DEAR ABBY: You told “Needs Help in Chicago” (Feb. 10) to get back into college and see a counselor. I wholeheartedly agree. I was exactly like her. I avoided other people, maintained straight A’s, had many offers for scholarships, went to college and, shortly after, burned out. I’m not sure about her, but I had been raped and molested at a young age, and books became my escape from the harsh reality of life.

There’s a root cause for social avoidance, and it really can leave you feeling lost and adrift. I hope that girl will seek mental health counseling before she goes back to school. I’m sure it will change many things for her for the better. – T.B., JACKSONVILLE, FLA.

Thank you for reaching out to “Needs Help” and sharing your personal experience. I spotted the same red flag in her letter, which is why I hoped she’d talk to a mental health professional. However, because I was unsure of her financial situation, I felt she could most easily find a therapist through the school’s student health center. You are only one of many readers who want to help that young woman. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As a college counselor, I’m amazed at the number of students who have no idea what to do with their lives. Fortunately, there are highly effective assessment tools and counseling protocols to help students identify the kind of work they would find fulfilling and rewarding, and that would give meaning to their lives. Helpful answers are there if students get the right counseling. – PATRICIA BRESLIN, GAINESVILLE, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: I am a college English professor. Far too many students float through my classes who go to school only because their parents expect them to. Their attitude and grades often reflect this.

I encourage my own children (ages 17 and 20) to go out and experience life before going to college. I didn’t start college until my mid-30s, and 10 years later am working on a Ph.D. As a result, I appreciated the experience much more and got more value from my tuition dollars. College right out of high school is not the answer for everyone. – CARING PROFESSOR, WASHINGTON STATE

DEAR ABBY: I dropped out of an Ivy League school after one semester due to burnout and boredom. Everyone I knew was sure I was making the wrong decision. It was the best choice I ever made.

During my 2½ years off, I participated in a semester program through NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School ( NOLS offers scholarships, financial aid and college credit. I recommend it to anyone seeking direction and challenge in life.

Eventually, when I was ready, I returned to school and graduated with honors. I now own my own business and attribute my successes to NOLS. I hope “Needs Help” will seriously consider this alternative to college. – KATE IN CHEYENNE, WYO.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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