Humor Magazine

Ready to Send a Kid to College? Read This First

By Dianelaneyfitzpatrick


I recently made my last tuition payment for my last kid in the last college that will ever cause me to question my decision to procreate.

(I’m just kidding.. I could never understand people saying they decided not to have more babies because they were worried about sending them to college. They should know that travel soccer, replacing retainers because it’s gross to root through Wendy’s dumpsters, and a single prom dress cost more than four years at Arizona State. And there is no scholarship for the prom dress.)

So now that I’m officially done paying for undergrad education, I’d like to pass along what I’ve learned as the mother of three kids with a total of 13 years of college education among five universities in five states.  Those of you about to embark on the parent-of-a-college kid phase of your life may want to listen up.

Don’t even try to relive your college years, no matter how tempting it is.

Your kids didn’t need you to be the cool mom when they were in high school, and they certainly don’t need that now.  Don’t get overly nostalgic about your old sorority and tell strangers that visiting your daughter in the Chi Omega house makes you wish you were going to college with her.

Do not start wearing t-shirts with the neckline ripped out.

Do not go to a Kanye West concert.

You had your time and whether you squandered it by continuing to date your high school boyfriend or not going to a single football game is neither here nor there. The only reason you yearn for those days is that you were clueless and thought the world was going to be your oyster shortly after graduation. You know better now. Going back isn’t going to change that. Unless you do go to every football game. Then, things could change.

Yes, your son’s dorm room is way nicer than yours was. Get over it.

“This is not fair. Goddamn it, we peed in a trough and took communal showers like we were in damn Attica.”  It’s all true. But please shut up about it. Your kids won’t be impressed: The old we-walked -to-school-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways speech doesn’t get any better when it goes to college.

And among your peers, all you’ll do is stir up repressed memories of mysterious odors, hazy, drunken bi-curious incidents, and an electric tea pot that some girl down the hall  borrowed and used to heat Campbells vegetable soup.  Yeah, that tea pot and my portable manual typewriter was shared by my entire dorm hall. My roommate and I shared one stereo, zero TVs and a wall phone in a 6-by-8-foot cell.  If you hung a poster, like my Cosmopolitan centerfold of Burt Reynolds in all his pre-SmokeyandtheBandit glory, you had to run it past Roomie because the room was so small you couldn’t not see everything in the room if your eyes were open.

I was all proud of myself that I bought a mini-frig for my kids for their dorm rooms (“Oooh! You can keep orange juice right in your room!“) and they just looked at me like I was from Little House on the Prairie.

Don’t buy into the Finals Week Care Package scam.

This one is so important that I wrote an entire blog post about it four years ago. [Fighting Care Package Guilt]  Depending on your child’s school and how likely it is that the head of residence halls is taking kickbacks from promotional gift basket companies, you may get a letter trying to guilt you into sending your child overpriced mini-snacks in containers that are mostly full of shredded accordion strips of brown paper. They have no shame in their quest to convince you that the good moms are all sending their kids care packages and if you don’t, well, your kid is bully meat and probably should be put on a suicide watch.

Here’s a snippet from an actual letter I received:

“Two students showed up to get their Care Packages. One beamed when she received her package. The other, whose family had not reserved a package, immediately used her cell phone and called Mom with a plaintive ‘You didn’t send me a Care Package?’

“Because so many students receive Care Packages during exam time, it can hurt if a student is left out. This year, we have a solution to make sure every student feels supported at this critical time.”

Really, head of residence halls? Really? Fortunately that letter had no effect on me. I had already caved, the previous year, and learned that they’re in over their heads. My son got his care package 24 hours after his last final and about an hour before he left for the airport to come home. He did say the four Wheat Thins were delicious.

No one knows where they find the people to work in the bursar’s office. Roswell is a good guess.

After making 26 tuition payments, I still don’t know a thing about how it works. How much you owe, when it’s due, what’s included, and what forms of payment are accepted, are apparently some kind of Hunger Games type test. I suggest you hire a CPA to deal with all college finance issues. And you better give him a nice bottle of wine at Christmas.

When my daughter and I were making her last semester payment, I said, “OK, now remember, they don’t accept checks, and will charge you 10% if you pay by credit card, but paying by e-check is free.” Except that in the past 6 months, they had changed the rules and now paying by credit card was free, e-checks carried a flat $75 fee, and people who even asked if they could pay by check had their names posted in the Commons, where the IT majors would laugh at them and burn stuff.

This is one case where less information is best. You don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. If you get a bill, pay it.  Or do your best. Don’t ask what an SSRTP-3 is and why you’re paying $115 for it. Don’t question the Activity Fee when you know for a fact that your son hasn’t participated in anything other than all-night Halo games with a kid from his dorm who dropped out of school two semesters ago. Stay under the bursar’s office radar so they don’t send in the storm troopers to challenge your residency.

And don’t even get me started on financial aid. My son had a scholarship and if that doesn’t scare the shit out of you, nothing will. The fear of not renewing and accepting the scholarship properly made me a nervous wreck. The financial aid office people at your child’s university aren’t from Roswell. But they were featured on an episode of The X Files.

Get ready for the Theory of Relativity to come to your house for brunch.

When your child first goes away to college, the first thing they’ll notice is that the world is different from their hometown and is full of strange and wonderful people and things. People live differently, use different terms for the fizzy beverage. Their new college friends will go through their high school yearbooks and tell them the nerdiest geek is hot and the BMOC looks like a loser.

This will turn everything on its head for your new collegian. And therefore, for you. Here’s a sample scenario of your first few conversations on that first trip home:

You: I thought I’d make your favorite, chicken pot pie, for dinner tonight. So happy to have you home!!

Her: Amber’s a vegan and her mother makes all of her meals in non-reactive bamboo cookware. Amber says eating chicken pot pie is like murdering someone’s grandparents.

You: I put fresh towels in your bathroom! They’re folded up next to the sink. So happy to have you home!

Her: Charissa’s parents are research chemists and in their house, all things made of cloth are kept in a round room in the center of the house, so when you need a towel or a shirt or something you just go to the round room and grab one. They are literally curing cancer and Charissa says that every minute you spend folding a towel, you could be literally saving a life.

You: I saw Mrs. Anderson, your favorite teacher, at Costco today. So happy. Happy to have you home.

Her: High school teachers are the reason why I will probably be a failure. Ryan was home schooled and he’s already taking advanced graduate-level physics. His parents allowed him to work at his own speed without the American education system bureaucracy holding him back and he finished high school in six months. He’s 11.

You: Sooooo happy to have you home. I hope we survive each other.

~ ~ ~

Read more of Diane’s Just Humor Me columns here.Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to get new blog post notifications. And if you like her blog, you’ll love her book, Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

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