Having “The Talk”

I don’t mean THAT talk, although chances are parents will try and squeeze in a refresher on that subject before you depart for college. Everyone is different but sending a child off to college is a big deal for parents (whether they show it or not). It’s a mix of pride, excitement, anxiety and loss. Do you remember the first day you got dropped off of kindergarten? Mom got a little teary eyed, dad smiles as he wraps his arm around her while she swears that something got in her eye. The drop off at college is kind of like that, except you are older, farther away, and not taking your place at the dinner table to tell them about your day. For you, this may seem like dream come true. For your parents it’s another story.

As the third and final child in my family to travel the road of higher education I figured (more like hoped, really) that this would be a drop-and-run move in situation. I was there for both my brothers moving into their freshman dorms, waiting around until the roommate got there, introduced the families, negotiated the arrangement of furniture, “should we get a rug?” this side is mine, who takes top bunk… you get the idea. In my book, this was torture on par with the actual touring of colleges.

These are some helpful hints I’ve picked up along the way to avoid fighting, crabbiness, possible shedding of tears and unnecessary stress on move in day. This is your opportunity to assert yourself as an independent young man or woman. Although, keep in mind—to your folks—you’re still mom and dad’s little boy or girl.

  1. Keep your parents in the loop. Let them know a little bit about the people you’ll be living with. You’ll be the one to coordinate with roommates who is getting the fridge, microwave, TV, etc.
  2. Have a little “family meeting” before move in day to set a plan.
    a. What time you’re leaving
    b. Who is coming with you? NB: this can be a source of tension in some families. As a sibling, I hated going to move in my brothers. Still, I was thankful to have my brothers do a lot of heavy lifting and setting up the cable and internet in my room.  It can get a bit overwhelming, when more people, like grandparents, step-parents and step-siblings get involved.
    True story: As an RA, I had a student move in with so many people to “help” her that they couldn’t all fit in the room and too busy sharing their opinions to actually help move anything in. Too many cooks in the kitchen, that’s all I’m saying. If you find yourself in a situation like this, and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, come up with some alternatives that would include everyone in the process.
    c. What you are going to need to pick up when you get to campus.
    –Internet/cable services if not provided by school
    –Any electronics or appliances. Map out the nearby stores so you can stop on your way or can make a quick trip after you’ve settled in.
  3. Set some boundaries: Like I said, this can be a tough day for parents, particularly mom. I’m stubborn, so I wanted to set up my room by myself. I saw this as my first act as a totally independent adult. Well, as a college student at least. I wanted every decision to be mine; where to hang this, how to set up my bed and closet space. Meanwhile, one of my roommates moved in. Her mom was essentially setting up her space for her, folding her clothes and putting them away. Looking back on this almost 6 years later, I probably should have let my mom help a little more. I know it was hard her to step back. Neither way is best. It just has to be something that works for you and your family.
  4. RELAX. Make yourself a move-in mix. Play while you’re traveling or unpacking. Music is a great icebreaker and invites people to pop their heads in your room to introduce themselves.
  5. KNOW what the university has planned for you that day and weekend. I was fortunate that I had enough downtime to go have dinner with my family and say my “see you later”s before returning for a hall meeting. However, in speaking with a parent whose daughter just graduated, I found out that four years later she is upset by the fact that they didn’t have that chance. “It was move in, half unpack and then get to orientation. I didn’t have time to say a proper goodbye to my daughter.” That’s harsh folks. So figure out ahead of time what commitments you’re going to have that day. As excited as you may be just remember, your parents have been with you from the beginning. So make sure you say goodbye.
  6. ENJOY this process as best you can. It’s your first official act as a college student. Of course there are going to be those things you thought you packed or wished you had. Remember you’re not in Antarctica. If you need it go buy it, have it sent, or wait until you go home for a weekend or holiday if you can wait. Hug your family. Tell them thanks for their help on this day and the last 18 years of your life. Tell them you love them and wish them a safe trip home. If you tell them you’ll call, CALL.