People love stories, so I tell this one so you feel better about move-in day.
Years ago, when I was running the advising programs at Harvard, all of us were milling about in the sunshine, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new freshmen to “the yard,” where the first-year students live. Cars arrived through the brick gateways at their appointed times and were guided to the nearest door of the dorm where their children would take up residence. Excitement was definitely in the air, as it is every year when new students move into their dorms, with anxiety, anticipation, and no small amount of stuff.
As always, there were the usual body guards walking next to yet another newly shamed public official while his daughter and wife, trying to keep their chins high, went about their business as if they were just plain folk.
But this year, there was something different. A family, clearly in distress, was making noise, lots of it, on the other side of the yard, and the dean of freshmen was striding about in a greater flurry of activity than usual. From a long, low-slung sedan bearing license plates from somewhere far away stood a tall white man who could not be consoled. He wanted to know his daughter’s room number, and no one seemed able to help him, not for want of trying. The girl’s name simply couldn’t be found on any lists. And Harvard being Harvard just didn’t make mistakes about the names of the people moving in. After all, they had to place those letters in the rooms for new inhabitants telling stories about previous residents. It was all carefully choreographed. Where could this girl’s room be?
The dean of freshmen was on the horn to the head of admissions who was calmly assuring him that no mistakes had been made. Someone from her staff finally got to the office a ten-minute walk from the yard to look at the file. The girl hadn’t been admitted at all; she had, in fact, received a rejection letter, but had not had the courage to tell her parents. Chaos ensued. The family was heartbroken. For so many reasons. Not only had their daughter not gotten into her coveted school, but she had let them pack the car and drive up here, knowing or perhaps denying all along that the truth would out.
So, you see? Your move-in day will be fine. Here’s some advice on preparing for it, logistically:
- Help your child pack and then edit, edit, edit, and edit again. Dorm rooms are small. Really small.
- Plan meals the day before and of move-in. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
- Don’t miss the college’s orientation receptions and talks. Ask lots of questions, and eat good food, if available.
- If there is a convocation, try to go. It will be beautiful and inspiring.
- Connect with an administrator who will tell you who the parental contact is at the school when you have questions or concerns. Get their card, name, email, and phone. It will make you feel better and come in handy.
- Plan when you will communicate with one another once you leave campus. If you don’t hear from your child in 24 hours, don’t panic. S/he is probably just having fun. If you are worried, call the person you got to know in #5.
- Go celebrate. You’ve done it. Your child is launched. At least temporarily. You know s/he will most likely be back, as your child is a member of the boomerang generation. So enjoy your new-found and most likely temporary freedom!