Not Quite Ready for Prime Time — Why Kids Aren’t Ready for College

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My son left for college four years ago. Looking back on his freshman year, he said that he was totally unprepared.

In my opinion, his freshman year was a failure because of extenuating circumstances. A crazy, drug-induced roommate. A fall off his bike and the need to come home for reconstructive surgery on his hand. Those two things could mess up anyone’s freshman year. But, he said he wasn’t ready to take care of all the parts of his life and study, too.

I wrote about skills our kids need to learn before they leave for college here in the “Top Ten Things Kid Need to Learn Before College.” I learned from my son, the simple things that I thought my kids knew, but did not. I took for granted that he could buy things at the store, or hang onto his wallet. Or that he’d know what to do if he lost his wallet.

Palm Springs Aquatic Center where my kids spent their youth.The second time around — with my second child — I tried to make sure she was better prepared. I was talking with a few swim moms yesterday. Part of the problem is us. The sheer volume of hours our swimmers spend at the pool topped with homework gives us an excuse to treat them like kings or queens. We do everything for them, and they don’t learn how to take care of themselves. We are crippling their growth and development and we are guaranteeing that their first year of college will be harder than it needs to be.

My son lived in a house with seven guys his sophomore and junior years of college. He said they were all brilliant, gifted students — and the house was a mess — and the bills went unpaid.

dishchart_lrgI asked, “Were they all prima donna’s?”

He answered, “Pretty much. Because they were ‘gifted’ in school, their mothers did everything for them all the time. Its was like, ‘you need to study to get As in your seven AP classes. Let me take care of this for you.’ ”

Before you jump in and strip the bed and wash the sheets — just stop. Let your child do it. Yes, their schedules are crazy. But, yours is too. Let them do more for themselves.

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I spent my daughter’s senior year driving her lunch to school. She’d text me for Chipotle, pizza, or whatever — and I’d stop everything I was doing — buy her lunch and deliver it. I’ll admit it, I enjoyed it and knew my days as a hovercraft were numbered.

Your child’s freshman year of college will be an adjustment year. Do whatever you can to prepare your kids to be successfully independent.

Doing less for them is doing more.

1 Tip on How to Say Good-bye to Your College Student

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

University of Utah in Salt Lake City

Last week I wrote about 7 tips for parents on Move-In Day. At the end I wrote: “I made it through the day without tears–mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When, it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes another time.”

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

Kat during our 6th trip to Target

So, how did it go when we said good-bye?

We had planned to stay until Sunday. Move-In day had been Thursday. We wanted to be around for a few days in case she needed us. She wanted us there on Thursday, but by Friday — not so much. It began to make sense for us to leave a day early. We didn’t want to hang out and wait to see if she wanted us around. It didn’t make us feel good and we weren’t enjoying ourselves exploring the city that much. We had a long drive ahead of us, too. So we went out for an early morning walk Saturday and talked about how we’d let her know that we felt it was time to leave.

She texted us at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

text from Kat

text from Kat

Okie dokie.

It was time to say good-bye. We walked on over to her dorm. I took a deep breath. I said a prayer to be strong.

“Do not cry. I can do this,” I repeated in my head.

She opened the door, I wanted to say something profound and loving. Something she’d remember — but I said nothing. My husband said a few things and I nodded my head.

I opened my mouth, my voice cracked and wavered. At this point I cannot remember what I was trying to say.

“Mom! Mom! Stop it!” she said. “Don’t!”

She held my face in her hands, like I was the child. “It’s going to be okay.”

A view  during our walk on campus

A view during our walk on campus

Tip 1:  Make it short and quick.

Bill and I walked out of her room into the bright cool air that is Utah. We walked all over campus for two hours and I felt much better — amazed at what a strong beautiful woman we had raised.

Sage Point dorms at U of U

Sage Point dorms at U of U, the athlete housing for Winter Olympics 2002.

Here’s an update:

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7 Tips for Move-In Day for Parents of College Freshman — Or, You Too Will Survive.

Move-in day for the parents of college freshman can be overwhelming. Here are a few tips I wrote when we moved my daughter into her dorm room.

 

The check-in table at Move-in day.

The check-in table at Move-in day.

Yesterday was move-in day for our youngest. It was easy to spot check-in with bright red pop-up tents, a field of red carts and dollies, and a line of students ready to help move us in. Not us, but my daughter. It sure felt like us, though.

Being 15 minutes early was an excellent idea. There was parking. There were carts. There was a small line. Later in the day — parking was in the outer limits — and it was wall-to-wall students and parents making their way to the dorms with car loads of matching “Big Box College-Bound” gear.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

Once in the room, we began lifting bedding, towels and clothing out of the cart. I wondered if I’d be strong, without tears, and how I’d get through the day. 

Here’s what worked and didn’t work:

1. Don’t try and unpack for your kid. Don’t try and put things away. This is their space, their new home. They need to make it their own.

2. Don’t hover and stay in their room. Make sure they have what they need and leave them alone. Be sure to be nearby for when they will invariably call.

3. Be prepared to shop multiple times during move-in day. We made one trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot and Costco — and five to Target. This was after we drove a packed-to-the-hilt Sequoia through four states with everything she needed.

4. Make lists. The large stores have lists for your student to make shopping easier. Of course, they have way more things on their lists than you actually need, but it’s a good starting point. Make your own list with the store’s list as a guide. After you move in your freshman’s things, you’ll discover what you didn’t think about or forgot — like strips to hang up pictures and art. Revise and rewrite your list as the day goes on.

5. Don’t try to stay up with the roomie. Some roommates will come equipped with flat screen TVs, $1,000 bikes, and the best and latest technology. Don’t worry about what they have and you do not. In a dorm room, keep remembering the mantra — LESS IS MORE!

6. Don’t go out and buy a router for the dorm’s WiFi until you read the section on technology on the college’s website. Most likely routers are not allowed and it’s a simple passcode that is needed instead.

7. Feed your student. He or she may be so intent on getting unpacked and settled and meeting dorm mates, that he or she won’t take time to eat. Make sure to stock bananas, apples, yogurt and other healthy snacks in their room and fridge.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter's dorm room. Years of memories.

The swim tee shirt quilt I made for my daughter’s dorm room. Years of memories.

I made it through the day without tears — mostly. It was a long, busy and tiring day. When my husband and I stopped for lunch — alone — and I realized that we were truly alone — the tears ran down my cheeks. I wiped them off and prepared myself for battle for the next stop at Target. When it’s time to say good-bye — well, I’ll tell you how that goes. You can read about how I said goodbye here.

18 years ago.Here’s a song “Teach Your Children Well” that fits my mood today. Listen and enjoy!