How do I know if my child is prepared for college life?

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Answered by: Anne, An Expert in the Preparing for College Category
When my oldest child left for college in August, I spent the first three weeks sobbing in my bathroom. He was only two hours away; heck, it took me that long to get across the city in rush hour traffic. So, why did it feel like he was on the other side of the world? I worried about things that were out of my control: that he would oversleep and be late for his morning classes, that he wouldn’t know where to eat and be too embarrassed to ask questions, that he would get sick, and I wouldn’t be there to diagnose his malady and take care of him. How would he manage his time? How would he survive on his own? Was he really prepared for college life?

I spent a good chunk of the summer shopping for him, hoping to transform his little dorm room into a home away from home. By the time D-Day arrived, we needed three cars to transport our little family and all of his supplies to the university, again only two hours away. We trudged up and down three flights of stairs carrying electronic equipment, a fan, his new wardrobe, towels, sheets, bathroom supplies, a first aid kit, tool kits, dishes, glasses, utensils, and enough food to feed his entire hall. I felt good. If he had to stay up late and cram for an exam, he had brain food handy. If he had a headache, he had a bottle of Tylenol. If something fell apart, he had a hammer. He had his cell phone, he had a credit card, and he had a car. I told myself, he was all set.

To my great surprise, he really was. The little boy who never made his bed was making it every day now. The teenager who slept through his alarm had yet to be late to class. He has never missed a meal (that he has admitted to), and he respectfully calls home to keep his parents updated on his well being. He even talks to his sister, and has helped with her math homework several times.

Yes, there have been a few interesting moments here and there. His car was towed because he parked in a reserved space. That cost him $200. He learned to pay attention to signs. His bank account was overdrawn once or twice. That cost him another $200. He learned to check his balance every day. We did change his cell phone plan when he went over his minutes by several hundred. Since he had no more money in his bank account, that cost us $200. We learned to check his minutes every day. When that grew tiresome, we just changed his plan and gave him more minutes. In the long run, it saved us money.

But, as the ensuing weeks and months have proved, he survived just fine. I was the one who fell apart. We both had to make radical adjustments in our lives, but my son made his with an ease and grace and courage that humbled me. I fumbled my way through, and I still am. I do feel sad when I walk by his empty room, and I do feel lost in the mornings without his big sleepy eyes staring at me over a bowl of corn flakes.

Then the phone rings, and I hear triumph in his voice when he tells me how he aced an exam or how excited he is about a concert he attended. I feel proud of this boy-man who I raised. We talk about life, and he shares his dreams, and I think how happy I am to have him in my life – even if he is two hours away. Is any child really prepared for college life? Is any parent prepared when they send their child off to college for the first time? I know he is going to be just fine, and I am at peace again. I will survive this, after all.

Before we hang up, I ask him what he wants for dinner this weekend, and I remind him to take his vitamins and be sure to bring home his laundry.

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