Tag Archive | college life

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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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

Another Kind of Senior (A Guest Post)

LeslieI invited my sister Leslie to post this week regarding her journey as the mom of a senior in college. Enjoy!

My youngest son will be entering his senior year of college at the end of September. When he was 18, my husband, daughter and I moved him into his dorm room at Western Washington University, took a brief tour of the campus and went out to dinner together. After we said goodbye and left him there, I cried most of the way home, all the while being assured by my daughter that he would be fine. Of course, he has been more than fine and has quite a good life for himself in a really nice town. I think he would say so too, except for the studying part, which is why, of course, he went there in the first place.

It turns out that his college experience has been as much about me as it has about him.

He is a remarkable young man in many ways. After his junior year of high school, he got himself an internship at a prestigious restaurant in town and grew in his cooking knowledge and skill. He also survived several rounds of interviews and was accepted into a youth program where he worked at Microsoft every day after school. And he got himself there on the bus every day. He also figured out, all on his own, that doing well and getting good grades was important and he made his way into Honor Society his senior year. I started to think that maybe it wasn’t me doing such a good job as his mother but it was him, working it all out on his own; seeking and finding new opportunities, learning how to be resourceful and successful. And so it has been, for the last 3 years. And so I have moved from being an active participant in his life to being a proud observer and supporter.

He is not pursuing a life of faith right now, at least in the way I understand faith. I have had to grow in my ability to accept that. But I am confident that God is at work and is obviously showing favor toward him, in the quiet, unseen ways that God often does. And may it continue to be so as he moves closer and closer toward that momentous graduation day. Meanwhile, he will choose his classes, schedule his work hours, study on campus and in the new house that he found—along with two friends, and will move into before the quarter starts—go shopping, fix his own meals, pay his own bills, navigate his way around town on his bike and on the bus and all those other things that college students do while they are growing up and becoming responsible adults. And I will cheer him on from home while I, too, grow up, albeit in a completely different way: letting go, praying, trusting. Trusting in my young man’s character and in God’s great grace.

My sister Leslie Grant lives in Kirkland, Wash., is married to Ron and has 3 children, 2 of whom are married adults. She is a para teacher in the public school system. She is an avid Seattle Mariners fan, which puts us at odds during the season as my A’s are in the same division as the M’s. But blood is thicker than baseball, so it’s all good.