Life Choices – Am I Delusional? (Don’t answer that)

(First and foremost, I had my son’s permission to write about this).

My son got home from college at the beginning of May. These crazy 19 year olds……

I casually mentioned the fact that I wanted to see his grades from second semester. It was my inner self saying, “I better see those grades because his first semester was a disaster. On the Richter scale, it was an 8: He was on academic probation because his GPA was 1.998.

For you soon to be college parents, that means he was just short of 2.0, which would have made him NOT on academic probation.

So, needless to say, I was anxious for his second semester grades. If he didn’t do well he’d be….well….kicked out of college. Illinois State University to be precise.

Anyhoo…. I receive a letter from ISU about three weeks ago telling me that my son has been, and I quote, “Academically dismissed from Illinois State University.”

crickets chirping….

bomb exploding inside my head…

WTF??? (I’ll quote Modern Family here…”Why The Face?”), in order to keep it clean for you PG viewers out there.

So Matt had some explaining to do. And I….well, had a little meltdown. Ya know, that whole single parent, “I’m gonna get this kid thru 4 years of college if it kills me syndrome meltdown.”

My inner Italian sprung out of me and I started talking to God, swearing, doing the cross over my heart, saying my Hail Mary’s and then…………………………

I wanted to get my 9 MM out and shoot him. Not kill him. Just maybe shoot him in the leg or the arm – maybe the shoulder. Ya know – just enough to get his attention.

He was dead. MINE. $25,000 PLUS down the drain?!!! “Sure let him go – he’ll be fine,” said NO ONE EVER.

And, of course, Matt was “pretty sure” he did o.k. on his finals. So, now what? (This is where college bound parents should read this a little closer in case your kid does the same thing): We could appeal the dismissal.

Matt immediately went online and provided ISU’s much anticipated feedback of Mr. Hiatt wondering what went awry besides the fact that he “probably” partied too much and “probably” could have done 100% rather than 85% on all of his studies, and let’s just snowball on that and add that he “probably” could have asked Professors and/or other students or FREE services that are provided to struggling students, BURNING QUESTIONS that a student wouldn’t know or understand.

After putting in his appeal, which by the way, was very rare to be accepted (per letter we received), I received another letter one week later: “Mr. Hiatt has been reinstated for next term at Illinois State University.”

What would have happened if he didn’t get reinstated? He couldn’t possibly send in his transcripts to any other university and be accepted. No one wants a kid that has a slightly less than 2.0 GPA, and he wasn’t too thrilled about it either. I didn’t like the idea of my son going to a community college, because,  in all of his academic career, EVERY single teacher always stated that:

“Matt can do so much better if he just applied himself a little more.”

I have said this to my son since first grade. I was a broken record, belting out the parent chorus again and again – AND AGAIN.

When he went into high school I kept telling him that just getting along with the bare minimum effort is not going to suit your academic career once you get to college.

Blah, blah, blah….that’s what he heard. To Matt, I just sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Being a teenage boy in high school has it’s challenges. Focusing is one of them. Priorities is another part of the equation.

So, my husband and I had a little discussion with Matt.

“Here are your choices: 1. You go back to college with only giving a 100% commitment to your education.”

If you don’t feel you can give absolutely 100%, then don’t waste another $25,000 plus we could have spent on a few nice vacations.

2. “Maybe you need a break from school.”

Dave did that for 18 months, living with three other guys in a shitty apartment, working three jobs, until he decided to go to college. But, he wouldn’t trade that whole experience for anything. It taught him alot about life skills, and being resourceful. But, when he did go to college, he was a much better student with a solid work ethic because of what he went thru.

But if you decide you want to have a taste of real life, you will do it on your own.”

We said we would help him find an apartment and support him 100% in whatever it is he wants to do but we will not support him financially. As an adult, it’s part of an adult’s responsibility to learn how to handle their financial life on their own, learn to live on your own and be an adult in the real world. In other words – CUT THE CORD.

He thought about this for two days and came back to me with an answer: “I want to go back to college.”

I told him it was a good decision as I was secretly jumping up and down with joy because parents can’t possibly show their emotions in a limber type Nadia Comaneci public form of affection in front of your 19 year old son unless you want to be initiated into the “Craziness Hall of Fame.”

Now the hard part: He was lost. He wanted to better himself, but didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. C’mon – you’re 19. Look back at when you were 19….

I’ll wait…….

Did you even think that you would be where you are now when you were 19? If so, BRAVO for you. But, for the 99.8% of us, we’re happy for you, yet we want to secretly hit you in the face…with a chair.

So how to tackle this dilemma…Hmmmm….. Hello??? Career Assessments. There are plenty of them online and others that colleges offer. We took three or four different ones. The majority of them came up with Business with a flare for Public Relations.


If anyone knows my son, one of his strong suits is chattiness. He can charm the pants off of complete strangers. He improvises as he goes along with comical twists and witty remarks.

He puts a positive spin on anything.

After we did the career assessement and reviewed the 90 plus pages of careers he could pursue, he came to the conclusion that his personailty fit him perfectly for this career choice.

I asked him if he felt better about where he stood (in his life right now), and he said, “Yep.”

He’s so chatty – where’s my duct tape?

So, here we are…..He has discovered a major he is interested in (at least for now). He has a college to go to next semester, bring up his GPA and if he wants, find another college at some point if he wants to move on from ISU.

He has a goal for a Master’s Degree.

I told him to go straight thru and don’t stop. I’ve known so many adults that took a break after they graduated college. Then it was three. Five. Ten years have past, and all of a sudden you say to yourself, “Where did the time go?”

It went to living your life. You kept putting it on the back burner because you wanted to get ahead in your career or life. But, some people seem to forget one very important obstacle: If you had a Master’s Degree rather than a Bachelor’s Degree, your odds of getting a great job with higher pay is 40% better than those who have Bachelor’s Degrees.

As my son was shooting statistics at me, I realized he had done some studying on his future.

The future is at his disposal. He can do anything he wants as long as he’s happy and has some skill under his belt to help him along in life. I don’t care if he wants to be a farmer, an engineer, a teacher, a baker, a stripper (although, I can see him tearing the pole down from the ceiling). I want him to be happy.

So to all you future college parents out there: The first year of college isn’t all smooth sailing. Talk to your kid. Let them know you’re there for them. Give them your wise experiences. But, for God’s sake……don’t make a decision FOR them.


2 thoughts on “Life Choices – Am I Delusional? (Don’t answer that)

  1. Such a great story, especially because you and I remember 17, 18, 19 — long before Matt was here — and it’s the start of a really long road we take, a road that we’re laying the foundation for before we’re aware that’s what we’re doing. You’re a great mom, Nancy!

  2. Nice writing skills regarding a tough situation. I happened to receive the same dismissal letter, from the same school, many years ago. My parents said, “Go to work.” I went back to the farm and the next year raised 3,000 turkeys. Later was drafted into the Army, went to Japan and back and was allowed an early discharge if I would attend college. WIU at Macomb, IL finally accepted me on probation. To say I settled down would be a gross understatement. I made the honor roll, married the homecoming queen, sold 47 cars the following summer to support my further education, moved on to Iowa State University where I finished my degree, was invited to become a member Phi Kappa Phi, it highest honor society. That was followed by acceptance at the Harvard Business School.

    The moral of the story, as I see it, don’t pamper your kids. Introduce them, firmly, to the concept that they must GIVE to GET in our capitalistic society. Two of my three sons are engineers with master’s degrees, while the youngest is a medical doctor and a flight surgeon in the Colorado National Guard. Tough love is never easy. That which can’t be measured, can’t be achieved. I’m sure you will measure your son’s future performance very closely.

    On another subject, I like what you were able to do for Midwest Short Sales; perhaps we should talk about my web outreach effort sometime this summer. It doesn’t reflect my skills and ability in helping distressed home owners.

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