I'm off to college…

by | Sep 1, 2015 | Every Day Life

I’m convinced there is a fifth season in the year that has nothing to do with the weather.  School season! Millions of children and their parents spent the last month and plenty of money buying just the right school clothes and supplies getting ready for another year of education.  First time school parents walk their oldest child to kindergarten, snapping pictures every 60 seconds to make sure they remember every moment of their baby’s first day of school.  Parents from all over the world spent the first 10 minutes of their day posting first day of school photos to Facebook and commenting on photos posted by friends and family.
I asked my son if I could get some first day of school photos this year, and my innocent question was met with a resounding “NO!” That may have something to do with the fact he is a college sophomore and it would look more than a little odd to have his mommy following him down the sidewalk at the University of Arkansas snapping pictures. But hey, I tried!
Getting ready for the upcoming school year is a lot different for college age parents and their children.  I guess I should say young adults. Instead of loading up and heading to the mall for jeans from the Buckle and a new pair of Nike skids, we head to Walmart to stock up on the essentials for the dorm room. Bedding, a mini fridge, a desk lamp and an alarm clock are the must-haves for every college student living the dorm life. Of course, there are the various decorative items the student must have to show his or her own personality in the space they will call home for the next nine months.  There is also the paperwork, seemingly mountains of paperwork that must be filled out correctly and turned in on time.  The FAFSA, registration forms, financial agreements, dorm assignments and library passes are just the beginning.  I can tell you from experience the amount of deadlines you have to be aware of can be daunting! But by the first day class is in session, the parent of a college student realizes that their child is no longer a child but a young adult and responsible for their own success or failure. Of course we are waiting in the wings for a cry for help, but essentially the student’s future is now up to them and we spend their first day of college hoping and praying we taught them what they needed to know to succeed.
I know my own feelings about my son going to college, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it looked like from the student’s point of view.  Do they worry as much as we do?  Are they nervous?  What do they feel about beginning their adult lives?
Katie Hassell is a 2015 graduate of Dover High School and a freshman at Arkansas Tech University.  I spoke with Katie recently about this big change in her life.
Q: So, are you ready for your first day as a college freshman?
A: I think so. I’m just a little nervous, but excited at the same time.
Q: What are you nervous about?
A: Mostly just keeping up with everything on my own. Finding my classes on campus and getting familiar with where everything is.
Q: Are you going to live on campus?
A: No, I’m staying at home.  We live close enough to campus there was no reason for the extra expense of living in a dorm.
Q: What is your major, and why did you choose it?
A: Psychology, I really want to counsel young kids someday.
Q: Has your family been supportive? I’m sure they are very proud of you.
A: They have been really supportive.  I’m the first person in our family to go to college, so everyone has offered to help with anything I need. My Grandmother offered to help buy any school supplies and my mom has been great helping me with all the paperwork and the registration process.
Q: Do you think your mom is worried at all or even maybe a little sad that you are off to college?
A: I think she may be a little of both, but I think it helps that I am living at home.  I think she would be a lot worse if I had moved away to go to school.  She might have tried to come with me!
Q: Has anyone given you any advice that sticks with you?
A: My Grandfather told me to remember school comes first, then work, and then family. I know he wants me to work hard to make a good life for myself.
Q: Did you apply for any scholarships?
A: I applied for and was awarded the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship, which is a big help.
Katie told me she is most thankful for her mother Angie, who put in many hours to help get all the paperwork and financial aid in order. What she is most looking forward to is feeling a little more independent and putting in the hard work it takes to be successful. She said she has a plan for her success, and that is to work hard and prioritize her time to keep up with schoolwork and her job.  I asked her one last question of which she didn’t need any time to think about the answer;
Q: What is the one thing you are looking for in your first year of college versus your time in high school?
I was able to visit with a few other college students and ask these types of questions.  I’ve come to the conclusion that they worry about many of the same things we parents do. They have concerns about being on time to classes, keeping up with studying and money. They also worry about their parents, especially if they have moved away from home to go to school.
As I write this column, my son Nicholas is a little over a week away from the first day of classes at U of A.  Though I joked with him about taking first day of class photos, like all parents I take pride in knowing he is out there, finding his own way and staking his claim on his future.
Best of luck to Katie, Nick and all students for the upcoming school year.

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