College Life Part 2 – A Student’s Perspective

College life-lecture hall
Huge lectures -intimidating much?

College Life: The Transition

I often wonder who’ll be more nervous going off to college – the parent or the child. When Julia goes, it will definitely be me. Sure, it depends on who you are dealing with, but I think Monday’s post offered a good look at a parent who didn’t expect to be as affected by their child’s new life and period of adjustment.

So what leads some kids to struggle with the transition to college life more than others?  Some parents I’ve spoken to believe their child was so happy and content at home – who wouldn’t miss that? Another friend mentioned her daughter found the party scene to be intimidating because she was stressed ensuring her safety in this world of constant warnings – cover your drink, don’t walk alone, be careful on social media. And what about the kids whose lives have been so structured in sports, school and activities? They are on their own now.

Today, I bring you the student perspective of college…those first few weeks. Go back to Monday’s post if you haven’t had the chance to read the interview with this student’s parent.

The Interview

Before leaving for college, what did you expect? I envisioned it to be a mixture of carefree fun and also incredibly difficult academics that I would struggle with. I thought I would fit in right away, be independent, and not miss home at all.

How close has your college experience come to your expectation? So far, my actual experience has only partially met my expectations. Academically speaking, it’s as much work as I expected, but I did not realize how many resources the college has to help with a heavy coursework, how nice the majority of the professors would be, and how much time I would have to get everything done. All in all, I feel better about the academics than I did coming in. On the other hand, I did not realize how homesick I would be. Every day I realize how much I miss my friends, family, and neighbors, and simple things about life at home. I talk to my mom and dad much more than I was planning on. At first I felt a shock that I was all alone here, but in time I’ve met some great friends and they make the transition much easier. I also found out that college is a lot more fun than I expected, in a party/social sense.

Do you like college life? I definitely do like it here. I sort of feel like I was thrown into a new life where I need to figure everything out on my own, but I also realize that once I do figure out how to successfully live on my own, it will be for my own good. I like being in control of when I study, hang out with friends, eat, and do things for myself. I have already ventured off campus twice; both times I was blown away by how much I love where my school is.

What has the adjustment to college life been like? The adjustment at first was difficult, but over time it got better. Everyone I have met has been friendly for the most part, but it took some time to find good friends and people to hang out with. Once I did, it got a lot better.

What has been the biggest challenge/stress? My biggest stress right now is doing well in my classes and managing how much work I have to do. The classes have been manageable so far, except I have not had any tests or essays due, so I am very nervous for those deadlines to come up.

What has been the biggest surprise of college living? The biggest surprise is how good the food is. I expected college food to be gross, but it is far from it. I have also had fun trying places near my campus.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you rate your college experience so far? I would rate it a 7.

Not bad! I think a seven is a great start. These answers made me laugh and cry and made me realize that most kids, in time, will find their way and be stronger for it. Both the social and academic pressure of college life can be overwhelming – it’s no wonder it takes time to adjust.

I can’t thank the parent and student who took the time to share their experience on college living. It sheds light for those of us who will soon be going through it and, possibly, offer comfort for those already in it.

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College Life Part 1 – A Parent’s Perspective

Yale University - college life
Yale University – photo from Pixabay

College Life – It’s Not Always Easy

If you google the word college, you’ll find images of beautiful buildings, lecture halls and happy coeds. It seems straightforward, but the transition to college life isn’t always easy.

Since August, I’ve been fascinated with the college talk of many friends whose kids left for their freshman year. I’m constantly asking questions: Do they like it? Are classes difficult? Are they partying? I hear that some are loving it, some are homesick and some aren’t quite sure how they feel.

Maybe I want to prepare myself for what’s to come (my oldest is a sophomore in high school) or maybe I just like living vicariously through my friends whose children are experiencing something new and exciting.  Either way, I’m unabashedly curious.

For every question I’ve asked a parent, I’ve wondered what their child was thinking. So I asked.

Two willing participants graciously agreed to answer my questions about the first few weeks of college. I am happy to share their experiences and emotions with you.

Today, I give you the parent perspective. On Thursday, I will post the student perspective. Both were beautifully honest and articulate and demonstrate how college, today, can evoke a myriad of feelings.

The Interview

Before your child left for college, what did you expect it to be like? I expected her to have a very similar experience as I had. When it wasn’t, I was shocked. I had an easy transition to college. I went to a very small Catholic liberal arts college In New England. My daughter is in a big city. I didn’t think about what a different experience it would be for her.

How close has your child’s experience come to your expectation? It’s very different. When I was in college, our fun was right on campus and my college always had something for us to do. I was in a class of 500 kids and her class has over 2,000 students. Her social scene seems to require more planning with “new friend groups.”

Do you think she likes it? I do think she likes it.  It was a rocky start because she was calling very late at night when she could talk privately – I heard concern in her voice. I think she thought she could quickly duplicate her tight, high school friend group. When that didn’t happen right away, I reminded her that she’d known her high school friends since elementary school; three or four days to know where you fit in wasn’t realistic. She is very confident academically, which I’m happy about. I want her to have that same confidence about her social circle – knowing it will work out just like it did in high school. Fortunately, after just a few weeks, her jitters are gone and she’s happy with her new friends.

How’s it felt having your child live away from home? Before she left I had her provide me with all of her passwords and accept the “Find My Friend” app. I spoke to her about the San Bernardino terrorist attack and how the FBI couldn’t get into the terrorist’s cell phone. God forbid anything happened, I wouldn’t want to delay finding her or accessing her accounts, so the app seemed like a good idea. The first few days I checked my new app constantly because I missed her and I was worried.  It gave me comfort. I had never used this app before, so when it failed and mistakenly showed her between two buildings, three blocks from campus at 7am, I panicked. I texted and called her multiple times. Then realized I only had campus police as my next option. I didn’t know anybody else, not even her RA from her dorm. Finally, 45 minutes later she called me and calmly asked what the big emergency was. Come to find out, the app is not always perfect. I’m not a worrier and never have been- I was a little caught off guard by how concerned I was about everything. As for the app, I still have it on my phone, but don’t look at it anymore. An explosion happened in her area last night. I sent her a text right away to make sure she was safe. I’m proud to say I never thought to track her location. Her simple reply back, “Yes, I’m safe” was good enough for me. It’s definitely been an adjustment.

What has worried you the most? I want to make sure she has fun. My best memory of college is the fun. However, my daughter is more mature and a more serious student than I ever was, which makes me so proud of her. My hope is that she can find a good balance between her assignments and a social life.

What has been the biggest surprise? I would say how much she misses home and her friends. She mentioned wanting to come home for Columbus Day and I advised her to stay. I know those first long weekends are tough, but if she stays it might help the transition.

How is college different for kids today than when you were in college? Cell phones make it so easy to stay in touch – maybe too easy. When I went to school we shared two pay phones on each floor of 35 girls. If your parents called, you were at the mercy of the line being free, someone willing to answer it and track you down. And, of course, I worry about her safety. I’m not typically a worry wart, but initially I was. Now that several weeks have passed I’m more relaxed and so is she. I’m excited for her and I’m so very proud of her.

Have you sent a child off to college? What was it like for you? Stay tuned for the student perspective on Thursday.

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Advice for College Students

graduation cap and diploma

June is always a busy month for me. We take on three family birthdays, Father’s Day and, of course, the typical end of school chaos.

This year we had the added pleasure of attending several high school graduation parties. Interestingly, these celebrations struck an emotional chord with me, more so than anything else. Watching these young graduates reach this pivotal milestone conjured up old feelings of when I went off to college. New feelings also emerged as I realized how soon I would be seeing my own children take this step toward adulthood and independence. I reflected on my college years and thought about what my advice for college students of today might be.

I was vicariously excited for the new phase of life these young, enthusiastic people are entering. I considered my own college experience and couldn’t help think about how I could’ve done it differently. I entered UMASS Amherst from graduating class of 60 girls at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, MA. I was scared and totally unprepared for the culture shock I would face. I would say my first real taste of freedom was intoxicating and toxic at the same time. My freshman year was rough, but I eventually got my act together and made it through the final three years. The one thing I didn’t do, was take my undergraduate education as seriously as I should have. I often wonder where I would be now, career-wise, had I been a better student and more tuned-in to the classes and opportunities I had available to me.

From the time I was little, I knew I was a creative person, yet I majored in business management and marketing. I considered a minor in art, but blew it off. Why? I’m honestly not sure, but I regret that I didn’t explore that further. Business didn’t excite me then or when I took a job in the financial services industry as a post-graduate.

Advice for College Students Today

If I could’ve told my young self a few things before heading off to college, here’s what I would’ve said:

  1. Relax and take it slow. Know your limits and remember why you are at college. Study first, party second.
  2. Your destiny may not yet be clear, but pay close attention to the classes and experiences that you are most enjoying. Your future success and contentment may very well be tied to your passions. It doesn’t always work out that way, but exploring the possibility will at least ensure you don’t utter the phrase, “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
  3. Think ahead – really think ahead. Take time to consider what you want to do in life and whether you can see yourself happy on your chosen career path long-term. Change what you need to change, but commit when you’ve got it figured out. Seek the help of professors, parents and mentors. Don’t coast through college without a plan.

As my girls get close to graduation, I’ll be doling out more and more advice based on my own experiences and I’m sure they’ll beg me to stop. I know that those four years can be easily wasted or optimized and I want the young people of today to make the most of them. Their future selves (and parents) will be glad they did.

What would your advice for college students be?

Students graduating tossing their caps
College bound.
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