For millions of children, August means back-to-school. For some, August will present an entirely new life experience – college. Having dropped off a couple kids at college already, I’m keenly aware of the cocktail of personal and family emotions that “Drop Off Day” (DOD) brings. This short video captures DOD our first time around. Note: If you put a 10 year old in charge of videography, you may find out the truth of exactly what will be missed around the house!
I’ve recently had the pleasure to meet Dr. Pat Bosco, Kansas State University’s Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students. I asked Dr. Bosco to take on the unofficial title of “Dean of Parents” and give some words of encouragement to the parents of incoming freshmen. (Sorry that video was of #1 son dropping off at KU, Pat. #4 son is all yours!)
Dr. Bosco shares his wisdom…
The best you can do to prepare your child for college is what you have been doing… love, support, encourage. Show them you care and that you are excited for them. Let them know you believe they will be successful goes a long way. Do not feel like you have to be the first to arrive on moving day. Getting there early or later will still result in the same room, set-up, etc. Take time in the morning to plan the day, don’t rush to be first in line. Being relaxed, organized and having a good breakfast helps everyone have a good frame of mind. Let your student set the tone for the day. It’s important for them to know that they can handle things on their own and planning move in day can be a first step to independence as a college student. You will be able to see your student in action, handling conflict, transition, etc. That can help reassure you as well. Be mindful of your child’s inner tensions. Students are wondering if they are the only one feeling conflicting feelings… if they will be able to be successful… will they make friends. Let them know you believe in them, they can and will be successful. Encourage your student to make new friends. All students are making new friends and learning a new place. Remind them they are not alone. Parents should make connections with each other as well. Helping your student move in is good, but once they are dropped off it is time for parents to go. Students often comment that they do not feel like they are a college student until their family has left. Move them in, take them to lunch, and head for home. Have your student walk you to the car for a final goodbye. It is easier for them to embrace their new life as a college student, make friends, and get settled when they are on their own. They know they can call if they need you. Moving forward… set plans for the first visit home, but not the first weekend they are away. Send signs of care throughout the semester. Care packages during finals and midterms, text them before a test, little signs to show them you are there and care. Show you are invested in their success, but let them choose how much they want you to help. Parents can support each other through this process… plan something fun for just mom and dad to do that first weekend. Parents shift from guardians to mentors during this time. Guide your student in firm, but gentle ways. Let them know it is ok to ask for help. Open-ended questions help them share their thoughts and feelings. Offering help can be good, but ultimately they need to make final decisions on their own.
Good words, Dr. Bosco. Thank you very much. I would add that parents should remember that every child is unique. Ask them in advance what they would like their day to look like and then double-check a couple times during DOD to see if they suggest any changes to the plan. Mom & Dad, as hard as it may be to accept, this is a huge ASCD (apron string cutting day). As much as you’d like to hold on, your child needs to cut loose. Meditate on that as the day approaches. And have a fresh box of tissues ready for the drive home.