At this time last year I was a fully functional ‘helicopter parent’ hovering around my son as he (correction we) researched his university choices. We spent hours reviewing websites and view books. Attended an education fair. More hours choosing his program and universities. Checked and double checked that he had the required courses. Made sure that his grades and average stayed within the acceptable range. Travelled many miles by car and plane visiting campuses. Completed (or rather helped to complete) admission and scholarship applications by the appropriate deadlines. Listened to far too many presentations. ‘Liked’ a few facebook pages. We even participated in a university activity that involved an overnight stay in residence!
This became a project that I spent more time on than I cared to admit. Once the choice was finally made and deposit paid at the end of May, the journey was still not over.
I then went into overdrive; focusing on campus support services. I knew that the move from high school to university is not smooth for many students and I wanted to be sure that my son was aware of the numerous support services available to him.
I also had lists. Things to do before August. Things to buy. Things to pack.
And then the fateful day arrived. We dropped him off at residence and the project ended. There was nothing further that I could do. I switched from project mode to bystander mode.
Practically all universities have staff and resources devoted to ensuring that first year students make a successful transition. However, there is no support for parents. Where’s my residence don, peer mentor, social rep, faculty advisor, academic counselor, financial aid officer, registrar, program coordinator, career counselor, tutor or health care practitioner?
Most friends and colleagues assume that parents are elated to be rid of our kids. Everyone sees the upside of one less child in the house, one less person to share a bathroom, an unused bedroom that can be turned into that dream office, etc. You are forced to be discreet about your feelings. In fact, I admit that it really does sound silly to say how much you miss an 18 year old!
My son is at a university four hours away from home and I was sure that we could narrow that distance by cell phone, text messaging and Skype. My experience may not be typical, but if you have a student who made a great transition to university finding time to communicate with parents is definitely not a priority.
I thought I was prepared for my son’s move away from home. But it’s much harder that I imagined. However, I can assure you that it does get better and you won’t need any support services!
|Cheryl Millington, a former University of Toronto senior administrator with over 25 years experience in recruitment and admissions. She is also the mother of an 18 year old who has just started his undergraduate degree.|