Going to college
This time of year, kids going off to their freshman year of college are busy preparing for the big day. So are their parents. There is a lot to buy, logistics to work out, and last minute crises. It’s a hectic time. Parents are writing big checks. Teens are saying goodbye to friends. It’s a major transition for everyone—the new college student, parents, and siblings left at home.
As the youngest of three boys, I watched both of my brothers go off to college. It was very sad for me. I was very close to both of my brothers and they went far away to college. I knew that my life would change when they left. I knew that I would miss them. But not everyone feels that way. Some sibs are delighted to inherit the larger bedroom of their older brother or sister!
It’s tough on parents too. When my oldest daughter went off to college, I had many of the same feelings that I had when she went off to kindergarten. When I took her to college and said goodbye, I had tears in my eyes. It was both a sad and happy day. I was sad that she would no longer be part of my everyday life. And I was happy that she was starting a new adventure that was the beginning of her adult life.
The kids who are entering into this new phase of life are pretty nervous. Going off to college is a big leap. There is a lot to worry about—making new friends, living away from home, challenging classes, and the sense that everything counts. For many kids, their biggest fears are social. Will they find new friends? Will they date? Will they be lonely?
The entire family feels the tension before the big day.
Here are a few points to remember:
Reassurance isn’t helpful.
When teens express their anxieties don’t jump in to reassure them. Telling them they will be fine isn’t helpful. It’s far better to acknowledge that it’s a big transition and that it will probably be hard at first. But then over time, they will find their niche. Let them know that these kinds of transitions are challenging for everyone.
Don’t go overboard buying stuff.
Some kids bind their anxiety by buying stuff that they don’t need. It can get out of hand. Kids don’t need big screen TV’s, entertainment systems, and every electronic device under the sun to go to college. Dorm rooms are pretty small. When my daughters went off to college, some parents came with small U-Haul’s trailing behind!
Don’t get over-involved in their first month or two.
It’s odd how some kids call frequently and other kids don’t call at all. Stay in touch but don’t get too involved in their decision making. Be careful about giving unsolicited advice! When you drop them off at college, don’t hover. Let them find their own way.
Don’t expect great grades the first semester.
During the first few months, there are a huge number of distractions. It’s pretty amazing to be in a community of peers without any parental supervision. These older teens can go a little wild with this new found freedom. Also, freshman year of college is a big step up in academic demand from senior year in High School. If freshman apply the same effort they did in High School, they will find that it doesn't cut the mustard. It can take a couple of months to figure this out. Furthermore, no one is watching if you don’t show up for that 8 a.m. class!
What I didn't realize when I dropped Maya off at school was that kids only attend 30 weeks of college a year! (Don’t figure out what it costs a week!). They are home for the other 22 weeks. So it is a slower transition into adulthood than you imagine.