It’s hard to believe the day has come. I am now the parent of two college students. How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday I was teaching them how to tie their shoes and ride a bicycle. But this is life and time marches on, so I am happy to enter this new phase of my son’s and stepdaughter’s lives and my life.
My son, Matthew is a freshman at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. He is studying aerospace engineering on an ROTC scholarship and hopes to be a pilot for the U.S. Air Force some day. My stepdaughter, Sabrina is a freshman at New York University, studying film and television.
Getting your child ready to leave for college is quite a process. There are so many things to do for both you and your new college student. Here are some things I learned during this process.
- Ask questions. When I went with Matthew to his orientation session earlier in the summer, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information. I felt like I was back to school! I had so many questions. The one thing that was comforting was all the questions I had – almost all of the parents in the room had them as well.
- Technology is your friend. Become very familiar with the college web sites. Most of them have parent sections and many have newsletters – they know who is paying the bill! Like most kids entering college, Matthew and Sabrina did not necessarily tell me about all the emails they were receiving that had “to do” items. Checking out the NYU and Georgia Tech sites really helped me ask all the right questions. Also make sure your students authorize you to access their bursar account (this is the finance department at the university that collects tuition payments). If you are not authorized, you cannot pay the bill – a simple motivation for any college student. You may also want to suggest to your college student that you have access to their checking account, so you can transfer funds if they run short on money. It also gives you the parent a way to see how they are spending their money.
- Make a list. Be prepared, be organized, and don’t assume your new college student has it all figured out. Make the shopping list. If you don’t, you will make multiple trips to the stores picking up all the things you forgot. There are tons of college dorm checklists you can find on the Internet, which is what I used. Most colleges also provide similar lists.
- Peek before they pack. Take a peek what your kids are packing for school. Sabrina had so many clothes I had her make an “A” pile and a “B” pile, just in case they would not all fit in her dorm and we had to bring clothes back with us. Matthew had eight sweatshirts in his pile to take to school. I reminded him he was going to school in Atlanta and that he would not need quite so many. Seeing what they think they need to take also gives you an idea as to what they think is important for them to have.
- Ease into it (as much as possible) and be prepared to say goodbye. Both moves were very easy. We were able to unpack everything in record time. Matthew and I flew to Atlanta in early August and moved him into his dormitory. When I had to drop Matthew off at his dorm before flying home, he was ready to jump out of the car and leave. I had to stop him saying, “I need to get out of the car and give you a hug goodbye!” When I got out of the car, that’s when it hit me. I got that tight feeling around my heart and the tears were welling up. We moved Sabrina into her dorm a few weeks later. Sabrina was so ready to be at NYU. She had a huge smile on her face and was ready to take on New York. We told them both we were proud of them and waved goodbye.
Sabrina and Matthew have started their classes and are already making friends. They have both earned this opportunity and we want them to enjoy it. I know they will be fine. All of the lessons they learned growing up will carry with them on to this new phase of their lives. We have done what we can and now we have to let them go.
Mary Richardson has been with Johnson & Johnson over 23 years and currently works in Communications, supporting Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain. She and her husband, Orlando, are parents to college freshmen Matthew and Sabrina, and William, a junior in high school. She spends her time outside of work with family and friends at the shore, cycling, gardening and spending time with her extended family in Chile.