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How Do I Tell My Parents I’m Getting Low Grades in College?

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From the U.S.: I just finished my third year of college. I currently have a 2.614 GPA, but it is about to plummet. My mom is a high school counselor with many degrees, so she expects at least a 3.25 GPA from me. After each year of college, I never showed my mom my final grades, and just tried to get her to forget about them over the summer, but each summer, she has checked them and confronted me at random times to tell me that I should be very ashamed of myself for wasting my dad and her money by not taking school seriously and that she will pull me out of school if I keep it up.

I have been brought to tears each time and slightly suicidal. I am thinking about sending her a long text explaining how bad my grades were this semester, how bad I feel, and that I accept whatever punishment she decides. By doing this, she will hopefully have simmered down by the time I drive back from college, and I will avoid her yelling at me for an hour straight in which I leave with suicidal thoughts. What do you think of this plan? I appreciate any advice.

How Do I Tell My Parents I’m Getting Low Grades in College?

Answered by on -


I think it’s fine for you to break the news gently through a text or email. But that doesn’t solve the basic problem of why you are doing so poorly in school. I suspect you are smart enough. You did tell us (in the longer version of your letter) that you had good grades in high school. That suggests to me that you aren’t clear why you are in school or really motivated to do well. Your parents have a right to be upset with you.

I do think they also have a right to know what your grades are as long as they are paying for school. However, I don’t think your parents yelling at you or you feeling suicidal are the ways to handle your disappointing performance.

It’s long past time for you and your folks to take a step back and rethink school for you at this time. By all means, take a year or two off. Find a job that at least has something to do with what you think you want to study. Then work hard at it. Get to know what it’s like to be an employee and to do the work you think you want to do.

If you continue to live with your parents, talk about whether you should pay some rent and what your mutual expectations of each other are while you are there. You are no longer a child; You are more like a roommate. And roommates have to figure out how to live with each other respectfully. That means dividing chores and responsibilities.

Both sides will need to resist the temptation to resume how things were when you were 14. Your parents need to resist parenting you. You need to resist the temptation to act like you need parenting. You also need to talk in advance about what you all will do if you and they find you can’t live up to the bargain. Sometimes students who return home can’t get themselves quite into adult mode. Sometimes parents can’t let go of parenting an adult child. If that turns out to be the case, you need to find other living arrangements.

If and when you return to school, you will have a deeper appreciation for why you are there — and a deeper appreciation for the value of money.

If you think it would be helpful, you could share this letter with your folks as a way to start the conversation.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

How Do I Tell My Parents I’m Getting Low Grades in College?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). How Do I Tell My Parents I’m Getting Low Grades in College?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Jul 2018 (Originally: 2 Jul 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.