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How to Tell if a Child is Ready to Go Away to College
It's Time to Go
Years ago, when my children were little, I remember the mother a young adult telling me her daughter was going away to college. "It's time," she noted, in all seriousness, meaning that her daughter was ready to leave the nest.
Now, with my own child planning to do the same thing next fall, I can totally relate. My son is ready to be out on his own. He's mature in many ways. He still has a lot of growing up to do. Psychologically, he is hardy and resilient. He'll adapt very well to living in a dormitory. He'll sleep through any kind of chaos that might be happening in his room or out in the hallway.
He desperately wants to be out from under my watchful eye, and free from the rules of our house. I tend to keep a granola crunchy kitchen filled with organic produce and free-range meats. We don't use the microwave because I'm well aware the type of non-ionizing radiation it emits is potentially carcinogenic. This technology for a number of years was banned by the Russians.
Not using the microwave is something that drives my strong-willed son crazy, because he realizes that most people in the United States do zap their food.
"I can't wait until I'm out of here, so I can use a microwave as much as I want," he said to me one day, as he launched into yet another complaint about my view of the world.
"Of all the foolish things to rebel against," I thought to myself, hoping and praying that he sees the light before he decides to nuke every meal he eats while away at school, just to assert his independence.
He Wants to Bust Loose
Of course, the microwave is just stance he's decided to take in his ever-increasing drive to pull away from his family of birth, and become a full-fledged adult. Going away to college, although I have my concerns, in general, about the practice of throwing a bunch of teenagers together in a largely unsupervised setting, will the next step on the road to independence.
As a Catholic, I am worried that he won't keep the values we've tried to raise him with. The thought of living in close proximity to members of the opposite sex is something I'm not happy about. However, I'm relieved that his girlfriend is going to another college, and I know as long as they're together, he probably won't be too tempted by any other female.
Also, my son is an adult and, legally, he can do whatever he want anyway, a fact that he likes to bring up whenever we have an argument.
So, even though I have my reservations about dorm life, I do believe my son is as ready as anyone. With any luck, he'll mature from the experience, and be a little easier to live with when he returns home during his college breaks.
One Sign that He's Ready to Leave
Fortunately, I don't seem to be the only parent struggling with a high school senior, whom knows he or she will soon be out of the house. Other parents have admitted that this is a conflict-filled year, as their child is at the cusp of moving out.
One sign he's ready to leave is that I don't totally dread the thought of him leaving. I already miss him and I can already envision the quiet house will be when he's gone. Even though we've always had a close relationship, I also realize, in some ways, I'm looking forward to the day we drive him to college and leave him there.
That's because I also realize "it's time." He needs to be out on his own, and dorm life is a good way to bridge the gap between living with your parents and getting your first apartment.
If you're at peace with the thought of your child leaving the house, this probably means he or she is ready to go. If the very idea keeps you awake at night, perhaps you need to rethink the plan, as I'll explain later.
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My son has always had a strong personality. He is very resilient, in the sense that misdirected comments do not bother him. Stress does not trouble him very much either. In fact, he seems to thrive upon a certain amount of pressure and seems to get his best work done when he's under the gun.
His time management skills need a lot of improvement, but I'm hoping this comes with maturity. He might have to take a few knocks, in the form of a bad grade or two, before this happens though. If he totally blows it and falls flat on his face, he'll brush himself off and carry on.
However, sometimes, even students who appear very well-adjusted do not do well once they arrive on campus. This possibility will be in the back of my mind, because, occasionally, even the strongest can stumble.
But in general, if your child is in good emotional health, he or she will probably do well at college.
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I'm Not an Expert
I'm not an expert on teenage psychology, so don't take everything I say as the final word. However, I do believe I have a unique perspective on college readiness. That's because my son is my second child to go through this transition. My first child wasn't ready to be on her own.
Although we looked at schools, and toured different dorms, I had a sinking feeling throughout my daughter's entire senior year that disaster would await if she moved into any of them. Because I tend to worry about my children, I assumed it was just something I needed to get beyond.
The idea of her going away to school did keep me up at night. I'd wake up in the middle of the night with this thought on my mind, and I couldn't fall back to sleep.
Deep down, I envisioned her going away to college and needing to come home in a few months, if not sooner. Then I worried that she'd arrive back home without a plan and sink into a deep depression, with all of her promise and potential derailed.
Although we can't protect our children from every disaster, this one seemed preventable, if she could somehow stay home and commute to college.
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My Daughter Wasn't Ready for Dormitory Life
Even though I didn't think my daughter was ready to live in a dormitory, I wanted it to be her decision. I didn't want to force her to stay at home and commute to campus, if her heart wasn't in it. I wasn't sure what she wanted to do until two weeks before the May 1 deadline, when the deposit was due at the school she'd attend that fall.
I was greatly relieved when she announced she wanted to live at home, because the college she could commute to had a better program in her intended major. One thing I've learned is that when the right decision is made, it gives you a sense of peace.
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Resisting the Pressure
There is a great deal of pressure in our society for graduating high school seniors to go away to college. This comes from close and extended family members, as well as from the high school administration and the student's peers.
One of my daughter's high school friends was aghast at her decision to stay local, and forego living in a dorm. "Why are you doing this?" she demanded to know.
We also had a relative question this choice as well. I was told that I was an over-protective mother, because I didn't want my daughter to go away to school.
However, in the end, the choice was ours. My husband, who was also skeptical in the beginning, is now firmly convinced my daughter made the right decision. She's thriving in college and maturing nicely, even though she's still living at home.
So going away to college is not for everyone. But when your child is ready to leave for school, you'll know when "it's time."
Going Away to College
Do you think most 18-year-old adults are ready to live on their own?
Expert Advice on College Readiness
- Ready or Not: Immature But Headed to College | Psych Central
Colleges and new high school graduates have what I think is a strange idea. They think every freshman is an adult who can make his or her own decisions.
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