I'm the oldest of three siblings, and I chose a school far from my home in California. Not only did my parents have to navigate the unknowns of sending their first child to college, but they had to figure out what that meant across the country. I talked to my Mom, Allison, and my Dad, Drew, about the experience and advice they'd share with other parents.
Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Emily: What was the biggest surprise when I left for college?
Allison: The biggest surprise was how I wasn’t upset when I dropped you offbecause I knew you were in such a good place that they would take care of you. I wasn’t prepared for when I got home and you weren’t there.
Drew: The biggest surprise when you left for college was how much I missed seeing you around the house and how ready you were to live independently.
What do you wish you knew before I left for school?
A: I wish I knew how to understand what you needed in school in terms of academic requirements. I’ve been surprised at the gen-eds you’ve still had to take even going in with all the AP credits you had.
I think for how large Indiana is, I’ve been completely shocked at how personal and how responsive your professors have been.
D: I wish I knew Southwest was going to discontinue their direct flights to Indianapolis.
What advice would you give another parent whose oldest child is leaving for college?
A: I would tell them that it’s the coming home that’s the hardest — knowing that they’re not therebecause the family dynamic does change. But know that they’re in a really good place, and take comfort in knowing that they’re really happy. Even on the days when they call and they’re sad, you know it’s only temporary because they’re still in a really good place.
D: I would tell them to worry less and trust their kids more because everything will turn out ok. The breath of opportunities at Indiana allows your child to do whatever they wish, and that doesn't have to be known in any way before they go to school.
Did the family dynamic change, and do you have advice on how to deal with that?
D: The balance of power shifted to the men in the house, and it became an increasingly tough battle for the leftover female.
A: It’s tough because each family definitely has a different dynamic. I think I’ve had to learn to speak up more because I have one less person to be on my side. When it’s three-to-two,it’s easier to get the other three to come over. When it’s three-to-one, it’s a little harder.
As a parent from out-of-state, is there anything you would tell another out-of-state parent?
A: I actually liked the fact that you’re out of state because I felt that it forced you to handle situations that if you lived closely, you wouldn’t. You would come home. But by having you out of state, when you got sick or you had a problem, you didn’t just run home. You had to figure it out.
And while it’s hard because you can’t just come home when you want, you just have to be organized and say, OK , these are the times I’m going to come home, and in between those times, we’re just going to have to work through the distance.
D: It's an unbelievably warm and welcoming environment. No matter where they're from, they will be positively surprised.