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Going Back

Getting back to college shouldn’t be a big deal if you do it thoughtfully. Every year, thousands of students in recovery return to formal education and safely move on with their newly promising lives. These students’ passion and drive to matriculate in sobriety are what have ignited the recent explosive growth of college and university Collegiate Recovery Programs/Collegiate Recovery Communities (CRP/CRC) across this country. These are the folks you want to be with as you restart your academic and social future.

Before you begin the reentry process, however, you and your parents need to get real about your goals. This will be the hardest part; that’s why you start here.

You know it would be a terrible risk to try to go back to the same school where you got into trouble. Why take it? You need to forget about “showing them,” whoever “them” may be. At your old school there are too many triggers waiting to trip up your recovery. Why try to get into a game where the deck’s already stacked against you?

Resist your family’s pressure to go back to your old party school just because it’s their alma mater or is somehow more prestigious in their worried minds than your new program. So what if your old school is higher on some magazine’s rating scale if it can’t support you in sobriety? It’s your life and future, and you must find the healthiest place possible to fully realize your amazing potential.

In the end, your family will be so much happier bragging about your higher GPA, your clearer focus and drive, and your growing self-confidence and sense of purpose at the new school than they ever were where your troubles began.

Now you need to get to the actual work of returning: how do you get in; are there any special traps or tricks for a student in recovery; is there a permanent stain on your record; where do you start? First, you need to research the institution(s) that interest you; they are all different, as are their CRP/CRC communities. Then you need to understand and work within each school’s unique admissions process and schedules.

The new school most likely is going to consider you as a single transfer student, not part of the annual horde coming from high school. You will be treated accordingly: you will be considered on your record, not your potential as when you left high school. Transfer students make up a very small percent of any candidate pool. If properly advised, they’re changing schools for only two reasons: academic and/or social. This is in your favor if you can properly explain your situation and present your candidacy well. Keep it sharp and simple.

Talk about the future, but acknowledge your past.

Admissions officers are quickly learning that students in true recovery come back to college highly motivated to finish their degrees and perhaps go on to graduate school. They know they generally have higher average GPAs, show longer retention and waste less time than freshmen because of their different life experiences. Their hard-won, greater self-awareness, their more mature life purpose and their yearning for positive community activity set them apart. They’re also busy supporting each other in the community to make up for lost time and opportunity.

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