Friday, February 14, 2014

When Does Life-School Balance Become Too Difficult?

It is not unusual for law students to have life interfere at times with their law school studies.  A student gets a cold that turns into bronchitis and then pneumonia and drags on for a month.  A parent has a medical emergency and needs the student home for every weekend.  A car accident causes the student to miss two weeks of class.  Divorce papers are served two-thirds of the way into the semester on a surprised law student who thought that the marriage was surviving okay.

If the students were on top of all their study tasks before the life interruption occurred, they tend to bounce back more easily from difficult circumstances.  However, if they were barely preparing for class already and behind in every other study task, the unexpected life event can seriously jeopardize their  regaining their academic momentum for the semester.

Every law school has some procedures that can help students with their academics when the unexpected happens to disrupt their studies.  But, the options vary greatly among law schools.  And the timing of the event may preclude some options.  Financial aid and loan repayment rules may be perceived by students as blocking any real choices.  Parental pressure for certain options over others may also be a factor.

Those of us in ASP are often in the thick of these situations working with the student and colleagues at the law school to help the student sort out the options and the pros and cons of each.  Assisting a student with a plan to catch up on missed work and keep up with current work is part of the process.  Fortunately, some options have long open windows so that everyone can monitor the student's progress and delay a stay-or-leave decision for some weeks.  Other options may be on a now-or-never decision line.

Many students will work diligently with ASP, professors, and other university services to try to catch up and turn around the situation.  In some cases extensions on work, rescheduled exams, underloads, or other measures will make it possible for them to succeed.  Some of the students who have worked so hard will decide to withdraw from the semester at the last minute.  

There are always some students who decide to stay in school no matter what.  They keep attending classes knowing that they will not be able to retrieve their academics.  In many cases, they are delaying the inevitable because they are locked in to leases, will be faced with earlier loan repayments, or have other family problems that make going home impossible.  They see those other factors as more daunting than F grades on their transcripts.  

Whatever choices the students make, those choices are inevitably theirs to make.  We can advise and inform, but they have to make the final decisions.  All we can do is be supportive throughout the process.  (Amy Jarmon) 

   

 

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