Archive for Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mother reviews life lessons as daughter begins college life

July 2, 2008

It's official. : I've entered a new phase of life as the parent of a high school graduate and college-bound student.

Now that my daughter has enrolled at Kansas State University, I feel compelled to have a crash course review of all those life lessons that I've tried to teach over the past 15 or 16 years. The first thing that comes to mind is: Have a plan. Whether it is a plan for how to spend time, how to spend money or how to react to an emergency situation, always have a plan.

At our parent-orientation session, the dean of the college told us to consider the "learning the college transition" as a three-hour class. With her adviser's assistance (and some parental input), our daughter decided on a class schedule that will hopefully keep her challenged, yet not overwhelmed, as she settles into her new routine. In addition to formal class and study time, her schedule also will include weekly duties at her scholarship house and, more than likely, one extracurricular organization. With all of these activities to consider, I am hoping she will use the student planner that we bought at the bookstore to its fullest capacity!

Though we didn't see an abundance of credit card companies at orientation, they often have a strong presence in the first few weeks when students are back on campus. College campuses are prime targets for recruiting new accounts. In 2000, Nellie Mae, lender of educational loans, found that 32 percent of undergraduates applying for financial aid had four or more credit cards. Undergraduates carried an average balance of $2,748, and 13 percent had credit card debt between $3,000 and $7,000. Nine percent had credit card debt greater than $7,000. Talk to your student about that 'free' T-shirt they are offered when they sign up for a credit card. It may be easy to get several credit cards, but it becomes difficult to pay the credit card bills they will be tempted to incur. Credit card companies like college students because they are betting that most parents will pay the credit card bill if or when the student cannot.

Personal safety in an emergency situation is a concern for every parent. Student tragedies in recent years have prompted college administrators to examine their emergency management plans. Twenty-first-century technologies have increased the capacity to inform and protect students in emergency situations. At K-State, officials use a variety of communication methods to alert the university community about a crisis, danger or natural disaster, including reverse 911 telephone calling system, text messaging, and Web page overrides. Encourage your student to investigate and sign up for any available emergency alert systems that their campus provides.

As we send our firstborn off to college, I am reminded of Robert Fulghum's thoughts regarding life lessons:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at elementary school. These are the things I learned:

¢ Share everything.

¢ Play fair.

¢ Don't hit people.

¢ Put things back where you found them.

¢ Clean up your own mess.

¢ Don't take things that aren't yours.

¢ Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

¢ Wash your hands before you eat.

¢ Flush.

¢ Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

¢ Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

¢ Take a nap every afternoon.

¢ When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

¢ Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

¢ Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.

¢ And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere: The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world, and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.


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