When my youngest moved out and we became empty nesters, I wasn’t sure that I could survive!  However, I found that the year went rather quickly and here we are, preparing for her sophomore year in college! Through successes and failures, we learned to set boundaries and respect one another’s space. Recently, over a much needed lunch date, we were able to reflect on the past year and my daughter shared some of her thoughts. Here is a brief summary.college_students

Privacy and Independence

McKenna: Fortunately you have to have a magnetic card that is issued to the student to enter the dorm itself and then to get on the elevator, so there was never any worry that outsiders would show up unannounced. But I felt like you and dad allowed me to come and go from home as I pleased and you didn’t call me demanding that I come home to see you or anything, so for that I am very thankful! You gave me the space to meet new friends and to become acclimated to the college lifestyle. It was certainly awkward at first, but I think we all did a very good job of balancing our family life from my college life!

Attending college in your hometown

McKenna:  I would’ve liked to move away for a while, to get a taste of another city, but the scholarships I received at this college were too good to pass up. I love my hometown; it’s big enough that I didn’t necessarily worry about everyone being in my business, but small enough that I felt comfortable entering this new stage in my life with confidence. I think anyone who feels like they can’t live in their hometown, go to the local college, and get the real college experience, is mistaken! Besides, there is plenty of time for me to move away and experience a larger city environment after I complete my education.

Resources

McKenna:  You know it’s interesting! I saw life from a high school student’s perspective, so I knew what resources were out there and took that for granted. But looking at a community, regardless of where you go to college, through a college student’s eyes, really made me realize how the town embraces college kids. The discounts, the jobs available, volunteer opportunities, etc.  It’s all out there for us to take advantage of, and having that support is a wonderful feeling!

Growth

McKenna:  I certainly am not the same person today that I was 12 months ago! My high school experience was absolutely wonderful!  I wouldn’t change that for anything! However in high school there is so much structure, togetherness, peer pressure, parental involvement and everyone knowing everyone else’s business. Your friends were already built in because you saw them every day and had classes with them, played sports with them, etc.

When you get to college, you have to be accountable for everything. You have to write down the times of important meetings, when papers are due, find time to eat lunch between classes, and do your studies because your parents aren’t there riding you. You also have to become more outgoing and make the effort to meet new people because you are essentially starting over. Nobody is going to do that stuff for you! The thing I love about going to college and discovering who you are, is that you get to make your own choices. Whether good or bad ones, you have the opportunity to steer your future in the direction that you want to go!

Advice

McKenna:  There isn’t really anything that I would change from year one. I took advantage of sorority rush week so I could meet a lot of people right away. That was a great experience and although I hadn’t planned to, I ended up joining a sorority and have really enjoyed it. I decided to try to go into all of this with an open mind and not stress too much about anything. That turned out to be a great mindset because my roommate and I hit it off quite well and are actually living together again this year.

I would add that I purchased a calendar/journal that I took to everything! I always wrote down meetings, due dates, etc. and then entered them into the calendar on my computer as a backup reminder. I also made sure to take advantage of every extra credit opportunity that was presented. Whether you need it or not, it can certainly come in handy if you happen to slip up on an exam or paper!

Probably the most overlooked resource is the tutoring service. Going to a tutor doesn’t mean that you are struggling or aren’t competent. It’s a great idea to use them to help you understand your class materials more thoroughly and to help you prepare for exams! I also made sure to get to know my professors at the beginning of the semester and visit with them if I had any type of questions. They became familiar with my face and knew that I was genuinely concerned about my grades.

Input from mom

As a parent, I felt like my daughter had a great experience during her first year of college. She jumped in right away, got involved, and made the effort to meet new people along the way. I was honestly a bit surprised, yet happy, to know that she took some of the advice I had given her before she began her first semester, and put it great use (She really was listening!).

I have certainly seen her grow over the course of her freshman year. She struggled, at times, to get everything done with her busy schedule, but I think she did a marvelous job of making sure she was meeting all of her requirements.

I also think that it helped when she got a part time job because she wasn’t laying around in the afternoon, wasting time napping or watching TV. She will even admit that she began to feel a bit more normal that first semester, after she began working. It made her feel a bit more stable at the college and within the community.