The summer before the first year of college. It is an interesting summer – for both parents and students. There is the anticipation and excitement – but that is coupled with stress, nerves, and the emotions of leaving home and friends behind. Parents need to be especially patient – both with themselves and with their students – as you both navigate this new territory.
One of the characteristics of this summer before college is that feeling of in-between that most high school graduates/not yet college freshmen feel. They are of both worlds, yet not really of either. It is a strange, somewhat homeless feeling for many students.
No longer high school
It is likely that for much of the last year of high school your senior couldn’t wait to be done. The focus for several years has been on getting into college – the grades, the activities, the college visits, the applications, the acceptance, the decision. Once the goal of college admission was accomplished, many students settled into a few weeks, or months, of senioritis – finishing out the year.
The end of senior year is, in many ways, one big send off. There may have been senior projects, senior week or senior days, perhaps a senior trip, senior prom, graduation, parties. But now high school is finished. Your senior no longer belongs there. The junior class may already have had a move-up or step-up day.
As soon as all of the senior activities are over, many high school students settle immediately into their summer jobs or may even head away to camps, summer homes, or even an early program at college. Students no longer see each other routinely, and some are already turning their focus elsewhere. Your student can already feel the bonds that have existed for many years loosening. In spite of the ability to stay connected through technology as they head in separate directions, this is the summer of many goodbyes, and of knowing that many long-term friendships will change.
Not yet college
In spite of the college sweatshirt or T-shirt your student may have purchased, in spite of a possible early orientation event, in spite of friendly e-mails from admissions offices, upperclassmen, and possibly a new roommate, your student does not yet quite feel like a member of the college community. It is impossible to feel a part of something you have not yet experienced.
It will happen, but it will take time. Your student will need to live on campus, attend classes regularly, and begin to make connections before she feels like a true member of the new incoming class. She is a college student in name only right now.
Living the transition . . .
And so your college student may spend much of this Senior Summer feeling unanchored. She is living at the crossroads of no longer and not yet. It is much like moving to a new neighborhood or a new town and not yet feeling “at home” in your new community but knowing that someone else lives in your former home and you can’t return. There is excitement and anticipation, but that unsettling feeling of not quite belonging either place. Home doesn’t exist yet.
It is helpful to remember that your student will feel the stress of uncertainty and displacement this summer. Be patient. Recognize that your student wants to spend all of the time that he possibly can with his old friends because, although he may not recognize it consciously, he feels something changing. Recognize that he may not be ready to jump into preparations for college because he doesn’t yet feel a part of that world just yet either.
. . . For everyone
And while you are being patient with your student, remember to be patient with yourself. You may be feeling some of the transition intersection as well. No longer a high school parent, but not yet a college parent, you may be unsure of your own role. Find some time for yourself, talk to other parents – especially those who have already made this transition, and read some books (or perhaps College Parent Central posts!) to familiarize yourself with what to expect.
Senior Summer can be trying, interesting, and even exciting if you give both your student and yourself time to find that new home where you both feel comfortable.