Colleges Trick Parents Into Letting Go Already

Taking your five-year-old to her first day of Kindergarten is one thing. Lingering, while not advised, is totally understandable. As is making sure your child’s name is spelled correctly on her butterfly name tag, that she knows which class is hers and that she understands the procedure for after school care.

Like I said, it’s Kindergarten — not college.

And yet. And yet! There are parents who never learned to step back during those 13 years of first days of school. Instead of helping their 18-year-old son move into the dorms and taking him out to one last lunch and, finally, saying good-bye, parents are sticking around. For a very, very long time. As a result, colleges, being centers of learning like they are, have to teach parents how to leave.


The New York Times has a round-up of not-so-subtle ways colleges and universities are giving Mom and Dad the move-in day heave-ho. Some schedule parent departure ceremonies, others say college starts promptly at 4 p.m. on move-in day, others list student-only activities that college freshmen can point to as a good time for parents to hit the road.

By now, we’ve all become accustomed to the antics of overinvolved “helicopter” parents — the ones whose kids couldn’t tie their own shoes in second grade, the ones who went after AP English teachers in hopes of getting Junior a better grade on his essay. Such actions are but a warm-up, it seems, to going off to college. The Times tells us about one woman’s parents who went to all of their daughter’s classes with her on the first day — and then marched in lock-step to the registrar’s office where they tinkered with her schedule a bit.

Another mom, according to the Times, hung around Princeton for several days in case her son — who was accepted into a smarty-pants Ivy League university, mind you — needed her help with anything.

I get it, I really do. Though my oldest is only nine, I already know that I’ll be beyond teary-eyed and worried when she heads off to college. First day of Kindergarten was its own special kind of happy-sadness for me and I imagine not having her home every night means that happy-sadness will be amplified. But it’s college, she’ll be an adult, she’ll be in charge. Not me.

But what if she needs my help? Well, the thing is: she won’t.

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