Understanding the pressures and experiences your college student will face will help you know how to love and guide them through this new stage of life.
We’ve spent so long preparing for this, and I do mean WE. You sacrificed time and resources. You’ve helped me submit applications, find ACT tutors, and paid for me to join tournament teams. You’ve walked through heartbreak when those teams lost or my standardized test score wasn’t high enough. Even if you let me ultimately decide where to go, this was a “WE” journey.
And now it’s just me.
And it’s weird. I didn’t expect loneliness. I didn’t expect to really miss your scrambled eggs and those annoying songs you’d sing about the days of the week and rising and shining. Pop Tarts from the convenience store while I walk-jog to class is not the same. I am sadder in a deeper, more profound way. Why were we always hustling to get to college? And what happens if I don’t love these “best days of my life” days? What if I let you down?
It makes me scared to tell you the many descending thoughts I can have, so sometimes it is easier to ignore your call or tell you I am busy; but I just don’t want all that we worked for to be for nothing if this is harder than I expected. I want you to come visit. Not too much, but once a quarter, and let me show you around, but also let me sleep in your hotel room. I miss waking up in the same house as you.
Please get to know my friends. Take them to dinner when you visit. Let me bring them home for a weekend trip, and stay up late talking to us like we are your peers for a little while. My heart melts when I hear them say, “I love your parents,” because I love you too. If my worlds are separate, it is hard to explain things to you when I need you. If you are too far removed from my experiences, how can I open up when I need you?
I wish we had talked a little more about money. About what things cost, about how quickly it is spent on gas and food, and how people grew up differently than I did. My limited financial world view has been rocked by seeing those who want for nothing, and those who have to decide between joining our sorority and books for the semester. I swing like a pendulum between gratitude for what I have, and envy for the excess I see. Can we talk more about not what career I will have, but what to do with money when I have it?
There are so many opportunities for choices here in college. And there is so much pressure to make the right choices, it seems making the wrong ones doesn’t get the same weight on the scale. I mean the social scene. You aren’t waiting for me in your bathrobe to make sure I get home by curfew, and I feel it in what is around. It isn’t like things are forced down my throat, but opportunities for recklessness abound. I need help understanding not legality or hyperbolic grandiosities of self destruction—I need help understanding how choices made in recreation have a way of turning into habit when they are repeated. I need it explained to me that party tricks and study aids become a necessity, and dependency doesn’t break just because I get a diploma and a job. I know you want me to have fun, but please explain to me that the faster the carousel is going, the harder it is to get off.
I am trying to do my best. I am so afraid of failure that I am paralyzed by the mere thought of it. Like I said, we worked for this, but it is up to me to use this gift of college wisely. What do I do if I fail? I haven’t been allowed to fail much. Will you catch me when I do? The thought of letting you down, of losing my scholarship, of failing a class makes me wonder if it would be easier to just… I don’t know, it just seems like there’s no coming back if I disappoint. I need you to explain the difference between stumbling and cratering; in learning to grow in defeat, and not succumb to it. I need to know you believe in me, even when the immediate goal is not met. Please help me fail, and fail well.
Mom and Dad, you have done a lot of hard work to get me here. I suppose that is why I always hear parents breathe a sigh of relief when we graduate high school, but raising me isn’t done yet. We are more parallel now than before, but adulthood isn’t exactly nigh and I need you like I need a harness—not a safety net. I need to know you are holding on to me so I can focus forward confidently, not look down wondering how far the drop is. You’ve done such a great job. We can do this together, just like we always have. I love you very much.
Your College Student
PS. Please make biscuits when I get home and have my favorite chips in the pantry.
Jen Savery married and a mother to three children in Houston. She works in sports ministry at Sports Leadership Development, and has previously taught high school English and worked for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She loves reading, tennis, and her side hustle of personal styling.