime, let’s just jump right into how to respond to this situation.   

  • Take accountability.  At this point, there is no talking your way out of this.  You are officially suspended.Know what you did specifically and own it.  You won’t be proud of it, and you also can’t deflect ownership and blame it on the university.  A suspension occurs when a university does not want to be liable any longer.  Think about that.  This is most-likely not some small one-time incident.  What you did was a major no-no, or a series of no-nos.  Be honest and tell your parents what really happened.  As a parent, the best way to respond is not to react at all.  No anger, no sadness, no threats.  You are dealing with a young adult, not a child.  By not reacting, you are demonstrating to your young adult this is there issue to deal with, not yours.  They’re an adult and they’re dealing with the consequences of their own actions.  They made their bed, now they have to lie in it.  Now is the time to talk about natural consequences.  You do not need to feel obligated to provide housing, food, and money for them.  They need to understand responsibility as apparently it didn’t work out most recently.  This is a lot easier said than done, but with coaching in the moment you can really show your young adult that this was entirely on them.  Rescuing them is not recommended.
  • Know what’s needed to return.  Typically when a student is suspended, the university will send an official letter of suspension with the necessary steps to return to the original address at which a student applied.  Keep in mind, that letter may also include that you’re not eligible to return.  However if you are eligible to return, and you are interested in just that, know what you need to do and immediately take action.  A condition of return such as “four months of sobriety” could mean getting into a treatment program the day of your suspension.  That way you’re eligible sooner rather than later to return. As a parent, know that this is not your responsibility.  If your young adult wants to go back to school, help them read and understand the letter.  Where I beg you to stop yourself is from following through or pushing your young adult into completing the tasks that were asked.  If they want to return, they need to do it on their own terms and in their own time.  This might make you beyond frustrated or concerned they’ll never follow-through.  If that happens, you have to accept it.  It’s their journey. If you brought them move back home, you need to set boundaries.  Have an end-date of how long they can live with you.  If they don’t have a job or have completed tasks to return to school by that date, they have to move out.  Whatever you do, don’t bend on that date.
  • Let it go.  If you are kicking yourself, stop.  This is merely something you did.  A serious mistake, or series of mistakes.  This is not who you are.  The shame game can be thick on this one.  Try to view this as a blessing.  Maybe that university really was toxic for you launching into adulthood.  Reflect on your experience(s) and move forward with your life.  Most importantly, know that college isn’t going anywhere.  You can get a college degree later in life.  As a parent, it is imperative that you not emotionally beat up your young adult.  Try to keep in mind, they’re probably already beating themselves up enough.  What’s done is done, and it can’t be undone. If you were paying for tuition, you can absolutely be pissed.  Don’t let it ruin your own mood though.  Just announce “if you decide you want to go back to college, it’ll be on your own dime.”  Period.  Then it takes the pressure off you.  Not to mention you won’t be paranoid about whether or not you’re wasting thousands of dollars.  As far are your friends who may scoff at your young adult for being kicked out, you can tell them in not-so-nice of words to butt out. Their opinions are irrelevant to the growth and success of your young adult.  This is a massive learning experience.  Give your young adult time to grow and do your best to ignore all the side comments from the neighbors.  In the end, what they say is not important to hear.  

When you get that call, especially if you’re out of state, know that there are professionals who can help step in quickly to your crisis to find a placement (if necessary) for your young adult.  If the suspension was substance abuse related, professionals can help you with resources and can help tie up loose ends with the university.  Go to the Therapeutic Consulting Association, or All Kinds of Therapy to find these supports. Know also that you don’t have to be in this crisis alone.  There is an army of ethical behavioral healthcare professionals out there and we are ready to step in when you call on us.

For more information, check out my post on Lilley Consulting Facebook page.

For anyone looking for additional resources around mental health, substance abuse, college transition coaching, or parent resources you can find them on: or follow @lilleyconsulting, or