Mass. - When
millions of teenagers leave home for college this fall,
will it be harder for them or the anxious parents
they leave behind?
The first days of college can be an exciting yet anxious
time for first-year students and for first-time college
"Many parents experience mixed emotions regarding their
child's departure for college," said Voncile White,
dean of first-year students at Wellesley College. "The
sense of exhilaration and pride that a parent feels at seeing
a child become more independent can be coupled with a sense
of loss and sadness that your child is moving on."
As she prepares to welcome her 12th class of first-year
students and their parents to Wellesley, the dean offers
the following advice for easing the transition:
good-bye before the last minute. "Once your child
is on campus, she or he has already begun making that
important separation from you," White said. "It
may be too awkward and public for everyone to have that
intimate moment in the presence of other classmates, families
and a roommate. I suggest to parents that they spend some
time earlier, perhaps the night before, having a quiet
time together to celebrate their excitement and pride.
Let your daughter or son know you will miss them."
Network with others to establish connections. White
suggests that parents make an effort to meet parents of
roommates and classmates. "They provide a valuable
'support group' of people having the same experiences,"
she said. "If you live far away, find out if there
are others in your area who attend the same or a nearby
college or university. This information comes in handy
at vacation and travel time. If you live nearby, respect
your child's privacy while she or he makes this important
transition. But also invite friends and roommates for
weekends and vacation. International students will benefit
especially from this hospitality -- and so will you."
the urge to decorate your child's new dorm room. "One
of the best ways for roommates to learn about each other
and to forge a good relationship is to work together on
how their room is to be arranged," noted White.
Those who arrive later -- even by an hour or two -- are
immediately at a disadvantage if one or more roommates
have already established 'territory.' Many colleges provide
roommates' addresses and telephone numbers during the
summer. New roommates might discuss room arrangements
before they arrive on campus."
student orientation has begun, take your leave. "Our
experience is that students make a better adjustment to
college if they participate fully in orientation events.
It's a burden for students to have their parents still
present after these scheduled programs begin," White
said. "At Wellesley, we host a President's Welcome
Dinner for incoming students and their families. When
the dinner is over, we tell the parents, kindly but firmly,
that it's time for them to leave. Having a set time for
families to depart makes it easier for everyone. We also
schedule a mandatory meeting for all first-year students
in the dormitory later that evening. In addition to providing
a good start to the residential experience, it requires
the students to separate from their families."
about credit cards and finances before school begins.
"I encourage parents to have a frank discussion about
finances before the student leaves home," White said.
"Will the student have a credit card? Should a parent
be a co-signer and get copies of the statements? Banks
bombard college students with credit-card offers. They
start off with low spending limits but raise them rapidly
as cards are used. As a result, students can get over
their heads in debt and even ruin their credit ratings
before they graduate."
Be interested, not critical, of course selection.
Most colleges and universities have course selection and
degree requirements that need to be addressed during the
students first year.
"Generally, faculty or deans give advice on selecting
these courses," White said. "I advise parents
to express interest in, rather than criticism of, their
sons and daughters choices."
On Aug. 26, White will welcome approximately 600 members
of the Class of 2005 to Wellesley College, a prominent
liberal arts college that has been a leader in the education
of women for 125 years.
The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300
undergraduate students. Among Wellesley's distinguished
alumnae are Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary
of State Madeleine K. Albright, Madame Chiang Kai-shek,
and broadcast journalists Cokie Roberts, Diane Sawyer,
Lynn Sherr and Linda Wertheimer.