Personal Issues on Campus. College and university students might wish that their academic experience was uninterrupted bliss. But it seldom, if ever, is. Instead, life goes on even while students are on campus. Students bring their personal issues and challenges with them to campus. Those personal issues can be real, deep, frequent, and substantial. Early adulthood is, after all, when most big personal challenges, those things that can take a lifetime to overcome or master, first show up. Leaving home, parents, jobs, and friends for campus life introduces a host of new personal opportunities but also personal challenges. The list of student personal issues is long, perhaps endless. Common personal issues that college and university students face in the course of their academic studies include:
- physical health issues including severe acute and chronic illnesses, sexually transmitted disease, and progression of congenital disorders
- mental health issues, according to an American College Health Association study experienced by as many as two-thirds of all college students
- sports injury, motor vehicle or motorcycle injury, moped or scooter injury, or skateboard, rollerblade, or other recreational injury
- sexual assault, battery, robbery, kidnap, false imprisonment, domestic violence, and other interpersonal violence and injury
- death, disease, disability, and dependency of spouses, partners, children, parents, and other immediate family members
- job loss, income loss, asset loss, arson, vandalism, property theft or destruction, other financial reversals, and bankruptcy
- alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, pornography, eating disorders, obsessive and compulsive disorders, and other disorders and addictions
- divorce, separation, break up, child custody disputes, no-contact orders, and other close, household, and intimate relationship issues
- home foreclosure, relocation, eviction, homelessness, transportation loss, and other housing and mobility issues
College Contributions to Personal Issues. College life generates its own substantial personal challenges. Students certainly bring their personal challenges with them to campus. But campus life and academic demands can increase those pre-existing issues while spurring new personal challenges. College or university matriculation doesn't just mean new academic and intellectual challenges. It also means new goods, services, housing, relationships, medical care, dental care, finances, credit, loans, debt, transportation, employment, transactions, and other responsibilities. Behind the excitement of going off to college lies a sea change in resources, activities, culture, attitude, hazards, and temptations. While working folks see college as an idyllic life, students know better that college can quickly foster a morass of new personal issues. College can also aggravate, exacerbate, and exaggerate old personal issues. Don't be too surprised if, as a college student, you've suddenly found life a lot harder rather than easier.
The Academic Impact of Personal Issues. Working folks might say, so what if college life is hard? So is life in general. But personal issues while at a college or university can have an immediate, deep, and lasting academic impact. A lot of us go through life managing our personal issues relatively well. Even when those personal issues surface, we manage to largely continue with work, household duties, and whatever else life requires of us. But navigating a college or university degree program while dealing with the onset of a serious personal issue can actually be a lot harder. That's because you can't do a degree program on autopilot in the same way that you can do many jobs and household duties without much challenge, effort, or deep and creative thinking. College and university instructors purposely design courses to push students beyond their perceived capabilities and limits. Thousand-page textbooks and three- or even six-hour exams are examples. Personal issues can instantly and deeply affect academic performance.
Academic Standards. Personal issues on campus affecting academic performance are, in a sense, a two-edged sword. On the one hand, academic standards exist to ensure that students demonstrate competence despite any personal hardships that they endure or personal issues that they face. If, instead, academic standards were only aspirational, and any personal reason for not meeting them was good enough, then the standards would have no impact or meaning. If students could earn degrees without meeting academic standards and instead by showing that they had personal reasons not to do so, then degrees would have little or no value as a way of certifying to employers and others that the graduate had the requisite knowledge, skills, and ethics. Academic standards exist to ensure that students meet them, not find good excuses not to meet them. If you have a personal issue that is affecting your academic work and putting you at risk of academic probation and dismissal, then recognize your school's need to hold you accountable to its academic standards, notwithstanding your personal issue.
Personal Issues as Excuses. On the other hand, college and university policymakers and administrators recognize that personal issues can come and go for students in ways that students can still meet academic standards if given some flexibility and options within the academic program. Personal issues can be good excuses for the school to modify, extend, suspend, or even waive academic policies, as long as the student seeking and gaining that advantage can still eventually meet academic standards. If you have a personal issue that is putting you at risk of academic probation or dismissal, then your personal issue may qualify you for relief. Personal issues can, if properly articulated, documented, and presented, gain you a second chance or greater chance to get your education back on track. Consult and retain an experienced academic administrative attorney to obtain that documentation and make that showing.
Case-By-Case Consideration. Not all personal issues, though, qualify a student for relief from academic policies. Every student and every student's circumstance is in some way unique. That's why colleges and universities tend not to publish detailed lists of qualifying personal excuses. You generally won't find a list stating that a death in the family is always a valid excuse for relief from academic policies, while a divorce or separation is never an excuse. Every such circumstance is instead unique, especially when considered with other relevant personal contexts. One student can readily weather a certain personal event because of the student's substantial resources, strong character, supportive relationships, and stable demeanor, while another student having fewer resources and other advantages may succumb to the same event. If you face academic probation or dismissal because of personal reasons, then expect to have to demonstrate to your school in good detail why those personal reasons justify academic relief. You won't generally get a rubber-stamp approval. Consult and retain a skilled and experienced academic administrative attorney to help you make the necessary showing.
Factors Justifying Excuses. College and university administrators instead consider certain factors when deciding on special relief on a case-by-case basis. Those factors include whether the personal reason was outside of the student's own control. Higher education is about developing responsibility and maturity. If you bring a problem on yourself, then you shouldn't expect your school to excuse your behavior and its consequences. No school, for an extreme example, would allow a student to use the student's deliberate criminal act and arrest for it as an excuse for academic relief. Schools don't reward criminal behavior. But schools would routinely allow another person's criminal act, such as a sexual assault or robbery by a stranger, to modify academic requirements so that the victim student could meet them. Schools also use the factors whether the personal reason was sudden, substantial, and unanticipated. If, for instance, the student could have seen an eviction, bankruptcy, or divorce coming and could have planned so that the event would not have impacted the student's academics, then the school may well not accept the event as an excuse. Be ready, with your academic administrative attorney's help, to show your school that your personal excuse was beyond your control, sudden, substantial, and unanticipated.
Academic Policies Accepting Personal Excuses. Your school's core academic policies very likely provide for relief due to sound personal reasons. If you can make the necessary showing, then you should have administrative relief available to you. Your school's core academic policy is its satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policy, required under Section 484 of the federal Higher Education Act and its implementing federal regulation 34 CFR 668.34. Your school's SAP policy is the one requiring a minimum grade point average, among other minimum progress formulas and standards. Yet, the federal SAP regulation 34 CFR 668.34 authorizes your school to recognize special circumstances to relieve students from the policy. The federal regulation gives only the “death of a relative” or “an injury or illness of the student” as examples of special circumstances. Duke University's Office of Undergraduate Financial Support, for instance, publishes the university's SAP policy, including relief for extraordinary or extenuating circumstances. Duke's SAP policy does not give any examples of those circumstances. But if, with the help of your retained academic administrative attorney, you adequately articulate and document those circumstances, you should win academic relief. Your school's late course withdrawal policy, like this representative one at the University of Connecticut, should also offer an excuse for extenuating circumstances.
Appeal Procedures. To get relief from these academic policies, based on personal excuses, you must follow your school's appeal procedures. Duke University's SAP policy again provides a good example. Duke's Office of Undergraduate Financial Support requires that the student submit in writing an appeal letter stating the personal reasons excusing the deficient academic performance. The appeal letter should include supporting documentation “from medical professionals, counselors, or other third-party professionals (non-family members) who understand the details of the situation.” Duke's procedures also require the student's appeal to include “an explanation of what has changed in their situation that will allow them to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress at the next evaluation.” The student's academic plan to get back in compliance is a key part of the student's presentation. At Duke, as at other colleges and universities, an appeal committee decides whether to grant the student's requested relief.
Appeal Skills and Representation. Academic administrative appeals are not natural for college or university students. Appeals instead require argumentation, documentation, presentation, and planning skills. Appeals also require following the school's published or informal administrative procedures, meeting academic customs, conventions, style, and protocol. The knowledge and skills necessary for an academic administrative appeal are strange to students but natural to experienced academic administrative attorneys. Most attorneys in general practice or even in criminal defense or other litigation practice do not know administrative appeal practices. Law schools do not routinely train lawyers in academic administrative law and procedures. Attorneys gain academic administrative knowledge and skills in the actual practice of law over many years of practice. Students needing to appeal academic probation or dismissal due to personal reasons should promptly retain an academic administrative attorney who has the refined skills, substantial experience, and keen commitment for a winning appeal.
Academic Administrative Attorney Available. If you have personal issues that have interfered so badly with your academic performance that you face academic probation and dismissal, then you need the help of an academic administrative attorney to advocate for relief from your school's academic policies. Academic administrative attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are available nationwide to aggressively and effectively represent you. Attorney Lento has the necessary academic administrative knowledge and skills because he has successfully represented hundreds of students at colleges and universities from coast to coast and in all kinds of programs. Experience builds expertise. Don't leave your academic degree and future career in the hands of an unqualified advocate. You can trust and rely on attorney Lento to commit his strong skills, abundant knowledge, and substantial experience to advocating, negotiating, and resolving your academic administrative issue, whether involving personal excuses or other circumstances and issues. Call 888.535.3686 or go online to tell attorney Lento about your case.