Institutionally Speaking ….

As your child prepares for college, you prepare for a new relationship with that college. Even if you’ve already sent a kid or two off to college and feel somewhat prepared for the transition, you need to remember that you’ve got a steep learning curve.

Each college has its own way of handling financial aid, communication with parents, hours needed for degrees, approach to orientation, etc. and you need to be able to navigate all of the uniqueness.

For example, at a recent orientation session, we had a professor gleefully tell us that “DePaul actually has 6 quarters a year …. and a four credit hour class meets for three hours each week in the classroom. Welcome to DePaul math.” As if math weren’t challenging enough! But both of these are a perfect example of the uniqueness of each college.

The best thing I ever heard was that you should keep the school handbook and schedule of courses from when you start school. Those documents are a sort of contract between you and the school. They spell out what you need to accomplish to receive a degree and provide back up should you need to revisit any issues. No one wants to get to their theoretical last quarter to find out that basket weaving did not double count at a Phys Ed requirement and an art requirement. Miscommunications like that can cost an extra quarter or two of school.

University of Chicago starts ‘first years’ (yes, they don’t use the more standard reference ‘freshmen’… each college its own paradigm!) a week before all other students. It all starts with move-in day, which combines plastic boxes and new extra long sheets with a extra curricular fair and lots of food. The day culminates in Rockefeller Chapel, where various speakers make you laugh, cry and think about the adventure that is starting. From the Chapel, students and parents follow a bagpiper through the Quad and up to the official gates to the university. There parents and students separate, the students proceeding through the gates into the university (their new home) and parents take a side road to a reception, which I can only hope had a little bit of alcohol served, though I’ll never know as I took my leaky face home after I said goodbye to my daughter.

If you were stoic and could manage not to cry for your own situation, the pain and drama surrounding you as many children and parents went through the process of separating was enough to bring even the most stoney to damp cheeks.

DePaul has a course that all freshmen take … and they have the option of taking one that starts a week early or one that starts with fall classes, after Labor Day. My son opted to start early, so the end of August we’ll be driving to DePaul with too much in the car, to drop him off to start his adventures. I don’t believe DePaul has a ceremony for this – seems unlikely given they show up at different times – so I can only hope to maintain facial leakage to a minimum!

According to those who have gone before, U of C brings the first year ceremony full circle, as graduation happens on the Quad and students process back through those darned gates, leaving the university and rejoining their families. More kleenex …. argh!


Categories: General


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