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College Out of State - What was the hardest thing about your child's transition?

pierre0913pierre0913 Posts: 7,598Registered User Senior Member
edited November 2012 in Parents Forum
I'm part of a group at my college that is looking at out of state students and what we could do to increase retention and help with their transition to a different environment. I personally have my own experience as an out of state student but thought it was cool if I posted on here to see what other parents thought (doubt many current students check this site). We are planning on having focus groups of out of state students next semester and are trying to come up with discussion topics or questions we could ask.

That being said, if your son or daughter went to college out of state,
1. What do you think was the most difficult thing about their transition? What do you wish you would have known or thought about before choosing a college away from home?
2. Is there anything the college could have done more to help?
3. Anything that you thought the college did well that helped with their transition?
Post edited by pierre0913 on
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Replies to: College Out of State - What was the hardest thing about your child's transition?

  • intparentintparent Posts: 13,291Registered User Senior Member
    I think colleges that have some kind of program prior to the start of classes (camping, or some kind of bonding type thing) seem to have fewer issues with this. Helping students form friendship groups is huge for student happiness. If a high percentage of the students are in-state, then they may already have friends... that can be hard to break into if you are from far away. Also, if a lot of students are local, they may go home to family and friends on the weekends more often. Making sure there are campus activities and get togethers on weekends for the students who remain on campus would be useful. This would probably be quite unpopular at some colleges, but no cars for freshman makes EVERYONE stay on campus more, and improves the campus life and opportunities for the freshman class to bond.

    Also, maybe things like nightly snacks at the library might make them feel more at home, too (the sort of thing Mom might do for them if they were close to home). :)
  • BayBay Posts: 10,668Registered User Senior Member
    I think intparent nailed it - being an OOS at a college where most students live in the region can make breaking into friendship groups more challenging, and weekends and short holidays lonely/stressful if one's home is a plane-ride away. I'm not sure what colleges can do to encourage inclusion, other than perhaps not allow students to pre-choose roommates. Weekend/holiday events would be good.
  • shoot4moonshoot4moon Posts: 760Registered User Member
    DD came from CA to MA, and had zero trouble adjusting. I think a huge part of this was the FYSOP program that Boston University does, where about 1000 freshman volunteer for a week in the community in an area of interest. The students are part of teams that ride the t, meet community members, and make friends while working together. They had great activities at night, too! Much less awkward than simply social stuff.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 36,837Registered User Senior Member
    By "out of state", do you mean MA->RI, or MA->HI?
  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot Posts: 792Registered User Member
    One of the things schools can do is to provide good food options over short breaks. My son is at a school that has a short fall break and there were no dining halls open on campus. If a student's home requires a plane ride it is unlikely that they will be going home for a break that lasts only a few days. However, it was disheartening to my son that he was on his own for food during that time.
  • 2016BarnardMom2016BarnardMom Posts: 1,723Registered User Senior Member
    I agree on the food during short breaks issue. The other weekend that was difficult for my D and her roommate was parent's weekend. Between move in costs and outrageously expensive Thanksgiving airfare, there was no way I could afford to go for parent's weekend. The fact that there are no inexpensive hotels in NYC doesn't help either! Having some kind of distraction for kids whose parents can't get there would help so they don't feel left out.

    My other frustration at the moment is that my D's school hasn't released the finals schedule yet. She has one final but doesn't know whether it is Dec. 14 or Dec. 20 or somewhere in between. I really want to get her plane ticket soon because those prices will be skyrocketing, especially if her exam is the 20th.
  • glidoglido Posts: 5,076Registered User Senior Member
    I think that all of hte above are true. I also think that some 18-year-olds are cut out for the big move and some are not. It is not always easy to discern, but you have to really address the issue honestly. My take is that everyone gets a little homesick, but for some it can be such an issue that it tends to dominate the freshman experience. (it does not always correlate with distance)
  • walkinghomewalkinghome Posts: 6,938Registered User Senior Member
    Great points in the above posts! I think communicating clearly with the OOS students about transportation options is key too. It would be good if colleges close to each other would charter buses for the long breaks that would take students to at least the large cities.

    I found out that my youngest son's college has a take out meal if the student is sick, but I only found out about it through the parents FB page when someone asked. A whole sheet (or page on colleges website) of info like that - food, storage, transportation, temporary housing, etc. would be great to have.

    Also, when my kids were freshman it would have been so nice to have a local map with store locations.
  • MyLBMyLB Posts: 1,102Registered User Senior Member
    This isn't going to be much help because I think most kids who go far-ish away from home know what they're getting into, and probably ended up where they did because they wanted some separation. Also, kids can go through freshman homesickness issues whether they're two or twelve hours from home.

    One thing that helped was to talk to an OOS upperclassman at DS#1's summer orientation program. She said she knew before leaving for the semester that she wouldn't be home until Thanksgiving. I think it's helpful for the kid and parents to know when they'll next see each other before leaving for school far away.
  • walkinghomewalkinghome Posts: 6,938Registered User Senior Member
    Something else I just thought of and that's timing of pre-college events. If a college really wants OOS kids they should not have a separate orientation date in the summer that means another (expensive) trip for a student and perhaps their family.

    Any fun optional orientations should be right before college starts. I think these pre-college orientations are really good and important but can be a real financial burden for OOS students if they mean a separate trip.
  • sally305sally305 Posts: 6,547Registered User Senior Member
    ^Completely agree with all the points above, and kathiep's especially. Two kids from my son's Midwestern high school had to fly down to New Orleans for orientation at Tulane before they had even graduated. The parents didn't feel they had a choice, and they weren't happy about it.

    The fall break caught us by surprise too. My son's plans to go home with a friend in the next state fell through and he ended up sticking around campus. I am sure he blew through a lot of money since the dining hall was closed. He did get a lot of errands done and even spent a day volunteering in a food pantry, but I am sure it would have been better if there were some meals being served over the four days.
  • SteveMASteveMA Posts: 6,079Registered User Senior Member
    Our kids will be going out of state for college next year, DD is a plane ride away, DS will probably be as well (2 of his schools are car rides away, the rest are plane rides). The one thing DD talks about now is being "comfortable" on campus. Fortunately the school she is attending has an extensive freshman orientation program. The freshmen arrive on campus 5 days before the upper-classmen do and have a busy schedule of activities designed for the freshmen to get to know each other and the campus. Our older 2 went to school car rides away but they had NO programs for freshman orientation and did not have good experiences getting to know kids in their dorms, etc.

    The other thing DD is worried about is coming home. If a college REALLY wants to attract students from out of state, perhaps some kind of travel voucher for kids that are more than XXX miles away from campus so they can go home on that first fall break freshman year.

    In my experience, after the kids come home that first time they realize that they aren't really missing much at home and seem to settle in better, EXCEPT when that first trip home is for a large family holiday like Thanksgiving when all of their high school friends are home as well.

    It would also be nice to have a "family" near campus. Maybe get the community or staff/faculty involved, depending on where the school is I guess, to volunteer to be a "mom" or "dad" to the out of state kids. They would be someone the kids could contact if they were sick to take them to a doctor, bring them chicken soup, etc.

    I disagree with MyLB that kids that go a long way away know what they are getting into, how could they? They are 18 year old kids and being away from your family for that long isn't something most kids that age can really understand. Our DD would have preferred to stay closer to home but it just didn't work out that way so we were glad to see all of the activities, etc. for freshman at the school she picked. We know she will be fine in the long run, but SHE does not.
  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot Posts: 792Registered User Member
    The fall break food was not a really big deal. I am pretty sure that if my son was not a football player he could have gone home with someone else. But the players have practice/games over the break so they have to stay on campus. He wasn't prepared to spend the extra money for meals but I think the coaches did bring a lunch in for the players on one of the days the dining halls were closed.
  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot Posts: 792Registered User Member
    Regarding whether kids who go away know what they are getting into:

    I think that the know in their heads what it means but they don't fully understand how they will react. I also think that there are some schools where nearly everyone is from the region and others where the students come from all over the country. My son is at Case Western where there are students from all 50 states and 82 different countries. So although there are many students from OH/PA there are also lots of students from all over the country and they are all in the same boat together. I think it can be more difficult to be from far away when the vast majority of students are from the local region.

    Case Western did not do an orientation in the middle of the summer. Orientation activities were done right before school starts. Students were able to move into the residence halls and attend orientation activities. I think that is a big help to families who purchase plane tickets for their students to travel to orientation.

    My son has been really happy at school. I think being on a fall athletic team aids with student adjustment. By the time school started he had 100 friends! One of the things he has had trouble with is the weather but I don't think schools can do much about the weather. My son has lived in FL since he was a little boy. Cleveland is just different.
  • siemomsiemom Posts: 440Registered User Member
    Great topic!
    For us, out of state is 1800 miles away.
    What helped: orientation was held the week before classes so no extra travel involved. Lots of options with the orientation and many different activities to suit different kinds of kids so well done.

    What does not help: the schedule which at DS's school has a week-long fall break in Oct, followed by parents weekend in early Nov, followed by Thanksgiving which is just Th/Fr off. There is no way we can afford travel for all those so DS chose to come home for Oct break.

    I echo the comments about limited/no food service. Given what we pay, would expect there to be food service whenever dorms are open and that is not the case. Very irritating to know there is no food for DS the Th or Fr of T-giving weekend even though dorms are open and many students will still be on campus as they were last year.

    Airport transportation would be helpful for OOS kids. I know many schools do this, but my kiddo's does not. Not hard to arrange something but another annoyance that says OOS kids do not matter as much - or that is how it feels.
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