WELLESLEY, Mass. --When millions of teenagers leave home
for college this fall, will it be harder for them -- or
for the anxious parents they leave behind?
The first days of college can be an exciting yet anxious
time for first-year students as well as 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 14th class of first-year
students and their parents to Wellesley, the dean offers
the following advice for easing the transition:
- Say 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 other parents. 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
- Resist 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."
- Once 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."
- Talk 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 the classes they are
taking. Most colleges and universities have course selection
and degree requirements that need to be addressed during
the student's 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. 25, White will welcome nearly 600 members of the
Class of 2007 to Wellesley, a liberal-arts college that
has been a leader in the education of women for more than
125 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is
home to a total of 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.