An Open Letter to College Freshman

As my son moves into his college dorm 400 miles from home, it seems wasteful to send him off with my sage advice without sharing it with others.

As I sit here in a hotel room in far off Buffalo ready to move my first born son into his dorm, I can’t help but think of all the other parents and children embarking on this same life-changing event. So I thought an open letter to entering college freshman might be appropriate.

Dear child whose parents are crying,

The moment you have been planning for is finally here - you are off to college. This is your time to shine and you should prepare to shine brightly.

For those of you who are leaving home, remember although it is a rite of passage and part of becoming an adult, you are not leaving your family. They will always be a part of you. They were there in the beginning when you came into their lives, they watched over you and kept you safe and loved you every single day for all these years. They share your memories of preschool finger paintings, little league, dance recitals, gymnastics, Brownies, Cub Scouts and more. Your life has been their life and it is now time you go on to find your own.

College is a place to spread your wings and grow. Where you can flex your intellectual muscles and soak in the knowledge that surrounds you. Until now school has been a requirement. College is a choice - a choice to further your education and build on your life experiences. Make the most of your time. Pick interesting classes wherever you can (you’ll always have to take the boring ones). Study hard, do the best work you can. There is plenty of time to have fun and study.

Speaking of fun, this new chapter of your life will find you making lifelong friends. Pick people who are fun, caring, smart, funny, honest and loyal. Get to know all different kinds of people… life’s more interesting that way. Choose your friends wisely.

Sadly, chances are the economy will not have fully rebounded by the time you graduate and getting a job sucks. Employers choose people who show their abilities through their hard work, participation in activities and a willingness to help others. So join things - clubs, intramural sports, community service activities. Get to know your professors and advisors. They will come in handy when you need a reference or recommendation and a lot of them have contacts in the ‘real world’ which will help tremendously when you are job seeking. Be very nice to them.

When you’re uncertain on how to proceed and you’re tempted to do something you know you shouldn’t or something that isn’t exactly legal, remember: you will now be treated as an adult. There are no do-overs. Don’t throw away your entire future for a night of illegal fun.

If you ever doubt yourself in college, remember this day has been years in the making and though you may not feel it right now, you are ready. Believe in what you can accomplish and you will accomplish great things! This is a BIG change in your life, and although change can be hard, it’s nothing you can’t handle. Give yourself time to learn ‘the ropes’ and ask for help. There are many people that will have the answers you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask.

You will be making decisions in college that will affect your life years from now. Make choices that will be good for you; your choice of study should reflect you, not your parents or your friends. Get all the information you need to make good selections. Trust your judgment.

Now be fearless and start your adventure! And don’t forget to call your parents. They need to hear from you at times other than when you need money!

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Monica Romero Matthews August 24, 2013 at 09:37 AM
LOVE this, thank you! We took or 2nd so to college last week. I'm sad, yet so excited for him! :)
Stacey Reilly Cowgill August 25, 2013 at 11:22 AM
Thank you for this...I'm still a year away from this moment, but I can remember the day my mom walked out of my dorm room like it was yesterday, and these thoughts are an absolutely perfect reflection of what we did, are or will be going through. Thank you.
Janet August 26, 2013 at 04:55 PM
To the nay sayers, the cynical ones above...the males that wrote....I feel sorry for you...Kids read more than we think, they listen more than we think and even if they don't acknowledge it they are happy to know we care. I just left my one and only at college and your writing is wonderful Loren. I hope to send it to her and even if she gets 2 things out of it I'll be happy. Thank you for a beautifully written piece.
CMS August 26, 2013 at 05:03 PM
I sent mine off with a memory jar...sounds corny but it helped me get through it. They partied with the best of them but I know for sure that they read and enjoyed and laughed and cried while reading some of the memories I had written. This letter might not even be appreciated til they have kids of their own but don't think for a minute that it wont be appreciated. You have your priorities and heart in the right place.
Gloria Linhart Ketter September 05, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Henry, I beg to differ. Maybe you had a bad experience with your own children or you can't relate like mothers do, but I know for a fact that the kids do take to heart what this letter says. It may not be apparent immediately, but they store it away and use it when they really need it. While there is always exception to the rule, MOST kids will appreciate what this letter is saying if you've raise them right.


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