Didn’t Meet Graduation Requirements? How to Break the News to Family

African American female college student sitting outside with worried expression on the face because of not meeting graduation requirements.Over the next several weeks students throughout the United States will put on their cap and gown and receive their undergraduate, graduate or professional degree. After spending late nights in the library, science lab and working on group projects the finality will cause some graduates to shed tears of joy. In addition, the pomp and circumstance will compel family members to share stories with strangers highlighting difficult financial and personal obstacles. Institutions will welcome nationally and internationally recognized commencement speakers who will offer words of advice and challenge graduates to make the world a better place. For many graduates watching family members beam with pride after graduation will make all the hard work and sacrifices well worth the effort. Unfortunately, some fellow classmates won’t take the long walk towards adulthood. In fact, because of foreseen or unforeseen circumstances graduation will have to wait another semester or academic year. How students handle breaking the news to anxious family members is critical.

Admitting to family and friends that it will take more time and effort before you receive a degree will require some diplomacy. Supporters may be angry, disappointed and/or puzzled. After explaining why you won’t graduate emotions could cause family members to bring up past failures. How students respond to specific comments during heated exchanges can shape important relationships. It is also important to recognize that having an honest conversation with family members could lead to strong support. Perceived failures in life reveal your true character. Embracing the challenge will help you navigate life’s turbulent waters. Choosing to mislead family members and friends could cause events to spiral out of control, with serious long-term ramifications.

For example, last year a student from Clark Atlanta University disappeared prior to commencement because she didn’t meet graduation requirements. Fortunately the student was found a few days later. However, vanishing on graduation day caused family and friends to consider something horrible prevented her from walking across the stage. It’s important to recognize that the student was under immense pressure and made a decision that spiraled out of control. The story highlights the importance of having a conversation with supporters if you are a few credits short, failed a class or don’t have the money to cover tuition/fees.

Family members are often the most forgiving people in your life. They have traveled with you along a path filled with pitfalls. Having an honest conversation now will prevent uncomfortable discussions that create mistrust. It is understandable if you don’t want to disappointment because (a) everyone from your family graduated from _________ University; (b) you represent the first person to graduate from college; (c) friends are making plans for graduate school, work, etc. or (d) you made a mistake. For students who haven’t explained to supporters that they won’t graduate I offer the following recommendations:

Honesty is the Best Policy

Choosing to mislead or lie to family members could damage your relationship. We all make mistakes. Make sure you explain in detail why you won’t graduate.

Have a Plan

So you won’t graduate, what’s next? Will you take classes during the summer, fall or spring semester? Can you work to pay off your debt so the university can mail the degree? Carefully outline the plan of action.

Seek support from Friends

They spent time listening when you needed someone to discuss important issues. Don’t assume they won’t understand. We all need people to lean on while facing a crisis.

Life is full of ups and downs. It’s important to take control of unfortunate circumstances. With a clear plan, overcoming a short-term setback is possible. This should include having an honest conversation with family and friends while working towards completing your degree. Challenges in life are easier to navigate with the support from people you trust #secondchance.

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