A Mother’s Reflection on Freshman Year

By Terri Yablonsky Stat, mother of Madison, SAR ’21

Now that we’re fully entrenched in summer, and I get to wish my daughter a good morning in person, as opposed to via text featuring my latest Bitmoji, I thought I’d reflect on what I learned over the past year and can pass on to parents of incoming freshmen.

The summer before your new high school graduate leaves for college is an intense one, filled with celebrations, cap throwing, parties, inspirational pep talks, words of wisdom, endless trips to Bed, Bath & Beyond, list making, and family time, before life as we know it changes so drastically. We’ve all heard stories about what will happen once our kids leave the nest. I’m happy to report back that all went well and we’re looking forward to sophomore year.

As the parent of an only child, I spent her entire senior year of high school imagining every possible scenario that could happen her first year away at college a thousand miles from home. What if she got sick? Would she make friends? Would she get involved on campus? Is the T safe? How fast can mono spread through a dorm? And what about that laundry?

As I look back, I realize some of my mental gymnastics were not necessary.

This is what I wish I’d known:

  • Don’t over pack them. Seriously, they wear about one half of what gets packed. Dorm rooms are pretty tiny and can get cluttered fast. Not to mention what it’s like to move out all that stuff. Limit memorabilia to photos and a few reminders of home. Remember, there’s a Target on campus. And a CVS too.
  • At move in, exchange phone numbers/email address with your student’s roommate and parents. It’s nice to know you have that information if ever necessary.
  • Once your child turns 18, you no longer have the right to obtain information about them in a medical emergency. This is true even if your student is covered by your health insurance and you are paying the bill. Get a HIPAA authorization and medical power of attorney. Have these documents on your cell phone for ready access. Leave a copy with your student as well.
  • Encourage your student to attend Splash, the annual “activity fair” that happens the first week of class on Nickerson Field. Your student can meet reps from various student organizations and clubs. There’s music, food, games and giveaways.
  • Help them acclimate by limiting your texting/calls the first few weeks. Be there if they want to talk, but don’t bombard them with questions or frequent contact. Let them take the lead in how often they want to have contact. If you don’t hear from them, that most likely means they’re busy and engaged. Maybe schedule a time each day/week when you check in.
  • Encourage your student to attend floor meetings. At times they may seem unnecessary but they provide opportunities to bond with your RA, learn about upcoming events and hang out with people on your floor.
  • Talk about what they’ll do if they feel homesick. Suggest they leave their dorm room door open to meet others. They can FaceTime you or a friend from home, go work out at FitRec (Have you seen that place? There’s something for everyone), or talk to their RA. Tell them it’s normal to feel uncomfortable at first. It’s part of their adjustment and felt by every student to some degree, whether they admit it or not. It means they’re growing and changing. When it hits hard, talk about what to do if they need more support.
  • When returning to campus following winter break (and a month at home), your student may experience a bit of a slump, a re-entry, shall we say. Over break they see their high school friends, the family pet and the comforts of home. When they head back to school, BOOM, they regress. Tell your student about this phenomenon. If they’re aware of it, they can better manage it. It may not happen. If it does, tell them to stay busy and it will pass. When you stop hearing about it, you’ll know it’s passed.

Now go enjoy your summer, move-in day will be here before you know it!