What does College look like in a Pandemic?
Our myriad pandemic-related life changes have brought forth all sorts of indications to me that parents don’t intend to roll with these shifts without putting up some big fights.
Here’s the truth. Like you and whatever business you happen to pursue, the people who toil in higher ed don’t know what the hell to do. Like you, they’re doing their best to make it up as they’re going along. They are trying to survive. They certainly don’t have all of the answers, and while they’re attempting to intuit and discover them, they’re having to placate those of you who will (or ultimately won’t) enroll your kids in college come August or September. At this point, they look to me as though they’re willing to do whatever possible to keep you as customers.
10 Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey
Curious Thing #7
Expectation of Your Teen’s College Experience Being Exactly Like Yours.
Or even Worse,
a Mirror Image of Your College Fantasy
The thing I hear from Class of 2020 parents that surprises me the most is shown in this dialogue:
“Hi Mr. Brown! So tell me, is Cassie moving into the dorm this fall? Or will she stay home and take the first year via online classes?”
“Oh NO, we’re not about to pay full tuition for Cassie to take terrible online classes! That’s no way to start college!”
“But Mr. Brown, online coursework is here to stay. Research (and common sense!) plus the current problem at hand show us that every single young person will indeed participate in some level of online instruction during the course of their higher-ed experience.”
“Well, not my Cassie! She can just stay home and get a job until things are back to normal.”
“Normal” May Be Changed Forever
Things may very well not be “back to normal” for a very long time. In fact, during the course of this collective life shift, “normal” as we know it just might be long gone.
Here’s one thought I’ve thus far heard no one mention. What’s wrong with saving a little money on your child’s total undergraduate education bill by building in some upfront online coursework? Not only is it a much gentler introduction to the demands of college academics, but you’ll save thousands of dollars.
What About Dorm Life?
If Cassie’s plans included living in the dorm and eating on-campus cafeteria food during her first year, you will most likely pay around $15,000 for those service and probably much more, depending on where she’s going to school. Big-city colleges and universities in the northeast corridor, for example, can easily cost close to $20K on top of tuition. That said, what’s wrong with cutting $15K to $20K off your total costs while she moves her undergrad coursework forward? I just don’t see the big deal here. Seems to me like you win! Cassie can go have her on-campus dorm experience next year when she’s a sophomore thus also a bit older and wiser.
Besides, any kid I’ve ever met ends up getting over the dorm experience in a hurry. I can practically promise you’ll be getting that call around February of the dorm year where she tells you she’ll be moving out to some ratty apartment the following year — either with a friend or two, or even alone.
Remember, “Animal House” was a MOVIE
Friends, the dorm/campus life is no longer “Animal House.” The vast majority of kids are no longer tailgating, singing songs at football games, getting pinned, and sharing pre-engagement kisses on some secret bridge. Those traditions might still exist on some select campuses, but for most kids, those are things they’ll never know about. Campus life changes all the time, for better or worse.
When I was a little kid, I received a “Barbie’s Campus” for Christmas, which was largely responsible for forming my initial impressions of what college life could and should be.
There was a neat dorm room with twin beds that Barbie shared with Midge, decorated in pennants from “State” and “Tech.” Across a narrow breezeway was the campus “Sweet Shop” where the two excited girls met Ken and Allen for double-date malts and hand holding in some cute heart-shaped chairs. The box that housed the dorm room and Sweet Shop had familiar campus scenes printed on its outside — shady tree-lined pathways leading to the library, a football stadium filled with excited fans. It’s what I excitedly imagined for myself.
The Reality of the College Experience is Always Changing
It wasn’t real, not even a little. My own college social life consisted of a near-extinct Greek system, lots of early ‘70s hippies and bad marijuana, Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill “wine,” The Allman Brothers, Jeff Beck, Steely Dan and plenty of angry politics and cynicism. Dorm life was just plain odd. I completed the whole college exercise in three years instead of four, so I could go experience the new world of career opportunities that were placed on the near horizon via the new Women’s Lib movement, not to mention a serious romance in full swing — one that turned into a lifelong marriage.
My husband’s college experience? It consisted of playing guitar in rock bands each night in vomit-y honky-tonk roadhouses, doing no school work at all while trying to wing it in advanced math coursework (didn’t go too well), and living in his mama’s little house a mere mile from campus. I seriously doubt he ever dreamed of rushing Delta Chi, waving a banner at a football game, or sharing a strawberry malt with a date. He probably imagined an experience with Barbie, but I digress.
… And It’s Going to be OK
Sounds bleak? Actually no — it was all a gas! All of it, even the worst of times, served me very well, now that I can look back over the years and place a value on its outcomes. But it was a very, very different college experience than the one I’d anticipated. And I’ll bet you have your own version of this same story.
So hopefully you’re intuiting my intended message, which is “Hey, just roll with the punches.” Everything is different now, including the college experience. Part of its wonder and excitement is that it does indeed grow and change. It constantly morphs into something new all the time. Don’t expect things to be just as they were. That’s an impossible outcome.
You can find the informational series Here of “Ten Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey”
Anne’s insidewink series about the high school and college-planning process you and your teenager may be living through or planning to tackle in the foreseeable future.
Anne Cochran is an award-winning leader of a small and passionate team of educators who opened Valley International Preparatory High School (VIPHS) in August 2018. — a new charter high school dedicated to providing 21st-Century-informed college options to grades 9-12. As a former marketing veteran within Hollywood’s film industry and small-business owner, Anne redirected her career interests nearly 12 years ago to addressing a need she observed within secondary public education, which is to bring optional college options to public school-educated teens who would otherwise be presented with very limited choices. Anne has been married for over 45 years to Chuck Cochran, creator and namesake of “Chuck Cochran’s Music Lab” at VIPHS, and they have two grown children.
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