Why you should Leave your Parents at Home when you Leave for College

I have been working/teaching/advising in college since I graduated in 1982. Ok, I know I’m old. Basically, I never left-I just keep on going. It’s been a good life. But in all the time I have worked with students, I have never seen what I am seeing now. What am I seeing? Students who can’t or won’t think for themselves.

Your parents love you-maybe too much when it’s time to make the transition from high school to college. University administrators everywhere are learning to cope with “helicopter parents.” Please, don’t let your parents hover. Here’s an example of the problem: I was helping a new student register for fall classes this afternoon. After a 1-hour presentation, she said, “I wasn’t really paying attention. What should I take?”

Welcome to college kids-it’s time you make your own decisions. This is a student who is not going to be successful. She is not ready to come to college. And dad-who came into the room-let her leave without registering for classes. He didn’t seem at all concerned when I told her she needed to have a schedule before she left this afternoon. “YO, the whole reason you came to campus today was to register!” No, I didn’t say that to her and her dad, but I really wanted to. So I’ll tell you.

Here’s what I know: A student who can’t make a simple decision about picking some basic classes for fall semester is going to end up in academic trouble. If she actually comes to campus this fall, I would bet big money she will be on probation at the end of her first semester.

Believe me, I’ve seen it over and over. If you want to succeed in college, you need to start now by learning to make your own decisions. Now, I don’t want to tell you that you can’t ask for help. You should ask for help; that’s one of the signs of your growing up. Ask for help, but make your own choices. Do not let mom and dad send you off to be a biology major and say you want to be a doctor if what you really want is to study literature and read great books.

Your education depends on you-not your parents. Yes, I know they are probably footing the bill. Say thank you. Say thank you often and with great sincerity. Then say “I’m going to be a fine arts major. I don’t like business classes.” What you major in has very little to do with what kind of career you are going to have. Get the education you want-the career thing will happen. You can’t possible know what you want to spend your life doing at the time of high school graduation. Ok, some of you know. I knew. But that’s the exception and not the rule! And even though I said I knew, what I knew changed. I did become a teacher, but I never set foot in a middle school. My original idea was that I would be a junior high English teacher. I ended up a college speech teacher. It works for me.

Some of you have known for years that you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant. Great. Go for it. If you aren’t sure, find a major in an area you want to spend time studying. Love math? Okay, be a math major. That doesn’t mean that when you graduate you have to be a math teacher, or statistician, or whatever it is you think math majors do. It means that you have an education with an emphasis in math and can face the world to do what ever you want (even be a lawyer-if that’s what you are interested in).

Bottom line: Don’t let your parents tell you what to do. Ask for their opinion-ask for lots of opinions-but start making your own decisions today. You’ve already learned one of the most important life lessons you can get from attending a university.

Next time, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t live at home if you can afford not to!