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Challenge: Back to School 2021

10 things your new adult will learn within 24 hours of arriving on campus

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#1: They will be FINE.

My new Covid pastime involves actively participating on the Facebook parent page for my son’s university, Class of 2025. But with a twist. Little by little, I have revealed to the group my dirty little secret: I actually live on that exact campus. I have for years.

Yeah it’s totally weird. I don’t deny it. It’s a long story.

Bottom line, we are a faculty family embedded in a residential college on the same campus our son, a faculty “brat,” has elected to attend, and we have literally seen it all. As a result, I have a snarky and sometimes only partially correct response to every angsty question parents pose on the FB page as they wrestle with the existential dread in the aftermath of the college drop off.

Clearly, everyone, including myself, is certain the kids are the ones who are unprepared. Not us. And everyone is 100% right. But it’s ok. This is part of the process. They may have learned what they needed to know to gain acceptance into their institutions of higher learning. But everything they need to know about survival on campus they probably figured out out within the first couple of days after you drove away.

Here is a short list of critical life-things your students learned within mere moments of you detaching yourself and driving away. I will go out on an unpopular limb and say that BECAUSE you drove away, they learned them even faster.

  1. Their Room Furniture Is Entirely Adequate: It may be spartan, and it probably doesn’t look quite as cozy as it did on the website, but they have made it work. There are no bedbugs, there are trashcans provided, and their bathrooms are cleaned regularly (by a housekeeping staff who deserves their gratitude and respect. Hot tip- your young princeling should learn their names and use them when they say good morning every chance they get.) Maybe they didn't fully deploy the décor that was so carefully considered during the summer, or if they did, they found it to be entirely too much trouble. And if they are living with another human, all the throw pillows, storage bins, posters, and other knick knacks were probably boiled down into a blended satisfying stew of common space crap almost immediately. Move on.
  2. They Won't Starve: The dining hall is literally the most easily identifiable building within a ten-mile radius. If they followed the steady flow of traffic during mealtimes and they eventually found themselves with a plate full of tater tots or whatever constitutes a “meal” in their minds now that you’re not there to hassle them to eat their veggies. If they didn't like it, they found their own off-campus dining options easily and immediately. Stop worrying about food. There has been plenty.
  3. They Found Their Mail: Campus post offices don’t want to hoard those packages of critical sundries you can’t keep yourself from sending to your helpless, hapless darling. If they did, they’d be overwhelmed within six hours as the Amazon delivery trucks mindlessly pull up and unload them constantly. There is huge motivation to connect package to student immediately. The processes may vary from campus to campus, but all are logistical power houses powered by the geniuses of higher learning. Most likely, your student gets an email every time a package arrives. The only thing standing between them and their mail is the executive function required to go get it in between all the distracting fun they are having.
  4. They Can Get a New Room Key: Every single first year on the planet loses their room key. Probably several times. It is the analog version of "forgot password." Every residential life program has a very easy way to resolve this. There are huge posters in every building telling them exactly how this is done, whom to call, and whom to not. (Me. Don’t call me.) If they spend the night on a friend’s floor because they are locked out, that is a choice. Not a solution.
  5. Uber Is Easy: If they didn’t learn this back in their hometown, they learned it the very first time they wanted to go pretty much anywhere further than a mile away from campus. They will also learn the value of their high Uber rating. Uber drivers are people too, and they are over whatever bullshit college students can dish out.
  6. Amazon Prime Delivers To Me?!: Whether you pay for their Prime account or they pay for it themselves, they figured out immediately that they can order things for themselves, and things miraculously arrive. (See point #2 above.) If they run out of toothpaste, detergent, socks, charging cables, or any of the things that were always magically at their fingertips at home it is entirely their own fault. You, parent, do NOT need to drive across the country and drive them to Target. Not anymore. Don’t even consider it. They will live if they run out of dental floss. And they will figure out how to replace it.
  7. Their Schedules Will Work Out: It is possible they don’t have the exact courses they feel entitled to their first semester, but it will work out. They will learn how to drop/add. They are mustering courage to approach professors to beg their way off wait lists. They will enjoy that class they selected because it was the only one left. They are making it work, and soon enough they will check those requirements off right on schedule. Don’t worry about this. They know you expect them to graduate in a timely fashion.
  8. People Are Nice: Everyone is freaking out, even if they don’t look like they are. Literally 100% of the class of 2025 has come out of the same social isolation and Covid crazy, and there is comfort in that. They are riding that common wave of trauma and tedium together, and they have quickly banded together to start their lives. There will be clubs to join, and they’d best get on that if they want to have any kind of fun. They will find their people. If not immediately, eventually.
  9. They Aren't Really Alone: Like Mr. Rodgers famously advised, they found the helpers. There are residential life professionals everywhere on college campuses. They are trained. Literally nothing surprises them. I challenge your students to try. Be comforted with the knowledge that your student’s problem is entirely unoriginal and fixable. They have already learned who the helpers are, and they only need to stand up, raise their hand, and ask for help. Res life professionals want nothing more than to provide it. They will also figure out that asking the helpers is not the same as asking their parents. And that can sometimes make all the difference.
  10. Their Parents are Awesome: This one is for you, dear fellow Class of 2025 parent. It might take until Winter Break or longer before they’ll say it out loud, but they will know it in their hearts. As soon as you drove away, because you drove away, they now know that you did whatever you had to do to get them here. As soon as your car dipped over the horizon, they probably turned around and took in the new world around them. And for a hot second, they realized, despite all they don’t know, they know this: They are loved. And they love you back.

And, unlike that room key, they aren’t going to lose that. Good luck fellow Class of 2025 Warrior Parents. We totally got this.

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