2019, College Freshman, From one Parent to Another, High School Senior

A High School Senior turns into a College Freshman Overnight.

We recently sent our middle son off to college. Though he is my second born and my second son to enter college, he was my first one moving into a dorm room. So there were a lot of new things to consider this time around. We are truly grateful that he is rooming with a friend from high school and that they will have similar classes. But there were still a lot of questions and “unknowns” around the whole dorm life situation. Especially since neither my husband, nor I, had the dorm life experience.

In December of 2018, in the midst of his senior year of high school he received his acceptance letter from the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Chemical Engineering. It was a thrilling day for all of us, especially since it was the only university he applied to (something I do not recommend). It was also a very emotional day. I knew it was coming, but that was the day that I realized that I had to start preparing for him to leave home.

Being the ‘list’ type person I am, I immediately started a list of everything he would need, and quickly realized . . . I had NO IDEA what that was. Sure, I knew he would need laundry supplies, toiletries, bedding, and the standard school supplies, but I still had no idea what residence hall he would be in or what his actual room would look like. I muddled through and I did the best I could with what I already knew. The problem was, all I knew was that he would have a bed, a desk, a dresser . . . and a roommate.

Finally, in mid July (seven months later) we found out where he would be staying and who his roommate was. That still didn’t give me the information I needed . . . I am a planner after all. One that is not only a mom, but a very visual person. So I started searching the internet. The photos that were “out there” were not that helpful to me. I still had no idea how much space he would have for storage bin and/or drawers or what his “open closet” would look like. To him . . . none of this mattered, but to me it was valuable information. This was something that would help me make his room more like home, somewhere that he would feel comfortable while away from home. I have no doubt that when it’s time for my daughter to head off to college, that she will be much more helpful in telling me what she wants in her room. This man-child of mine, however, could have cared less.

Fast forward to now, late August. My son is now settled in to his dorm room, and has made new friends. He is fine . . . more than that . . . he’s happy and he loves the area! He is excited about his classes, and he is optimistic about his future. Somehow we both survived him leaving home and starting this new chapter of his life. Oh, don’t think for a second that any of it was easy. From the arguing at the store over what I thought he needed, and the “Mom, I don’t care” answers I got to whatever I suggested – all the way through to the tearful “good-bye” . . . all of it was hard. It’s something that each person deals with differently, but in the end we all make it through.

One thing I want to make very clear is that even though this was my second time sending a child off to college, it truly l was not any easier (like I thought it would be). The anticipation of the whole thing started much earlier and I kept telling myself that it was nothing to worry about. I knew what was going to happen, and I knew in my heart that it was all going to be alright in the end. In my mind there was no need to get all worked up like I did the last time, so I just kept pushing those feelings aside. Looking back, I think that was a big mistake. Let’s face it . . . this is an emotional time for everyone. The fears, excitement, pride, sadness, and every other emotion are bound to be overwhelming. Not allowing yourself to feel those feelings is not healthy. At some point, you will burst . . . which I did. Saying “good-bye”, I was blubbering (really it was the ugly cry) all over the place trying to tell my son how proud I was of him, and he couldn’t understand a word of what I was saying through all the tears. (true story) On the flip side, watching videos of kids leaving for school, or seeking out sad songs of how “You’re Gonna Miss This” or how you want time to “Slow Down”, is not good either. The waves of emotions will come on their own, and yes, they will come in waves. There is no need to force them, but please don’t ignore them either. Do yourself a favor and feel them when they come. If you feel it coming on, and feel the need to listen to a sad song, go for it . . . just don’t torture yourself. For me the biggest difference this time around was I was leaving my son in a big city. We have lived in a small town in the middle of Pennsylvania most of his life, and a city like Pittsburgh is a BIG change. I knew that he was ready for college and I had no doubt that he would do great at school . . . but would he be OK in the city?? If I had only faced my fears and talked to him about it before he left, I think I could have handled him leaving so much better.

I have no doubt that each child I send off to college will be different. In the same way, your experience may be completely different than mine. Beyond that, the dorm room that we dealt with might be completely different than the one your College Freshman will have. My goal is simply to make this difficult transition somewhat easier for everyone involved. Below, you will find photos of my son’s dorm room. I also have a Dorm Room Check List that I have compiled that is available to you if you like. There are things on the list that we did not end up getting, but they were suggested to us by other parents that had already been through at least one year of college life. One thing that is not on the list , but I feel is very important is an application for an Absentee Ballot. If your student isn’t enrolled in a college near home, or even if they are only a few hours away from home this could be something that you both need to consider. It’s not hard to fill out online, and since we don’t vote on weekends it could make the whole thing much easier.

So this is the somewhat, sorta “empty” dorm room . . . before all the stuff got moved in . . . and prior to his roommate arriving. The school provided all the furniture you see along with a gift bag for each student that contained a insulated coffee mug, reusable (wooden) utensils, a few other goodies, and a map of the school. When they checked in, they each got a T-Shirt.
Here is my revised rendition of the above photo. Take a minute to read through all the arrows above. It might be just the thing to help you picture your student’s future dorm room.
The Desk Lamp we bought (that grey & black post looking thing on the desk) has a USB charging port for a phone and the Alarm Clock we bought has two extra electrical outlets. The printer is an old black & white printer, but it is wireless so both students can use it easily. There is a desk lamp attached to the desk (under the lower shelf), but the one we bought has different lighting options and can be dimmed to accommodate a sleeping roommate.
That full length mirror is on the back of the door . . . which is great since you can’t really hang anything heavy on the walls with Command Strips & Hooks! These wall are slightly textured, so hanging anything was difficult. Also, there are more electrical outlets on the right side of the desk along with the one and only cable hook up in the room.

My husband and I, along with the dad and brother of our son’s roommate helped the boys move in on Wednesday. By Thursday evening, I got the photo above, showing that they moved everything around and made bunk beds so they would have more room. If only I had suggested that to begin with . . . oh wait . . . I did! LOL!

Over all, I’d say that the best suggestion I could possibly offer you, is find out who your students roommate will be. We were lucky in the fact that not only was our son already friends with his roommate, but we also know and get along with his parents. If you are not that lucky . . . make it happen! Allow the future roommates to meet ahead of time and get to know each other. Request that you also get to meet the roommate and their parents. Then you can work together to provide what both students will need without over crowding the room. There is truly no need for 2 refrigerators, microwaves, vacuums, or TV’s!! Their space will be limited enough without over-doing it with extra stuff that’s not needed.

In the end, nothing can truly prepare you for your child to leave for college, but I hope and pray that helping you plan will make it just a tiny bit easier. If only they would allow their mommas to do the ‘nesting’ and fussing over them that we need . . . even if it is just to help us feel better about them leaving. Who said they could go ahead and grow up anyway?!?

If you have any questions . . . OR . . . if you have any ideas, suggestions, or tips that have worked for you and your college freshman, please feel free to share them in the comments below!!

Love & Hugs from a Momma that knows and understands. Good luck to all you Mommas out there . . . you can do it!

xoxo,
Mindy 🙂