Dear Harlan: I’ve had a horrible first semester in college. I thought I could bring up my grades, but I bombed finals. I told my parents that I’m doing better than I was really doing, thinking I would fix my grades. I don’t know how to tell them what happened. I’m afraid they will force me to stay home or cut me off financially. I made a lot of stupid choices this year. I skipped classes and didn’t get the help I needed. I also went out way too much. I know they are going to see my grades and freak out. I don’t know how to get them to see that I know what I did wrong.
— Help Me
Dear Help Me: It happens. We all make mistakes. It’s called learning. Don’t fail this next test. Come clean. Accept it. Own it. You messed up. You failed. You made a mistake. It happens to everyone. The bigger mistake would be lying to them, making excuses, covering it up or blaming someone other than yourself for what happened. Own 100% of it. Demonstrate to your parents that you are mature enough to acknowledge what happened and how you will fix this. Explain exactly what you did wrong and how you are going to do better next semester. Let them vent. Give them room to feel whatever they’re going to feel. Let them yell and scream. Stay cool. Share specifics: going to office hours, taking advantage of free tutoring, meeting with your adviser, taking a time-management course, and spending more time studying. Accept that if you don’t fix this problem, you don’t expect to get their continued support. Own it and see what happens. It’s your best chance at fixing your mess. And it will impress them.
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