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I Wish I Knew It Before Sending My Child To College is a collection of stories based on what a variety of college parents said they wish they knew before their child went to college. As parents navigate through the many ups and downs of college, these stories and the advice offered will help to create a smooth experience.
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This first month of school is critical for setting up the rest of your semester. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new freshman or a returning upperclassman the transition from home life to school life is up to you. You have the opportunity to build a strong foundation for the rest of the semester, don’t let bad habits take over. Start to take control of your responsibilities – go to the gym, eat healthy snacks, watch those ‘liquid’ calories, stay up to date on classwork, and take a look at these simple 10 to-do’s to help you build a strong foundation. I suggest you take a few minutes to do arts and crafts, write these out on a piece of paper, bring them to school with you and hang them above your desk. I am a true believe in visualization – if something is staring you in the face everyday you will do it, or accomplish it. Add to your list daily!
1. Get to know your roommates – sit with them and really get to know them. These are the people you are going to spend the most amount of time with. You don’t have to be their best friend but you do have to live with them (and they have to live with you).
2. Get Organized! Your professor may have assigned work and projects and told you about them on day 1. Don’t expect them to remind you everyday about it and if you forget to hand it in when it’s due you will not get away with the excuse ‘i didnt know it was due.’ Get a planner and fill in the dates when assignments are due.
3. Go to class – Sleeping in and skipping your morning class may seem tempting, who’s making you go anyway? Get up and go! You are paying to be there, don’t waste your money.
4. Meet with your professors. Take the extra minute to show up before class or stay after class and meet your professor. Ask them a question, or tell them that you are enjoying their class so far. They’re human (everyone likes to be given complements) and they’ll appreciate the positive feedback.
5. Let go of the pressure of having to know exactly what you want to study – You’ve probably met a number of people who say they know exactly what they want to do when they graduate (i’d bet money that majority of those people have no idea what they want to do). College is a time to discover what you want to do. Let those people do what they want to do and be excited that you aren’t locked into one track right now, you are exploring!
6. Stay healthy! Go to the gym, eat your fruit and veggies, listen to music and go for a walk by yourself.
7. Take a deep breath.
8. Don’t cut corner – nobody gets placed on the top of the mountain, they all have to climb it.
9. Seek help when you need it – are you really stressed? Are your eating habits getting out of hand? Are you drinking more than you expected? Dont be afraid to ask for help. Walk to health services (trust me they’ve seen and heard it all) and tell them what is going on. Are you confused on an assignment? E-mail your professor, reach out to a classmate or go to the tutoring center. People want to help you.
1o. Call home to your family – they miss you, they want to hear from you.
Initiate a conversation with your family. Instead of proclaiming that you’re now an independent woman, show it through your actions. “I think the biggest challenge is that college students are moving forward with their lives,” says Gabbriel Simone, author of I Wish I Knew It Before Going to College (Morgan James Publishing). “When they come back home, they can at times revert back to feeling like they’re in high school and act immaturely. Rather than getting upset, initiate a conversation with your parents.” By being proactive, you’ll demonstrate your maturity.
Remember that this is hard for your parents too. If you’re returning home after your freshman year, it’s only been a few months since you left home. You’ve changed a lot in a short time span, but your parents think of you as the same doe-eyed high school graduate you were when you left. “Before you say anything, it’s important to try and put yourself in the shoes of you parents,” says Rachel Simmons, Teen Vogue blogger and author of Odd Girl Out (Mariner Books). “Realize that a few months may feel like forever to you, but they still see you as their little girl. Try to emphasize and realize that most of the time, they’re worrying out of love.”
Compromise. Your values may have changed while you’ve been inside the college bubble, where the social norms are different than in the outside world. If your parents aren’t keen on a later curfew (or none at all), offer to call home and check in throughout the night. “When it’s time to talk, it’s important to tell your parents that you want to come to a compromise and that you need them to acknowledge that you’ve been living a different kind of life at college,” says Simmons. “I don’t think that it’s fair to expect that you’ll get everything you want in any kind of negotiation. Anyone thinking that restrictive parents are going to suddenly become totally permissive is probably setting themselves up for real disappointment.”
Prioritize privileges that matter most to you. If you present your parents with clear, reasonable requests, they’ll listen and take you seriously. “Decide ahead of time which privileges they might be willing to give up and decide what really matters to you,” says Simmons. “If curfew really matters, know that ahead of time. If drinking alcohol or sleeping in the same bed as your significant other doesn’t, be ready to give that up.”
Be respectful. Screaming, stomping, and cursing will not get you what you want; it’ll get you grounded. Even if you’re still in the throws of your teenage rebellion, mind your manners. “Independence may feel total when you’re in college, but the reality is that it’s only partial,” reminds Simmons. “As long as you’re living under your parents’ roof, and especially if they’re paying for your education, you do owe them some respect. I remember I got my nose pierced my sophomore year and then I came home for Thanksgiving. My mom had told me, ‘You can do anything you want, just don’t pierce your nose,’ but I went and pierced it when I was on a trip with my friends. I came home for Thanksgiving and my mother wouldn’t let me in the house.”
Use the time to reflect and relax. If your parents ask you to adhere to strict rules, don’t think of it as torture. Use your time home to detox from college; rest and relax. “I don’t think that students take enough time to appreciate the quietness of home,” says Simone. “It’s something that you don’t get in college.” Keep in mind that you’ll be back on campus in a few short weeks, and appreciate your parents for more than the fact that they do your laundry when you’re visiting home. Come second semester, you may just miss your folks.
We all know what ‘helicopter parents’ are right? The parents who constantly call their children, proof read their childs paper, e-mail the professor directly when their son/daughter calls upset about an exam, and are constantly giving advice on what to do, who to talk to, where to go, how to address problems, and are somehow right next to their child at college even when they are sitting home hundreds of miles away. We blame the parents for this, we give advice on how to let their child fly away from the nest and gain responsibility BUT the problem isn’t the parents. Yes, I’ll say it…. the problem is the student who’s sitting in the cockpit of the helicopter!
Students – when do you become an adult?
The answer – you become an adult when YOU CHOOSE to become an adult.
How many of you call your parents in between classes? Tell your parents all about your professor? Share your grades with your parents? Call crying when you fail an exam and complain about how ‘the professor is so unfair’ and then allow your parents to send an e-mail to the professor? How many of you call mom and dad for advice when you’re having a hard time getting an internship? When you need advice on how to run for student government? Students, you are allowing your parents to be helicopter parents. GET OUT OF THE COCKPIT. If you want independence, you need to create that independence yourself. I dare you to set up a meeting with a professor and go meet when him or her on your own – do not call your mom or dad for advice. It will be hard. Once you have that conversation and realize that you CAN do fine as you, as just an individual, without the guidance of your parents I promise you that you will leave that conversation feeling better about yourself than you ever have.
Do you see now? Your parents are helicopter parents because you allow them to do. Your parents are also helicopter parents because you enable them to be. So, parents if you realize this is happening take a step back. Tell your student to go talk to a professor but then give them no advice on what to say or what to ask. Trust your child.
Students, like I said before, you become an adult when you choose to become an adult. Get out of the helicopter cockpit and put on a pair of running shoes.
Big | Day
You’ve moved in, said your goodbyes (lots of tears? it’s okay!) and it’s your first night alone at college. What do you do? Many of you may sit in bed with your laptop and click through facebook, you’ll probably text your friends or talk to your parents. Hopefully your roommate has moved in too so that you have someone to talk to. What are you feeling? Scared, alone, unfamiliar, sad, awkward? I promise you the nights get better! If you’re in bed and thinking, ‘omg i can’t do this, this is so uncomfortable i just want to be home’ my response to you (in the nicest way) is stop complaining, suck it up, you’re a grown up now and you CAN do this! Don’t let loneliness defeat you, you need to give yourself time before you make any drastic moves and pack up and go home. Some of you may actually be bored. No worries, once school starts you will have enough work to keep you busy. Once everyone moves in you will have plenty of people to meet and hang out with. In fact, enjoy the first few awkward nights when the dorms are quiet and nobody knows what to do because soon you’ll have nights where you are itching for a quiet night. Like I said… you CAN do this! There are thousands of freshman who are feeling the same way as you so stop reading this post, close your laptop and go meet other freshman. Finally, if you are really lonely and you’re still having a hard time connecting to your environment, go buy a fish. Strange? NO! Having a fish will give you something to take care of and look forward to seeing when you come back to your room. Name it Gabby!
Talk to you soon,
Difference #6 – There are no parents in college. With freedom comes responsibility and this is something that is a challenge for most students. Right now, in H.S. you may not realize how big of a role your parents play in the structure of your day. Obviously for some this isn’t the case as there are a number of different living situations for students and parent presence does vary for every child… some parents are helicopter parents, they want total control of their child (FYI Mom and Dad, the children of helicopter parents usually go WILD in college) and then there are some parents who are never around (personal opinion here… if you neglect your child, especially for drugs, alcohol, or some low life significant other, you should have never been able to have children in the first place and I hope you drown in jealousy when your child grows up to be better than you ever were). Anywho…. back to this no parents post. Here are some things to think about and be aware of when you head off to college:
1. Nobody tells you to come home at night. Yes this is a great thing at first but I don’t know about you, there were some nights in college that I wished I could blame a parent for making go back to my dorm. At 4am, when nobody wanted to leave the party and I wanted to go home I felt like I had to stick it out… balancing social and academic life is going to be a challenge but if you want to leave a party, just do it! I promise, if you leave (make sure to leave with someone) that nobody at the party is going to care. To be honest, at that point they probably won’t even notice that you left.
2. Nobody tells you to do your homework. Professors will mention it but they really don’t care if you do it or don’t do it, they’re not paying for your education. If you don’t do work for your classes it is MUCH harder to catch up in your classes in college than it is in H.S. If you fail a class, and then maybe two or three classes you CAN get kicked out of college and they won’t give you your money back… have fun explaining that one to Mom or Dad. It’s just not worth it because then if you want to transfer to another college you will have to show that college your transcripts from your previous college and it’s just not going to look good.
3. You will miss your parents. Right now some of you are probably itching to get away from home because you hate being with your Mom or Dad. When you get to college, there is nobody that will fill the position of your parents. You will miss a hug from them, you will miss the stupid comments they make, you will probably even miss some of their advice because if you’re like me, you’ll never admit it but your Mom was probably right most of the time (I hate when that happens).
4. Your relationship gets better with your parent when you go to college. You are becoming an adult so you obviously don’t want your parents down your neck but you do want them around occasionally. Being at college is the perfect balance of parents and no parents in terms the social aspect of your relationship. Also, you probably had to be cautious of drinking when you were in H.S. but now that you’re in college, your parents aren’t stupid, they know you drink so when you’re home visiting you’re way more carefree and you won’t hesitate to make yourself a drink when you’re all hanging out. A glass of wine, a beer or two makes them even more fun to hang with.
P.S. Keep in mind that your parents are going through a tough transition too. This is just as much a change for them as it is for you, they have to say goodbye to their baby… be considerate and if they’re home, give them a hug! If your Mom is like my Mom she’ll probably start crying.
COLLEGE PHOTO: Thanksgiving break, Senior year – Love my Mom!…and wine 😉