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Freshman Lessons

ucfOn the brink of his first day of sophomore year, I asked my eldest what he would tell someone just entering college. Here’s what he said: Get a longboard and study harder than you did in high school.

That was it.

I would have wanted something like:

  • Always listen to your parents because they know way more than you give them credit for.
  • If you don’t know time management yet, learn it quickly because you’re going to need it.
  • Get enough sleep!

Th0se are some things that I would have said, anyway. But that’s not what I got. And that’s fine. I’ll give you, then, just a few things I would tell a person just entering college.IMG_0531

  • This is your time to do things yourself. You need to make the phone calls or send the emails to professors or financial aid offices or academic advisors. Trust that there are people around you who know a lot more than you do about college and your major, and their job is to help you. Don’t let opportunities to pick their brains pass you by. You have to take the initiative. Mom and Dad aren’t (or shouldn’t) be doing it for you.
  • College costs a lot of money, so even if you’re on a full-ride scholarship, you need to make it your priority. Believe it or not, you’re not in college to just make friends and have a good time. You’re actually there to learn things that might help you in a future career. The “study more than you did in high school” advice that my son wanted to give is good. Don’t blow off classes. Get a good assignment reminder app and USE IT. Zeroes will suck the life out of your grade. Don’t miss turning things in.
  • Just because you pick a major early on doesn’t mean you have to keep it. If you get into your studies and determine that you actually find the subject boring or just not what you thought it would be, it’s not too late to change. Maybe the last semester of your senior year is too late to change. Or maybe even your junior year is pushing it pretty far, but freshman and sophomore years are good times to really try and determine what you want to do. Don’t live someone else’s expectations for you. Figure out what it is YOU really want to do.

IMG_5024Do I wish my son had done some things differently? Yes. He thought he could breeze through and, as a result, he lost his scholarship. And he can’t get it back. But he’s not out drinking, doing drugs, sleeping with his girlfriend. He has a good job and a vehicle he’s responsible for. He’s respectful and doesn’t get into trouble. He learned his lesson: study harder than you did in high school. I expect that this semester will go a lot better than his previous ones.

As for the longboard: be careful of uneven pavement.

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Learning to Breathe, a guest post

Kindergarten2 '03

The Trace Academy kindergarten class of 2002-03, where Justin was the only boy. Rachel is 2nd from the right.

My son Justin grew up with Rachel, who wrote this guest post. They are 2 days apart in age, were in the same small class through 8th grade at our parent-involved school, then went their separate ways in high school. Though in the same youth group at church, they really didn’t connect after that. But Rachel is a special friend, eldest daughter of dear friends. I thought her story would be an encouragement for parents of college students, and students themselves.

To the girl who keeps pushing through

This is for the girl who tried to never be anything but the best. To the girl who always tried to have the best grades. To the girl who made sure she went to the school of her dreams. To the girl who pushed and pushed herself without taking a second to breathe.

That girl is me.
For my whole life I have been determined. Trying to reach my goals as fast as I could without stopping and when something happened that got in the way panic took over.
I spent so much time and energy trying make sure I graduated high school with as many college classes as I could, so that I could get through college as fast as I could, so that I could have my career and be successful and happy.
Until one day…
I realized my goals weren’t even my goals anymore. I was sprinting towards something I didn’t even want any more. My goals had turned into a mere destination I was trying to get to.
I’m 18, barely an adult by any means more than a simple number.
I don’t know what I want. I don’t know myself at all.
So what happens when dreams change?
I’ve never been one to quit. I keep pushing myself through, always trying to get bigger and better. Not so much that I could show people that I’m the best but rather in a small attempt to convince myself of my worth.
So what happens when I’m sitting at my dream school loving the city I’m in and the people I’m with but knowing that being there is not what I need?
It’s a tragic thing to love something deeply but to also know it’s not what’s best for you.
That leads to the question, “then what IS best for me?”
and the answer to that I do not know.
and that’s okay.
Well, all least I’m trying to learn that it’s okay,
that it’s okay to not have all the answers.
Cause quite frankly I’m freaking out. Deciding to pack up my room, move back home and take a semester off from college is far from anything I would have ever expected I would be doing.
Where’s the goals in that?
I don’t take breaks. I keep moving forward, I keep pushing on.
But it’s okay… It’s okay to not have all the answers.
At some point earlier in my life the realization hit me that my days are numbered and despite that number being unknown I don’t have one minute more or one minute less. I let that idea take over my mind. Because i thought if I could graduate early and be ahead of the majority then I felt like I was in control.
But life is not a race.
There is no prize for getting through everything the fastest.
Brownie points don’t exist in real life.
Learn to enjoy the ride.
Take the time to figure out who you are.
I’ll be honest again, right now I am not enjoying the ride. I’ve cried many tears the past few days. I’m mad that I finally felt like I fit in somewhere and I had it taken away from me. Nobody wants to leave their life, their friends.
Choosing what’s best even when it doesn’t feel best is hard.
But I’m working on letting go. Having peace with not knowing everything. Because goals are good and my determination to succeed is good. And what I’m learning is that taking a semester off does not make me any less of a person, it does not make me any less determined or any less of a goal oriented person. It does not make me weak. All it does is simply give me a semester off.
and now it’s time to just breathe.
Rachel gradRachel Knox is a 2015 graduate of Lake Nona High School in Orlando, Fla. Almost 19, Rachel is an accomplished dancer who’s just trying to figure out what God wants her to do. Check out her blog at Imperfectly Living – Perfectly Loved

When Dreams Die

cloud-tearsAs parents, we are told to never push our dreams on our children. If we didn’t make the swim team, we are not supposed to force our kids to swim. If we always wanted to be a rock star, we are urged not to hand a guitar to our kids and order them to play. I get that. We didn’t do that. No matter how much I love baseball, I didn’t make my boys continue to play when they didn’t want to.

But no one told us what to do when our kids’ dreams change.

For 4 years our eldest lived and breathed JROTC. He rocked the uniform; he earned the promotions; he participated in the competitions; he won the awards. We emotionally invested ourselves in the dream he expressed of flying in the Air Force. We spent countless hours coaching him through his application to the Air Force Academy. We made sure that we were checking in along the way, ensuring this is what he wanted to do. When the Academy didn’t pan out, we wholeheartedly threw our support behind his entrance into UCF’s Air Force ROTC program. We bought the Air Force T-shirts and put the bumper sticker on our car. His dream became ours.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, he told us he didn’t want to do that anymore.

Wait. What?

He had decided he wanted to drop out of his college ROTC program and change his major. Now, for a freshman just halfway through his first semester, changing his mind on a major is not a big thing. But what happened to the dream?

I felt like I had whiplash. What was I supposed to do now? I had the bumper sticker, for crying out loud!

OK, step back. Take a deep breath. Here are 3 things to do when their dream changes and your dream dies.

1. Assure them that you will support them whatever they decide. Of course, my younger son then informed us that he was moving out tomorrow and heading to “Hungaria” and joining the circus. Seriously, though, Justin needs to know that it’s OK to explore options, as long as he’s doing it for the right reasons. Is he changing for fear that he won’t succeed at what he wanted to do?

2. Give yourself room to grieve the dream, and let them in on the process. I shared with both my sons how I was feeling about this change, and that, in the process, I would be asking questions more for my own sake than for his. (That’s the conversation where the circus came up. Thanks for keeping things light, Son.)

3. Ask them how you can help. With a change of major, even in freshman year, came the need for a conversation with a new advisor in the new college of study. All this had to happen fairly quickly so he could register for his next semester. My question to him was, “What would you like me to do for you?” He asked me to research a couple of things for him relating to what he was considering pursuing next. I can do that. And I can pray. Pray for him and for us as we try to refocus.

I really don’t care what he does. I honestly don’t. He can be a garbage collector (though that might not be the best use of a college education), as long as he is listening to the Lord and doing what He wants him to do.

Getting a bumper sticker off the car is another issue.

image from sourceseekers.com

The Freshman Edition

ucfOur first act as the parents of a college student was to attend orientation with our son. Here are a few things that I took away from our 2-day adventure at the University of Central Florida.

1. They separated the parents and the students for a reason. My son needed to receive all the information for himself. If he had questions, he needed to know where to go to find the answers. He’s a smart guy; he can figure things out.

2. Our role is changing from parenting to coaching. I’m fairly certain this is going to be the hardest part for me. How do you take something you’ve done for 18 years, and just stop doing it? Granted, I’ve tried to back off a lot this last year, but the hard, cold fact is, I like to be in control. Letting him navigate his own way is essential. We’re always here if he wants to ask us anything, but I need to let him come to me. There are benefits to him living at home, of course, but the downside is that he’ll still be around for me to know what’s going on. I will have to learn extraordinary self control to not fall into my old habits.

3. We still have a lot to learn, both about ourselves and about our son. How will I react if he doesn’t receive the waiver he orientationneeds from the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board that will allow him to continue his ROTC and hopefully Air Force officer career? What will I do if he fails an exam or even, heaven forbid, a class? How do I keep the lines of communication without being smothering? What subjects are off limits for me to approach?

Overall, I’m more excited for this next year than anything. I’m excited for the experiences my son will have, for the people he will meet, for the connections he will make. I’m glad he’s going to be close by so that I don’t have to miss him. It’s a new and exciting stage that I’m sure won’t be without its challenges, but I know will be significant in his life.

Stay tuned to That Senior Year for more of what I glean from this freshman year.

What advice do you have for us as new college parents? I’d love to hear from you.