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.
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.