tag : college, dorm style, first year of college, Renovation Bootcamp, Robin Siegerman, way to school
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Ok, take a deep breath. There is no way to sugar-coat this.
Sending your child away to college for the first time is no walk in the dog park.
It ain’t no pic-nic. No piece o’ cake.
A no-brainer this is not.
No matter how prepared you think you are, when the days start counting down to that one where you have to either drive your child to the college dorm across town, or put them on a plane or drive them across the country in a car loaded like the Griswold’s woody-wagon on the way to Wally World theme park, everyone’s tummies are likely to be doing the mambo at warp speed.
Although my son Julian is now in grad school for journalism and has been gone for 5 years, I remember the first day like it was a minute ago. The lead-up was a bit like packing him up for camp, which we’d done every summer since he’d been 12. I had a list of things we needed to buy and went about it like most mums do:
- sweat pants
- flannel pants
- stationary items
No biggie, he’d been away at camp for 2 months at a time, so I figured even if he only made it home for Thanksgiving (which is the second Monday in October in Canada), it would be just like coming home from camp, I told myself.
The university he was heading off to was only 2 hours from home, so an easy drive to visit, I told myself.
But anyway, he’ll come home some weekends, I told myself.
I should have told myself I had no idea what I was talking about. Bingo, bongo, bimbo, dumbo. D’oh!
The impact of this day doesn’t have much to do with physical distance (unless your child is going to Europe, Australia or New Zealand). It has everything to do with being the end of an era.
When the day actually came and we packed up the U-Haul and the three of us and the two dogs piled in and pulled out of the driveway, it struck me like a bullet between the eyes, that even if he boomerangs back, his return will only be temporary.
Well, we pulled ino the Ding-Dong Diner in College Town for brekkie before unloading at the dorm, and I have to say I’ve never had such trouble choking down fried eggs on a waffle, salsa, hash browns, sausage, toast, fried tomatoes, orange juice and coffee…
After brekkie, we headed over to the dorm to unload the truck. I had to use every ounce of self control NOT to unpack his clothes and make his bed! I thought it was important that he not be branded a mummy’s boy on the first day.
We finally had no more excuses to hang around so hugged about 47 times before heading back to the truck. I managed to hold myself together until we drove through the campus gates, but then I had to pull over since I couldn’t see to drive.
I must’ve had something in my eye. Yeah, that was it.
Holy cabbage roll, Babushka!
Who am I now?
I knew I was still a mum in a broad-brush kind of way. But tomorrow, the next day and the next, I wasn’t going to have to start the day trying to yank him out of bed to get to school. No more packing his lunch. No more making sure we had a nightly family sit-down of yummy, healthy dinners.
What gave me some comfort was that we’d prepared him and ourselves as well as could be expected. There are myriad websites and blog posts that will help you and your freshman college student, some of which I’ve put together on the Dorm Style Resource page for you, but here are a few points from ones we found helpful and what we learned from having gone through the experience ourselves:
- Acknowledge to yourselves and your child that you are no longer in complete control of their lives. You have to trust that your parenting has given them the grounding they’ll need.
- Encourage them to find and visit 4 things very soon after they arrive on campus before they actually need them: the cafeteria, bank, medical clinic, and academic counselor.
- Suggest that they sign up in the first few days for an extra-curricular activity, either a club or a sport. Having a ready-made group of like-minded friends in a club will help them feel less alien and alone.
- Talk to them about finances before they go! Whether you can afford to support them or not, now is the time to help them establish a budget. You won’t do them any favors by either giving them credit-carte-blanche or letting them sink-or-swim on their own. What you do now will set them up with a habit for life.
And for the last piece of advice I’ll give you, which is really my area of greatest expertise:
5. Help them plan to take or buy things to make their dorm room or apartment cozy and home-like. Girls are particularly interested in making their rooms pretty but boys shouldn’t be left out of this activity. There may be a different aesthetic priority for girls and boys about what will make a room feel comfortable and homey (just to be clear, when I say homey, I’m referring to the room, not him), but helping him establish a comfortable space can help boost the excitement factor of having an independent place and keep home-sickness at bay for any gender.
Find out before you go if there is a common kitchen area with the basics like an electric kettle, fridge, coffee maker, toaster and microwave. If not, you might want to invest in these things so your child can make a cup of tea, a piece of toast and the student’s gourmet treat: Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner! You’ll be surprised how affordable these things are, and take it from me, they will be very well used over the next several years as they go through school and then set up their apartments.
There are some great options like a toaster/griddle/coffee maker combo, and a mini fridge/microwave combo that you can find along with a whole bunch of other cools stuff on the Dorm Style Resource Page.
Most dorm rooms have a desk as well as a twin bed to start. So here are a few other things I suggest that can really take a dorm room from prison-cell-bland to warm and cozy:
- LIGHTING. A desk lamp is crucial and doesn’t have to be an ugly mofo.
- Lighting is one of the most important atmosphere creation elements in a well designed room whether it’s in a dorm or a home. And because teens are big into creating atmosphere, a string of mini white lights or patio lights or a combo will give the room a festive feel with very low voltage, so no worries if they fall asleep with the lights on. Even guys like the effect of mini white lights, but they might not like it if you call them Twinkle Lights, like girls are apt to do….just sayin’…
Or, guys might appreciate the beer mug string of lights:
But girls might prefer the butterfly lights:
- BEDDING. Unlike sending your child to summer camp where it doesn’t matter what the bedding looks like since the bed will end up getting sandy, full of twigs, leaves and creepy crawling things of the non-human variety, dorm bedding should sport the colors that your teen loves, around which they can build the decor.
- WINDOW COVERINGS. Many quilt sets like the one above, has a matching shower curtain in a fabric with separate plastic liner. This is a great way to get a limited length of fabric at a bargain-basement price with which to make a FAUX ROMAN SHADE for the window with some co-ordinating ribbon and no sewing required. Just have a roll of double-sided tape handy (you can get it in a big box store in the carpet aisle), and you’re good to go. You can find the matching shower curtain for the bedding above on the Dorm Style Resource page.
- SCATTER RUG. Most dorm floors are institutional linoleum or some other GAWDAWFUL composite tile in a putrid greenish grey or banal beige, so a small 3′ x 5′ rug with colors that tie into the bedding will be a welcome landing spot for the bare tootsies in the morning. If it’s washable so much the better. You never know what’s going to end up landing on that sucker alongside the feet…just sayin’….
- ART. I know family photos aren’t really in the art category, but if you don’t slip one in their duffel bag, they might only be able to look at you on their (gasp!) smart phone. So set a day on the weekend to have some fun taking family selfies, then add some fun filters on my favorite photo editing web site PicMonkey (I think they called it that because it’s so easy to use even I can do it!), print and add it to a fun frame and send it off to college.
To visually increase the size of the room in a dramatic way, consider using a removable mural. With hundreds of images to choose from, or even create your own custom image, there’s going to be something for every taste. Find them at MuralsYourWay.
With a squeegee and a second pair of hands, it’s an easy installation and can be easily peeled off at the end of the year. You can find more mural ideas here.
Now to pull it all together for her….
And for him…
If you want to find any of the products on the mood boards above, contact me here.
If your college student wants help pulling together a dorm room scheme with shopping links for where to buy the products, until the end of August, I’m offering a back to school special package of a customized Dormstyle Moodboard like the ones above, and product shopping list for $50.00 USD which is a $200 saving off my regular price! (Canadian residents apply applicable sales tax). But even better, when you buy products from the shopping links, you’ll get great products at low prices and I’ll donate 20% of the affiliate revenue to Covenant House…
…a great organization that helps kids who have no where else to go. They may have suffered abuse or neglect and certainly don’t have college to look forward to, and my heart hurts when I think there are kids who are lonely and scared. So I hope you’ll help me help them.
For a customized, Dormstyle Moodboard and shopping list, contact me here.
In the meantime, if you like this post and want my weekly articles to come straight to your inbox without having to earn a degree first, you can sign up here and as a thank you, you’ll receive a free copy of my Kitchen Planner e-book that you can use for yourself or share with anyone else you might know who’s getting ready to do a kitchen remodel and as a special bonus, until the end of August, you’ll get the Dormstyle Resource Page which you can share!
If you have a college story to share, I’d love to hear it! Leave it in the comments section below and let me know whether I’ll need a box of tissue handy!