For soon-to-be college freshmen, the summer before their first year of college is a time of excitement and emotion.
It’s exciting because a new chapter in their life is set to begin, but it’s also emotional because moving to college might be the first time they’ve ever left home.
Going off to college is such a big experience for young people because it’s the first time for virtually all of them to live and act independently of their parents.
“They’re really excited about that, and not so much because they can’t wait to get away from their parents, but more because they can’t wait to be ‘adults,’ making their own decisions,” says Paula Steiner, the college and career center coordinator at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake.
Steiner assists students at all grade levels with anything involving post-high school planning. Students often ask her, “What’s college like?”
“College really is as much fun as you’ve heard it is, but only if you get your priorities straight first,” Steiner says she tells them. “As long as you focus on the academic stuff first, you really will have a blast. The kids who truly have incredible college experiences are the ones who find a balance between the work and the fun. It shouldn’t be all studying. But, it can’t be all partying either.”
As for the big move-in day, Steiner advises students to not over pack.
“Your parents will probably be back in a month for parents’ weekend,” she says. “They can bring anything you forgot then.”
Students will be able to buy things once they’re at school. Plus, it may make sense to wait to see what may be needed or to check with a roommate once he or she arrives.
It’s also a good idea for students to research to see what items aren’t permitted in the dorms as well as to find out what items may already be in them. Most college websites have move-in checklists and information about how to prepare to move in to the dorms.
There are many things parents can do to prepare their kids for college success. Steiner believes the best way parents can prepare their kids is to actually start doing less for them in the year or two leading up to the time when the student will leave for college.
“Students who had parents who did everything for them and made all decisions for them have the most difficult adjustments,” she says.
“High school juniors and seniors can start learning to budget their time by setting the alarm and getting themselves up and out the door in the morning for school, and they can start doing their own laundry and learning how to cook some simple meals.”
Far Away From Home
All set on attending DePaul University, Jeremy Fillipp, 18, says Steiner tried hard to “sell” him on going to Baruch College in New York City.
Eventually, he had to sell her on the idea.
The recent Prairie Ridge High School graduate went back and forth between DePaul and Baruch. But the prospect of moving to New York kept making him unsure.
However, he had visited several times — his first time for a school choir trip — and was very comfortable in the city. He finally made a decision.
Now all set to attend Baruch, Fillipp and his family have spent the summer getting ready for the big move. He says it’s going to be a very minimal move for him.
“All I have to bring are my clothes and a toothbrush,” says Fillipp, who will major in business.
He will live in a dorm located inside a hotel which has a few floors of rooms converted into dorms for the college. His room has many essentials such as a bed, TV and refrigerator already in it.
Fillipp’s mother, Michelle Moore, and his stepfather, Scott Moore, say he’s very responsible and independent, and the move from Cary to New York shouldn’t be a major transition for him.
“I’m excited for Jeremy to do his thing,” Scott Moore says. “We are very confident he’ll be a success.”
Michelle Moore says it’s bittersweet to see her only child go away to a college that’s so far away from home, but she knows he’s going to have the time of his life.
“I’m treating this like he’s going into the Marines,” she says. “And he’s not going to come back for a while.”
Best Friends Forever
Elaine Cotter and Rachel Van Doorn, also graduates of Prairie Ridge, are both nervous and excited about going to college. Cotter is off to Indiana University to study musical theater, while Van Doorn will attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison to become a doctor.
Best friends since the fifth grade, the 18-year-old girls agree the distance is going to be tough on them.
“It’s going to be very different being away from each other,” Cotter says. “Rachel is the first person I always call. But we’re going off to create our own four years.”
They have made the most of their time together this summer.
Of her impending move, Cotter says her mother is taking it especially hard, since she is the last of three daughters to go to college. But her mom is embracing the inevitable send-off and preparing her daughter for when she’s not at home.
“As long as I can remember, my mom has put sticky notes everywhere around the house as reminders for me,” Cotter says. “She stopped doing that this summer, so I can get used to doing things on my own.”
Van Doorn, meanwhile, is the oldest of three siblings and the first to go to college, which makes her nervous because she’s “setting the bar” for her siblings. But she’s also ecstatic to be on her own, as is her father, because she’s attending a Big Ten school.
Time to Let Go
Chrissy Jordanoz, 18, of Algonquin, waited all summer for it to feel like she was moving to Michigan for college. In July, at freshman orientation, it started to sink in. Then, when she and her mother, Gina, started to go shopping, it really hit her.
Jordanoz recently graduated from Jacobs High School and will attend Grand Valley State University in the fall. She plans to major in dance and minor in business; she was accepted into Grand Valley’s dance program, too. Jordanoz danced at The Summers Academy of Dance/Berkshire Ballet Theater for 13 years.
She has heard a lot about what college is like, but she says she’s going in with an open mind. Gina Jordanoz says everything her daughter will experience in college will allow her to grow into a wonderful young woman.
As Chrissy is her last child to attend college, Gina Jordanoz says an empty home will be very different.
But she and her husband, Alex, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is the way life should be,” she says. “We need to let them go.”
As college move-in day approaches, Gina Jordanoz says it’s going to be difficult to have her daughter in another state, but at the same time, she’s proud of her daughter’s accomplishments.
This is how Gina Jordanoz envisions the college send-off:
“We’ll say our good byes, and go home,” she says. “And then cry all the way home.”