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Biotechnology, Russian minor
Chicago IL

A Word to the Wise (Parents)

Sarah Alef on Thursday, 19 March 2009. Posted in Advising & Support, Orientation

There's a saying by Mark Twain that goes "When I was sixteen, my father was the most ignorant man in the world.  By the time I reached 21, I was surprised at how much he had learned in five years." 

Mark Twain wasn't kidding. I passed my 21st birthday about 4 months ago, and my parents are smarter than ever.  I never necessarily thought my parents ignorant, but I was convinced that they said and made decisions based on how likely they were to irritate me.  At times I was convinced they existed purely to make my life difficult.  At no other time was I more convinced of this than the summer before I started college.    

Parents, please.  Treasure the time you have this summer with your children, but like Amanda said, let them go hang out with friends, make them mow the lawn, do laundry, etc.  After all, the reason you had children in the first place was for manual labor! As a former RA, I'm giving you homework this summer to make sure your children come to college fully prepared.

1) TEACH - For the love of humanity, please teach your children basic life skills if you haven't already.  Things like laundry, picking up after oneself (although you've probably been trying to teach that one for years now), how to "doctor" ramen to make it somewhat tastier, teach them to budget money, balance a checkbook, etc.  Unless you don't mind getting phone calls about how Junior now needs new khakis because he/she has bleached them pink. Teach your daughter how to check and change oil in her car.  Don't just give her AAA.  We teenagers get to college and after a few weeks, we have a whole level of appreciation for the behind the scenes help our parents have been giving us for years.  The gratitude will come, trust me. (THANK YOU MOM FOR TEACHING ME HOW TO MAKE BREAD AND USE BLEACH PROPERLY...Can we work on the ironing next time I come home?)

2) TELL - Tell your son/daughter you will miss them, but remind them how important college is.  Tell them to take time out from school to engage in other activities.  If all you do is study, you'll miss half of college.  Tell them how much fun you had in college, even if they roll their eyes.  They're listening.  Remind them to be safe when making choices.   Tell them to get a job.  It'll be good training for learning to budget their own money.  Tell them you expect good grades.  Most importantly, tell them you love them no matter what.  Every parent will get at least one phone call from a kid in tears, wanting to come home and quit it all.  Listen, comfort them, and then throw them back into the fish pond.  We can't grow up unless you let us. 

3) RESTRAIN - Restrain yourself from being overbearing and preventing any fun this summer.  I know, that's a parent's job, more than likely is the last time they'll see some of their friends for a year.  That's a long time.  Please restrain yourself from buying out the Target "Back to College" aisle.  Stick to the basics...your child's roommate will be thankful.  There's only so much you can cram in a 9' x 11' space.  And most importantly, restrain yourself from being the "helicopter" parent.  You can't fight all our battles, and if we got a bad grade in a class, it more than likely really is our fault.  At some point, you have to stop thinking of us as being a reflection on you, and start considering us the adults that you trained us to be.  You did a good job; we wouldn't be in college if you didn't.  

Now sit back and watch the show, because there should be some entertaining parts.  Particularly when we call home demanding to know why our socks turned pink, and how come you never told us that our red shirt bleeds?

Comments (9)

  • Catherine Atneosen

    Catherine Atneosen

    22 March 2009 at 12:08 |
    Love your advice. When I went off to college (several years ago), I had a roommate who didn't have a clue about laundry or cooking and it was sooo much fun watching her deal with it all. We have made a point of having our son do laundry and cooking for sometime now but I still wonder what those first loads will look like! It's different when mom is there to answer any questions and doing it all alone several hundred miles away. I guess we need to work on ironing this summer before he leaves. I do have a question about the dorms and mattress sizes. Will we know if he is having a standard twin or an extra long twin bed? It does make a difference in what sheets and mattress cover he will need. How much actual storage is there (closet size)? Will we be able to determine this on our visit? We are wondering if we should ship some of his stuff ahead of time or do we just bring what he needs at orientation (we live 1200 miles from Rochester). Any advice?
  • Sarah Alef

    Sarah Alef

    22 March 2009 at 15:12 |
    The dorms all have extra long twin beds, so yes, you need to look for those special sheets. Closet space varies from building to building, but plan on having about 3-4 small shelves or 2 really big shelves, each with a rack for clothing. When you visit, you will be able to take a dorm tour, which should give you an idea how how much space to plan for. I also live super far away from Rochester (only 650 miles though :) ) and what I did was to pack all my clothes, and go really light on items that I could purchase here in Rochester. Things like sheets, laundry detergent, lamps etc. All that can be bought here just as well as at home. It's also usually easier to do this with boys, since they're not as particular about colors and such things. The really small winter things like sweaters and vests, bring a couple with and then pick up the rest when you go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Let me know if you have any more questions!
  • Catherine Atneosen

    Catherine Atneosen

    24 March 2009 at 09:44 |
    I have a question about lap tops. Our son will be in the physics department and he will be getting a new lap top before fall. We are doing the mac vs pc debate right now. Any suggestions on what would be better? I told him to check with someone in the department as well as to what requirements they might have. Is this reasonable advice? He is leaning toward a mac right now. Our home lap top is a Dell and none of us are real happy with Vista! He is leaving his desk top and printer at home because we understand that there are printers available at RIT and they just take up dorm desk space. Thanks!
  • Sarah Alef

    Sarah Alef

    24 March 2009 at 12:35 |
    As far as I know - the physics department has no specific requirement as to what type of computer their students use. If you need a program that only works on the other operating system, well, that's why we have lab computers. From my personal experience in the sciences, I prefer Macs. They generally are more stable than Windows, and if treated well will last you longer. My Macbook is still alive and kicking after three + years! I actually would recommend that you bring your printer if it's not too terribly big. You can print at RIT, but usually not in color, and printers are nice to have for your own projects and such. Also - you can emulate Windows on a Mac computer if you have a program that won't work on Macs. The reverse cannot be said :-)
  • Rose Chin

    Rose Chin

    17 April 2009 at 18:29 |
    I have question - what about a tv / and or gaming system in the room? My daughter wants to bring her x-box 360.

    thanx for help
  • Sarah Alef

    Sarah Alef

    17 April 2009 at 18:38 |
    Not a problem. I recommend talking with the roommate(s) to figure out who is bringing what, but more than likely your daughter will be more than welcome (and encouraged) to bring her 360. I have a N-64 in mine :-)
  • Cheryl (parent)

    Cheryl (parent)

    20 April 2009 at 11:44 |
    A couple of questions: What's the male to female ratio at this point? How strong are the liberal arts courses? Any knowledge about the strength of Political Science/International Relations? Do you folks get experience in learning how to write? What would you say about the social skills of the male student body?
  • Sarah Alef

    Sarah Alef

    20 April 2009 at 12:04 |
    Last I heard, the male to female ratio was 70-30, however, I do know that the class admitted this past fall was 60-40. YES - it is getting better. I always tell the guys that if they come out of their rooms, they will meet girls. We're here, but we're social creatures. Don't expect to find us on World of Warcraft. As far as male social skills go...I have a saying that I tell all the girls: The odds are good, but the goods are odd. Generally speaking though, the boys are fairly adept at being human and not too weird.

    As far as the strength of the liberal arts courses, I certainly feel like they're good classes, but I only took my Russian and a philosophy course here at RIT. The rest I transferred in from community college. I do know that the International Relations program here requires international co-ops (which is pretty cool) and you choose a subcontinent and a language to focus your studies on.

    As a science kid, I'm required to submit a writing sample in order to be eligible for graduation, and every student is required to take some sort of writing course. Engineers have to pass a written exam, usually in their 3rd year, and there's a series of creative writing courses specifically aimed at art students. There really is something for everyone here, and if you look hard enough, I promise you can find something you're interested in adding to your education. Your only limiting factor is time!
  • Katie Simer

    Katie Simer

    27 January 2010 at 00:45 |
    thanks for the information. It is indeed very helpful
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