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ND students reflect on withdrawal, readmission process

| Friday, October 9, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment of a five-day series discussing mental health at Notre Dame in recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

“The reason I was going home, was so that I could come back.”

For students like senior Maggie Skoch, the University’s voluntary withdrawal process can allow them the opportunity to put school temporarily on hold while they work to become healthy enough to return to campus.

While students may withdraw for a number of reasons — including financial and academic — Dr. Erica Kelsey, a care consultant in the Division of Student Affairs, said mental health is the “most common reason” a student chooses to take a voluntary withdrawal.

“In high school I was diagnosed with [obsessive compulsive disorder] and [generalized anxiety disorder], and I managed those well until my second year of college when I started having anxiety attacks, which were something that I hadn’t experienced before,” Skoch said. “Those were very debilitating, and within a couple weeks I had missed a ton of class, I wasn’t making up class.

” … I was kind of a mess. I elected to take a withdrawal maybe two weeks into the semester.”

Withdrawal_Graphic_WebJanice Chung | The Observer

Kelsey said students who have elected to withdraw are assigned one of the Division of Student Affairs’s care consultants, who remain their point of contact throughout the withdrawal period and again during the readmission process.

“The care consultant works with the student from the time they decide to take a withdrawal,” Kelsey said in an email. “We are able to connect with the student while they are away from the University, answer questions they have about the readmission process, remind them of application due dates and provide general support.

“Over the past few years, the care consultants have taken a more active role in supporting the withdrawn and readmitted students by providing the communication mentioned previously and by meeting with the student upon their return and helping them with the transition back to campus life.”

Skoch, who withdrew from the University in Sept. 2012, said improvements made to the care consultants program in the last two years have contributed positively to the process since she went through it.

“A huge thing that was improved is the care consultants,” Skoch said. “… They walk the journey with [the student], which I think is very crucial and a really excellent part of what Notre Dame has to offer, that a lot of other schools actually don’t offer. We’re one of the only schools to my knowledge that has a CARE program in this capacity. “

Once students and their care providers feel that they are ready to return to campus, they can begin the readmission process.

Kelsey said the process involves a number of different departments on campus, including admissions and counseling.

“All students complete an electronic application submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions,” she said. “… If a student leaves the university for mental health reasons, they are asked to work with University Counseling Center (UCC) as part of the readmission process. A counselor at the UCC will speak with the student’s treatment provider to determine their readiness to return to the University and to determine what continuation of care is needed upon their return.

“The goal of the readmission process is to ensure that the student will be successful academically and in a good place in terms of their overall well-being and happiness at the University,” she said.

An Aug. 31 memo  states the deadlines for readmission applications are Apr. 15 for the fall semester, and Oct. 1 for the spring semester.

Junior Mary Mecca, who withdrew in December 2014, returned to campus this semester. She said completing her application four months before she would return to campus was a “daunting” task.

“That was the most daunting part when I was in therapy, discussing [applying for readmission],” she said. “What’s the progress that we have made to this point, and would they take me back at this point? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to get better, I don’t know if between Apr. 15 and Aug. 24 when we come back if I’m going to take another dive.”

Mecca said, however, she saw both positives and negatives to an April deadline for fall semester readmission.

“What was nice about the early deadline was that it forced me to take action as soon as I got home,” she said. “I couldn’t sit around and it forced me to get very serious about my health very quickly.

“… However, the system would most certainly benefit from a longitudinal approach to readmission. I made quite a bit of progress between Apr. 15 and June 15 [when she was notified of her readmission], and I cannot imagine that others who may not have been denied did not also make progress worthy of readmission.”

Skoch said she thinks withdrawal is often a good decision for students who need it, but encouraged anyone considering it to work with others to make their decision.

“If you’re someone who’s considering taking a withdrawal, my first piece of advice is talk to everyone who cares about you,” she said. “Talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to the resources on campus, talk to a care consultant. Just because you’re seeing a care consultant doesn’t mean you’re withdrawing. If you’re seeing a counselor or a medical professional, talk to them.

“Don’t rely solely on your own decision-making, because it’s a very emotionally charged decision. I would never have wanted to make it alone.

“If the only thing holding you back is fear of the unknown, fear of what life will look like when you come back, fear of what life will look like when you leave … in most situations I’d say do it,” she said.

Mecca said withdrawal does not mean a permanent removal from the University. On the contrary, she said, it allowed her to come back and more fully experience her time in college.

“I know I would have benefited from hearing that withdrawal from Notre Dame isn’t the end of the world by any means, but rather, a chance to breathe and find a new and healthier perspective on one’s future,” she said.

“I also know that if I hadn’t withdrawn and gone through the process of readmission, I would not be the person I am today. It allowed me to reflect, and ultimately realize that I should be able to enjoy life and strive to do something meaningful with my life.”

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About Margaret Hynds

Margaret is a senior Political Science major and the former Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. She hails from Washington, D.C., and is a former Phox of Pangborn Hall. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretHynds

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