Colleges Don’t Always Tell You When Your Student Is Struggling: Learn About FERPA Requirements

 ADHD Weekly 2018-02-22

Join the discussion.

Question: Our family is very excited since our oldest child was recently accepted to the college he really wants to attend. We want to make sure he has the supports he needs to be successful. As his parents, we want to keep in touch with his professors the way we did while he was in high school. However, we heard that the school won’t send us his grades or contact us if there’s a problem. Is this true?

— College Dad 

Answer:  It may seem that the end of August and the start of college is a long way in the future, but now is a good time for you and your son to discuss where midterm and end-of-semester grade reports will be sent. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA, parents don’t automatically receive notices on how their young adult is doing academically in college.

This often comes as a surprise to parents, especially parents who have worked with the high school to help their students affected by ADHD. Under FERPA, the college or university must have written permission from the student to release any information on the student’s academic record. Colleges and universities also have limited ability to notify parents if there is a mental health concern for the student. This means a parent’s first indication a young adult is struggling is when the student fails or withdraws from a course.

“We know that challenges in executive function and emotional regulation make transitions all that more difficult for students with ADHD,” says Michele Oelking, director of the Academic Success Center at Tulane University. “Students with ADHD often seek help only after things aren’t going well. That means it’s closer to the midpoint of the semester before students seek help.”

You and your son need to talk about your expectations when it comes to being notified about his academic progress. Together you may decide that you will receive copies of grade reports during the midterm or just at the end of the semester. You may also want to talk about notifications from the health office and counseling services and when you should be contacted if your son is struggling.

Most students will be offered a waiver to sign when they register for classes the first time or during college orientation. If he doesn’t receive or sign one at those times, your son can contact the registrar’s or dean’s office to sign a waiver for you to receive his grade reports and other notices. Your son may also need to sign a waiver with the office of disabilities or the student academic center for you to be notified and to share information on how to contact you if he is receiving academic assistance through those offices.

Are you looking for more tips on helping your young adult be prepared for the coming semester? You can watch Ask the Expert: Your student was admitted, now what? featuring Ms. Oelking.

Looking for more?

What would you suggest to a parent with a student newly accepted to college?

If you’re used to working closely with your child’s high school education team, you need to know that this communication doesn’t happen in college. Learn about FERPA and how you and your child can help keep the lines of communication open during the college years.