Why Colleges May Offer “Parent Only” Dorms by 2025

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Why are we, parents in the U.S., a decade ago and still now, so ridiculously over-invested in where our offspring go to college?

Nearly ten years ago our daughter spent her spring college semester studying in Florence, Italy. Beautiful Firenze! My husband and I visited her in early March.

From my albeit brief experience as a world traveler, I can confidently tell you that parents in other countries may not be quite as invested in their kids’ college acceptance outcomes as we are.

Wrapping scarves around our necks in Florentine fashion to walk around the city every morning, my husband would ask for “caffe macchiato” and I said “prego” to every shopkeeper.  I’m sure we did not fool anyone into thinking we were Italians, but we liked to pretend that we were.

Being on vacation for a week that March distracted me from what was really on my mind. Waiting for college admission news for our younger child back home, then a senior in high school.

So while I was standing in line to get in to see the statue of David, admiring the crenellated tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and discovering the varied delights of crostini and ribollita,  inside my head I was partially back at home waiting for the mail to arrive.

This was in the day before email notifications of college admissions so I was visualizing thick envelopes (yes!) and thin letters (no) –  and worrying.

Whenever we travel, my Detroit-born husband likes to point out what kinds of cars the locals drive. He has gotten me in that habit, too. On our Italy trip that March it struck me what the cars I saw did NOT have.

Not a single car had a college sticker on its’ bumper or rear window!

How was that possible?

And in the other parts of Tuscany that we toured in our tiny rental car, we did not spot a car window or bumper sticker that said “Universita degli Studi di Firenze” or “di Siena” or “di Pisa”.

I remember thinking, if only we could never leave Italy, where there did not seem to be a parental obsession with where their children went to college. Unlike back home where parents wore college identifying caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts and drove cars sporting omnipresent rear window and bumper stickers as if we were the ones enrolled in college instead of our kids.

Our vacation ended, as all vacations (sadly) do, and we had to return to the land of overly-abundant college affiliation indicia.

Why do so many of us point with such pride to our kids’ Higher Ed affiliations in what we drive and wear as if we were the ones who actually did the hard work to get admitted?

Earlier this fall – prior to my recent Fabulous Fibula Fracture  – I had started to volunteer with a terrific college access organization which helps first-generation kids apply to, find financing for, get accepted by and once there, stay in college.

I can’t wait until my ankle is healed enough so I can hobble on back to it.

In this program I work directly with high school seniors. Not that I have anything against parents –  heck, I am one – but having been through the college admission process 2x, I would not want to deal with any parent who behaved as I did.

Thinking back to those past Octobers and Novembers when we were in the absolute thick of the college admission process, when the “C” word was like a curse word at our dining room table, I know that I was not at my best and highest self.

Those fall days when my kids snapped at me if I asked innocent questions such as “Good morning” or “How are you?”  – which my children wisely recognized as Mom code for “Have you finished your applications yet?”

The tension in our house was palpable. Luckily, my kids were accepted at great colleges because of what they, not me, accomplished.

This fall of 2015 the media reminds us that parents are even more involved (if that is possible) with their kids’ college choices. If this over-involvement trend continues, where might it lead to in another decade?

I see the future:

By the year 2025 The National Association of Over-Involved High School Pre-College Parents  (“NAOIHSPCP”) will have successfully lobbied for and won the right to be College Co-Attendees!

  • New “parent-only-variants” of the SAT and ACT will be adapted so parents will be able to submit their own corollary college applications.
  • Parents will be required to write their own “Why I Am Unique and Have Passion So You Should Admit Me” essays.
  • And by the 2025 colleges will have created specially configured dorms so parents may live on campus near their offspring.

Satirical, maybe – but really, if this hyper-pride-in-where-my-kid-goes-to-college trend continues on its current trajectory, perhaps Parent-Only dorms will be the Next Big Thing?

Take it from someone who’s been there, done that -> Rip up your NAOIHSPCP membership card now while your pre-college child is still talking to you.

Remember: Your kid is the one going to college, not you. Repeat as many times as necessary. And one small bumper sticker per family only, please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under College, College, Education, Family, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Travel

10 responses to “Why Colleges May Offer “Parent Only” Dorms by 2025

  1. Love the “mom code” – luckily Suzanne appears to be on top of things and there’s relative calm during the early round! Also found your projections on the parent dorm humorous. But, I must tell you a certain General’s mom took an extended stay at Hotel Thayer, on West Point’s campus, while her son was a cadet. Rumor has it she kept an eye on the lights in his barracks room to ensure he was staying up and presumably studying! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michele Edelmuth

    Perhaps I am secretly Italian but I’ve never understood the obsession with college. We moved to the mid-west in 2012 and I was surprised at the number of college bumper stickers, clothing, flags on houses, etc. It is everywhere! Three years later I believe the reason for it is the need of parents to have bragging rights to the “right” school. Being from California many of these mid-western schools mean nothing to me (Mizzou?) but clearly they mean something to the locals. Thank you for reminding me that my instinct to question this college hype is on point.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicole Heinmets

    I really enjoy reading your posts. As a mother of High School senior twins, I am “in the thick of it” and usually feel like I’m getting it all wrong. I’m typically not enough helicopter but too much worry wart. Unfortunately I’m not a big drinker and I don’t like yoga so options for sanity are limited. Thank you for putting things into perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It does seem SO out of control. Do you think it has something to do with the high cost of higher education here (so parents see as an investment) or is it deeper rooted than that?

    Like

    • More deeply rooted, I think, although the high cost of college has something to do with it as you said. I see the problem more as the blurring boundaries between parent and child. When I went to college, I called my parents once a week and occasionally sent letters. When my own kids went to college in 2002 and 2005, we expected to hear from them much more often. Like daily. Because we had been so involved in their pre-college lives while they were in high school, we expected to know all about what was going on with them in college. My friends who had kids on high school teams went to all of their soccer, field hockey games in high school and then continued to drive or fly to their colleges to be on the side lines there too. Some kind of giant not-letting-go problem which doesn’t help the parent or the child!

      thanks for your comment, Nina.

      Nancy

      Like

  5. The feet mechanical

    Nancy, I think this relates very closely to your classic post about kvelling parents: our culture has completely blurred the boundaries between a child’s success and the parents’ role in it–and parents grasp at any chance to advertise that their child is successful. One of the hardest adjustments for parents of children with mental health issues and / or learning difficulties is to break that circuit, or rather to avoid the inverse of its logic (while our friends bask in “My kid made Honor Roll ==> I’m a successful parent,” we stare at our shoes and try to avoid “My kid has missed 120 periods of school in one semester and only goes to his music classes because he feels totally overwhelmed all the time ==> I’m a failure as a parent”). Opening the door to that first good feeling means opening the door to the opposite as well.

    The car-window decals are a symptom of a broader problem, one that you have commented on elsewhere as well. The college admissions racket is a scandal but we are all complicit in some ways: the “branding” of schools, along with the all-important ranking systems, seduce alumni and parents into watching the supposed present and future value of their education rise and fall like a stock on the ticker: “Watch your investment gain value! See how smart you are / were!” Yet as someone who taught at a “highly regarded University” for thirty years, I’m all the more cognizant of how false the assumptions are about prestigious schools: superstar professors with big research grants frequently are lousy teachers, administrators easily manipulate professor-student ratios to look favorable, and country-club amenities often mask squalid cultures and unhealthy environments.

    And graduating from a good school is far from guaranteeing future financial or any other kind of success: the biggest adjustment Millenials and Boomers will have to make will be to realize just how many well-degreed graduates are out there chasing fewer and fewer non-outsourced jobs–look at how many boomerang kids are coming back to live in their parents’ houses because they can’t afford ridiculous rents in this brave new economy that we are celebrating.

    Dang. Somebody’s cranky. Keep up the good work–I enjoy your posts and will try to catch you in Marin if I can track down the when & where.

    Like

  6. So true, all of what you say, and I am so glad you wrote your thoughtful comment. I agree wholeheartedly on the blurring of boundaries between parent and child. I am not sure how that blur gets untangled!

    P.S. re Marin – the evening of February 25, 2016 at Rodef Sholom congregation in San Rafael, California.

    Thank you for your informed comment, appreciate it very much.

    Nancy

    Like

  7. Donna

    Hi Nancy, I cannot thank you enough for the effort that you put into writing and sharing your personal experiences. I too have been reading your blog ever since a support group for parents of struggling teens referred me to your kvelling post. Although it stirred up strong emotions for feelings that I didn’t have the courage to admit (everything was always “fine” when anyone asked, too insecure to reveal the truth), your piece let me know that our special parent community is larger than I had imagined. This college piece stirred those emotions again when The Feet Mechanical shared their story: “My kid has missed 120 periods of school in one semester and only goes to his music classes…” This fall semester has been hard on my 10th grader, and school attendance is the bottom of her priorities (80 missed periods, 41 excused, and 42 tardies). Five Fs and a D on the report card of a former honor student is our new normal. She is now attending a new public high school after being not-so-gently nudged from the previous school last spring with 157 missed periods. I will say that the new high school has been extremely supportive and is working with our mental health providers to provide accommodations and support (she has IEP for emotional disturbances, anxiety, depression, mood dysregulation, and ADHD). Apparently, the fact that she gets up, gets dressed, and goes to school, even if she doesn’t enter the building, is an achievement that we can brag about!

    We had such dreams when she was born, and we shoveled money into a 529 account–when it hit six figures, we worried that it still wasn’t enough for Harvard. Then poof! Last year, we realized that we were on a different path, and we found solace in the fact that we had saved enough money to pay for 4 years at our state university. As grades dropped below C, those dreams were quickly replaced by Internet research for course offering at our community college….This weekend, at the recommendation of her therapy team, we began researching GED requirements. And, we would be so proud if she got a GED!

    Do you know if there is any pending legislation or grass-root groups lobbying to get 529 funds released for mental health-related educational expenses? It has been suggested that our daughter attend a therapeutic boarding school ($7-10K per month). Since it unlikely that we will need the money for Harvard, it would be great if we could repurpose the money for the therapeutic boarding school without incurring a financial penalty.

    Thank you again for your blog. I look forward to reading new entries every week. And I am looking forward to your evening in San Rafael.

    Donna

    Like

  8. Donna

    Hi Nancy, I cannot thank you enough for the effort that you put into writing and sharing your personal experiences. I have been reading your blog ever since a support group for parents of struggling teens referred me to your kvelling post. Although it stirred up strong emotions for feelings that I didn’t have the courage to admit (everything was always “fine” when anyone asked, too insecure to reveal the truth), your piece let me know that our special parent community is larger than I had imagined. This college piece stirred those emotions again when The Feet Mechanical shared their story: “My kid has missed 120 periods of school in one semester and only goes to his music classes…”

    This fall semester has been hard on my 10th grader, and school attendance is the bottom of her priorities (80 missed periods, 41 excused periods, and 42 tardies). Five Fs and a D on the report card of a former honor student is our new normal. She is now attending a new public high school after being not-so-gently nudged from the previous public high school last spring with 157 missed periods. I will say that the new high school has been extremely supportive and is working with our mental health providers to provide accommodations and support (she has IEP for emotional disturbances, anxiety, depression, mood dysregulation, and ADHD). Apparently, the fact that she gets up, gets dressed, and goes to school, even if she doesn’t enter the building, is an achievement that we can brag about!

    We had such dreams when she was born, and we shoveled money into a 529 account–when it hit six figures, we worried that it still wasn’t enough for Harvard. Then poof! Last year, we realized that we were on a different path, and we found solace in the fact that we had saved enough money to pay for 4 years at our state university. As grades dropped below C, those dreams were quickly replaced by Internet research for course offering at our community college….This weekend, at the recommendation of her therapy team, we began researching GED requirements. And, we would be so proud if she got a GED!

    Do you know if there is any pending legislation or grass-root groups lobbying to get 529 funds released for mental health-related educational expenses? It has been suggested that our daughter attend a therapeutic boarding school ($7-10K per month). Since it unlikely that we will need the money for Harvard, it would be great if we could repurpose the money for the therapeutic boarding school without incurring a financial penalty.

    Thank you again for your blog. I look forward to reading new entries every week. And I am looking forward to your evening in San Rafael. Donna

    Like

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