College Survival 101, Lessons learned as a “freshman’s” mom.

Home from his first year!

Home from his first year!

My son returned from his freshman year at college in May. We both learned many lessons this first year and motherhood gives you quite a different perspective on your own college experience. He had a great year, was able to avoid most of the pitfalls I warned him about and is thrilled to have a stress free summer.

When we unpacked his bags the overwhelming stench of teen spirit once again filled my house.  If you have a son in high school you probably know the smell.  It’s the smell of dirty laundry, old soda cans and dirty sneakers that have been stored a little too long in one place.  As I opened the bags that he brought home, my senses were assaulted and I laughed as I helped him unpack dirty dishes, dirty laundry and unused cleaning supplies.  I also thought about some of my friends who will be faced with sending their son or daughter off to school this August.  There are a couple of things I wish I had known and a couple of things I am so thankful I did know.

1.  Your child will not clean their room.  Go see their room on move-in day and never return again.

2.  Your child will learn the true meaning of recycling….dirty clothes that is.

3.  Even if your student has a meal plan they will blow all of their flex points and hard earned money at Starbucks, Chic Filet and on Chinese food.

4.  Your student may open up a new tube of toothpaste, misplace it, open up another one, misplace it and bring back five half-used tubes of gnarly toothpaste.

5.  Sometimes it’s just better to throw away the bathroom mats you bought. Do yourself a favor…buy cheap ones.

6.  Buy a foam pad for their mattress.  It makes a HUGE difference in how they sleep.  I took my son’s home during Easter and he said it was a completely different feeling when it was gone.

7.  If you do make the mistake of visiting your student halfway through the school year bring LARGE trash bags.  Chances are there will be donut boxes and empty Gatorade bottles stacked in the closet.

8.  Buy a safe for your son/daughter and attach it to their bed on the first day of school  There they can put their laptop, gadgets or wallet when they leave the room or dorm.  You’d be shocked at how many kids are affected by theft.  Best investment ever.

9.  You are not allowed to get their grades.  Yes I know you may pay for their tuition.  They are legal adults now.  Sorry about your luck.  Make sure you make it clear to your child that if you pay, you see the grades.

10.  I get it.  You are so proud of your honor student.  Here’s a light loving warning…..she or he may not be so great of a student in college.  It’s not because they can’t do it, it’s because there are so many other lessons being taught.  Some of them I can tell you about, some of them you are better off not knowing.  Warn your child over the summer.  Tell them that more often than not kids bomb their first semester.  Scare them.  Tell them to keep on top of every HW assignment, every test…and tell them attendance can make a letter grade difference.  My son’s teacher just raised his grade because of perfect attendance.  Don’t skip those classes.  Don’t send your student to college feeling overconfident.

11.  The first weeks will suck for both of you.  She or he will call home ALL the time.  YOU will try to log onto their university site because they will have saved it on your home computer.  The university changes their passwords after a month.  Time to cut the umbilical cord.  You’ll be surprised at how those phone calls slow and become less frequent.  ENCOURAGE it!  Encourage independence!  They need to know that they can take care of themselves.

12.  Forget the university-sponsored care packages.  They are garbage.  My son said he was so sick of getting candy and bad food he asked me not to re-order second semester.  Send more socks, underwear, and anything else they may have forgotten and now realize they need.

13.  When you drop them off, stock their refrigerator with tons of water.  It will be the last time it is full of water.

14.  Plan your holidays with your student in mind.  They REALLY need to know they are back with family and are a part of the active plans.  They are homesick and are learning how to be OK with it.  Solid holidays and visits make a huge difference.

15.  When you pick up your son or daughter from college you no longer have a “child.”  They become young men and women.  That will not stop them from taking their dirty dishes and sealing them up in a garbage bag that you accidentally open.

16.  No you didn’t have a ton of friends in freshman year.  Freshman year is a time of adjustment.  Sophomore, junior and senior year are the memories that you have.  Don’t be discouraged if your child has a slow start.

17.  Love them fiercely.  Your heart will hurt more and more as the years go by.  My mom has always said that I should “enjoy these years, enjoy your children because they are only on loan.”

I will end this post with an excerpt from a song that was taught to me when I was in 6th grade for my promotion ceremony.  We sang this song to our parents.  The song is called “Turn Around” and was written by Harry Belafonte, AlanGreene and Malvina Reynolds.

“Where are you going, my little one, little one?”  Where are you going, my baby my own?  Turn around and you’re two, turn around and you’re four, turn around and you’re a young girl (man) walking out of the door.”

9 thoughts on “College Survival 101, Lessons learned as a “freshman’s” mom.

  1. Ann Marie

    Loved this one!!! you have hit the nail on the head…. waters, dirty dishes, and the most of all LOVE & INDEPENDANCE… this is the hardest for me to balance. but I’m getting it…

  2. Katrina

    Why do I see Sal when I read this, lol……so much like his cousin, so this is what I am looking forward too!!!!!!!!!! You just described the basement which I loath going into at home. Thanks for the advise and tips. Our boys might be slobs, but they are some amazing young men!!!!! You are such a great source of information, so thankful for you lady!!!


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