Warning: this post may not be suitable for parents. This post may cause slight anxiety.
Once there was a girl eager to experience her first college party as a freshman. She and her six new friends from the residence halls headed off campus to a popular house for parties. The Football House. Not long after the party was going, and several Solo cups gone, the cops arrived. The girl was pushed out the back door into a small fenced-in backyard. Fellow students were beginning to panic. Getting out of the yard toward the front was not an option. Cops! The gate to the back alley was locked or simply not opening for the drunken operators. Before she knew it, the girl was hoisted over the 6-foot fence by a large anonymous boy and caught on the other side by a student of equal strength and size (presumably football players).
Many of you might be heading into your first weekend as a college student this weekend. You too might be excited and eager to experience your first taste of independence. There might be many options for parties and drinking. You and your newest friends might decide to head out and see what college fun is about. If you are a freshman female, it is even more likely that you will be welcomed into any party you decide to attend at the fraternities, and the drinks will be free.
Let me ask you to think about a few things before you go. (Notice, I am not telling you to stay home – as I know that might not be realistic.)
- Think about who you are going out with. How long have you known them? Would they have your back – if needed? Would they make sure you are not left alone? Would they care if you had too much to drink? Do YOU care if these “new friends” have too much to drink? How do you feel about holding back someone’s hair while they puke?
- Think about how you want to get home. Hopefully, how you get home is ONLY on foot!! Not in a car or worse, an ambulance. Is it ok to come back with less than the number of friends you went out with?
- When do you want to be home? I’m not asking you to think about whether after midnight is too late. I am asking you to reflect on whether you wish to return to your room the next morning? Are you comfortable walking across campus in your clothes from the night before? This is commonly referred to as “the walk of shame”. You might want to tell yourself you will wake up in your bed – and without a guest appearance from someone you’ve just met. How would you feel if your roommate had a guest?
My point is, use the common sense your parents have instilled. Yes, we all make mistakes – sometimes even without alcohol being involved. Alcohol and good decision-making usually don’t mix. Unfortunately, if you make a wrong decision at your age, it can have ramifications that could change your educational and career path before it even begins. Education and Criminal Justice majors are often thought of as the first majors/careers that would be ruined with an underage drinking charge, but there are others.
Are you curious about the girl from above? Her major could have been tossed over the fence as quickly as she was (or out the door, out the window, into the trash – you can apply whatever imagery you prefer). Instead, she and a few other fellow partiers (who made it over the fence) ran and laughed up the alley and eventually found their way to safety….or another party. The students that didn’t get out of the house had charges brought up against them. She was lucky. They were not. Why take the chance?
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” ding dong, ding dong. You know the song. Perhaps for you, it still conjures up images of holiday decorations and good cheer. Not for me. Not since 1996, when Staples came out with that clever commercial of the mom gliding through the aisle, joyously tossing post-its and pencils into her cart, and two children slugging along behind her. For me I must agree, it IS the most wonderful time of the year.
Yes, I am a mom who is happy to send her kids back to school. That part rings true, but there are other reasons I find it to be the most wonderful time of the year. It means the big kids are coming back to campus after a quiet summer. It means the new freshman will arrive with their spirit and hope. The energy of September is palpable as you walk around campus. It is a time to start again. Much like the New Year, I find myself making lists of new goals to achieve.
However, as a parent of a new college student that commercial that may have been silly and humorous doesn’t seem so anymore. As parents we worry. It’s part of our DNA. We have concerns about whether our children will succeed. If they are going away for school, we may worry about their new found independence. These are valid concerns. As a parent of a new student, you may find yourself asking what should I expect or what is my role?
First, it is okay to miss your child. You probably will. Those feelings didn’t get dubbed with “the empty nest syndrome” for nothing. You may feel emotions of sadness to grouchy bad moods. Try to come up with a method for staying in touch. Make it something that you and your child can agree on. A phone call or text a day? Maybe once every two or three days. Technology can help you. Gone are the days of your child standing in line for the pay phone at the end of the hall. Maybe plan to Face Time or Skype once in a while or even plan a monthly campus visit. However, caution is advised, this is a time for your student to spread their wings. Try not to text and call too often. Let them reach out to you. They will, and they will come to enjoy that time as much as you.
My biggest caution is against the temptation to be overly involved. Remember the term “helicopter” parenting? Unfortunately, it still holds true for today’s college student. Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing a parent in the office. College is a time for the student to handle their problems on their own. Offering advice and suggestions are helpful, but they should manage with your support from the sidelines. They will leave school with a greater sense of self and independence if you do. (In another blog we can discuss FERPA).
Help your child know who they can go to as a college resource. Anyone from their Resident Advisor (RA) to their Academic Advisor can help. Each university and college around the nation has student support services available just to help your child navigate the college waters. The sooner your child knows where they can get answers, assistance and support for issues and concerns, the better.
Remember that feeling of palpable energy I spoke of? Well, it doesn’t last forever. Even after the first week of school (often orientation week), there can be a let-down. Freshmen may question their decision. School work begins to set in, and so does the reality of the work involved. Often the first six weeks of the semester can be a difficult transition for the new student. It’s not just you who will be making some adjustments. The first series of posted grades can be a huge disappointment. Helping your student problem solve can be a great assistance.
In a future posts, I will also talk about setting expectations with your college student. But for now, even if you are not feeling that sense of joyous exuberance as your child packs up, keep in mind that this is just a new phase. You may never throw socks into a suitcase with the joy of the mom and her post-its on TV, and that’s ok. However, packing for college will be the new norm for the next few years. Just like that first day of kindergarten when they got on the bus. It may take some getting used to, but that’s ok too.
(Oh, and for goodness sakes after the first move-in day, let them pack themselves!)
Hello and welcome to my blog on transitioning to college. I call it Collegiate Café. Grab your coffee and let me help you navigate through college life. Whether you are a parent or a college student, welcome!
I have a wide variety of experience in Higher Education, and have worked with thousands of students in the process. I am here to share some of my knowledge of getting into schools and successfully staying in school. I will also add some humorous and heartwarming stories along the way. It is my hope Collegiate Cafe will be a place to learn about the college process and ask questions if needed.