This may be timely for some of you, and since we are in our seventh year of this adventure it occurred to me that I may have some level of expertise in this by now. Taking your child to college is challenging, whether it’s year one or year seven. It is physically and emotionally demanding. But here’s how you can prepare.
- Start when they are in kindergarten. That feeling that you have the first day when they climb aboard the school bus for the first time and your tears are flowing harder than theirs; that’s the feeling you will have when you say goodbye after settling them into their freshman dormitory. So be sure to bring tissues. But don’t bring the whole box. You won’t have room for it.
- Buy a large vehicle, maybe a minivan, a full sized SUV, or perhaps a large extended cab pickup truck with a shell cover over the bed. That may possibly be enough space to haul the now full grown child and all of his or her stuff for a couple of hundred miles. If not, consider a rented truck, but book it early because all of the other parents will be thinking the same thing. By the way, we didn’t buy a humungous vehicle, but we have taken two cars on a couple of these trips and we have also done business with U-Haul.
- Become a master of Tetris. Even with a large vehicle, that’s the only way you’ll be able to squeeze parents, a college age child, and all of their stuff into said car. Each nook will be filled with something. Your ability to see out the back window will be obscured. Visual acuity while driving is overrated anyway.
- Start working out and start early. (See #1) When you have reached your destination and jockeyed for a parking spot with thousands of other parents who are all on the same journey, all of that stuff you easily loaded into the minivan at home will have to be carried into the dorm. And let me be clear, it is almost always a third floor walk-up. Just once in our college transportation career has either of our daughters lived on the first floor. One time it was a second floor apartment, but because that was an apartment it required more stuff than just a dorm room. Our current college senior technically lives on the second floor of her dorm, but the nearest parking is adjacent to the basement entrance so it’s still a third floor walk-up.
- Plan to have your children very early, and by that I mean when you are about 15. Otherwise, your body is no longer able to cope with the physical demands of moving your young adult into campus housing. My 56 year old body really feels the strain, so earlier is better. It’s not just walking the stairs, remember, it’s walking the stairs while carrying a mini fridge, a storage ottoman, three different types of collapsible storage units and/or bookcases, suitcases, bins filled with bedding and towels, shoes, dishes, and almost the kitchen sink. It may be different with boys, but since we have girls I can’t really speak to that.
- When your son or daughter is packing, get out of the way. This is their adventure and they have had lots of advice from the school, friends, and Google searches to determine what they will need and want when they get to school. If they forget something crucial like a toothbrush you can be sure that Target or Walmart is close by.
- Speaking of shopping, remember that mini fridge you just carted up three flights of stairs? Once you get there you’ll need a trip to the store to stock it. They will want juice, milk, yogurt, and a variety of other perishable items that you could not have possibly brought from home in a hot car. Bring your wallet. You are still footing this grocery bill.
- Wear comfortable shoes and shorts with pockets. Your car key goes in one pocket and your phone goes in another. That’s so you can access either at a moments’ notice when your spouse who is already three flights up can text you that they immediately need the screwdriver that’s still in the car in order to put together one of those collapsible storage units.
- Bring a water bottle so you don’t get dehydrated. Again, it’s a three flight climb and it will be 85 degrees. It is August, after all.
- When everything is in the room, let them organize it their way, especially if there’s a roommate involved. They need to come to terms with this new person in their life and figuring out where to put the bed, the desk, and all the other stuff is now up to them.
The drive home is always a long one. When you get there treat yourself to a beverage of your choice. You have absolutely earned it.
This is their time. Bring all of the patience you can muster (my daughters will laugh at that one, since I have almost none) and let them bask in the glow of this amazing experience. Take a moment to stand back and appreciate it yourself. You have come this far in raising this precious child. The tears you have at departure time will reflect not only sadness and apprehension at leaving them, but love and joy and pride in the person they are and the person they are about to become.
We have successfully moved our younger daughter in for her senior year. We are proud to the point of almost bursting sometimes, and look forward to enjoying little trips to her campus in the coming nine months. I can’t say this is our last move for our daughters, since we have another daunting one coming up with the elder one soon and also expect to move the younger one into some type of housing later on for her post-grad education. I will take this day to rest my weary muscles, but very soon I’ll start working out for the next move.