If you are a college student or the parent of one, I don’t need to tell you that your summer is over.
No matter what the calendar says, the fall semester is here, or almost. Most freshmen report for Orientation about now, with classes beginning shortly. Remember the good old days, when the fall semester started after Labor Day?
Yes, cars packed to the brim with necessities, like shower caddies and extra-long bed sheets and laptops, are chugging along the highways destined for college campuses. With a mixture of sadness and relief, parents move their children in to their new homes away from home, and return to the old homestead, tearfully wondering where the years went.
By then, however, the newly minted freshmen are getting to know their room mates and finding out how cool it is to be in college. And once they begin Orientation, the fun really begins.
If you are a new college parent, let me tell you that Orientation is a whole new ball of wax from what it was in our day. The tedious stuff, like registering for classes, is done in advance online. Orientation is now Party Central.
Do you remember your Orientation? It was like, what, one day of intense boringness? Perhaps something like this happened on your first day.
You arrive on campus and have no idea where to go. A cheerful upperclassman directs you to the gym.
The gym is at least 125 degrees because, after all, these are the dog days of summer and there is no AC. You stand in line to register for a course, beads of perspiration dotting your upper lip. Finally, it is your turn. An unsmiling administrator hands you a course slip. You suddenly realize, uh oh, there’s a conflict. You’ve made a mistake. Unsmiling Administrator is motioning to the student behind you. You back away slowly.
Ugh. You’ve scheduled Sosh and Econ for the same time block. You glance furtively around the gym. No one else seems to be having an issue. Students are happily exiting the gym with their well-conceived course schedules. You start to doubt your college worthiness.
You get back in line. This time to drop/add. You drop Sosh and add Ballroom Dancing. It’s the only course left.
Off to the bookstore you go. There are lines snaking around the store. You search the shelves for dozens of required textbooks. Almost finished, you manage to drop your armload of books. All over the floor. Which you wish you could drop through somehow. You feel the intensity of many curious eyes as you scramble to gather your things.
Cute Guy standing in line offers to help. He asks you where you live, what your major is, what your sign is. Turns out he’s taking Ballroom Dancing, too. Things start looking better. Maybe college will be OK after all.
And now, as a college graduate and the mother of three college graduates, I still wax nostalgic this time every year. Freshmen, I hope you will soak up every experience during these once-in-a-lifetime, incredibly exhausting, amazingly wonderful four years.
And parents? You’ll miss them. But the empty nest can be kind of nice, too.