Off to College…and Anxious About It

Rach, the “teen”

In thirty-eight days I will be moving my stuff into a college dorm room. In thirty-nine days I will totally be freaking out, because, oh my god, I’m in college.

I’m pretty worried about it, the whole college thing. It’s not the roommate, the food, the classes or the friends, and it’s not being on my own. I don’t know what’s been making me so anxious. I’ve asked my other college-bound friends and they don’t really seem to know either. Some of them have specific fears, and some of us are just having general “wow, college” fears.

High school was good for me; things went pretty smoothly all around – and I’m expecting college to be completely different. So, what are the biggest differences between high school and college, and how did you deal with the transition and all the worry?


Mary, the “mom”

Oh Rach, first of all, it’s flattering that you think I still remember anything from so long ago!

But, seriously, I really do feel for you. It’s so exciting and so scary.

I do remember being so excited to be independent but feeling forlorn when my mother left me at school the first time. It didn’t last long. Everyone was in the same boat and it was easy to make friends.

I was very anxious about the classes, thinking I had coasted through high school and now it was going to be really hard. I just made up my mind to work hard and not fall behind in my classes and it worked. These days, virtually no one can coast through high school, so I’m sure you’ve already learned the good study habits that will make that transition smooth. Not to get off track here, but, this is where I worry about my son and whether my tendency to micro-manage helps or hinders him learning good study habits. (Note to self, really gotta reign that in this year.)

Change is never easy. No matter how happy you are about it, it still takes you out of your comfort zone. So, I think a little bit of anxiety is normal and healthy. I think I’d be more concerned about you going off to college if you weren’t somewhat anxious!

Brad, the “dad”

Okay, first thing, Rach: don’t go, don’t do it, you’ll break your father’s heart.

That being said …

Y’know, in this crazy world, there are some very important things you can foresee, expect, prepare for and anticipate… but for which you will never really be ready. Marriage is one of them. Parenthood is another. And so is going off to college.

Here in SoCal, we’ve decided to plan the essentials only – your basic ‘food, clothing, shelter’ necessities — and let the rest of fall into place as we go along…since that’s the way it’s going to happen anyway, no matter how much we try to avoid the unknown. But all will be well. For one thing, it sounds like you – like the Valkyrie – will be living in a dorm, which is kind of a pleasantly transitional ‘half-life’ between The Family Home and The Real World. Take advantage of that. Heck, cling to that. For a while, at least, you don’t have to worry about shopping for food or making meals or paying utilities or even doing much of your own clean-up, and your laundry room is just down the hall. This is a good thing.

And don’t be too worried. Living with a couple of other girls off a noisy hallway filled with other girls (and if there are boys? Do not tell your parents!) will even keep the dreaded Boogeyman of Homesickness at bay…most of the time, There is going to be a ton to do, way too much to do, and if you’re like most college kids you’ll be way too busy to feel bad, Besides, when and if you do, well, that’s why the Gods of Going Off To College invented the cell phone. Use it. There is no shame in a midnight call to Mom, even for the most trivial, non-specific reason. In fact, she’ll love you for it.

So my advice, such as it is, is to do a little prep, a little planning. Don’t go in blind and battery as I did back in the Jurassic when the college was just a couple of caves over and we did our homework on wax tablets. But just as important, don’t overplan. Right now, being flexible, happily going with the flow, is almost more important than being prepared. ‘Cause kid, trust me on this, no matter how prepared you think you are… you will never, ever be ready. At some point, it’s just time to close your eyes, hold your nose, and jump.

And believe me, you’ll love it