Transition from HS/home to UF

 My daughter is applying to UF for fall 2020. Goal is to be a veterinarian or medical doctor. She has the grades, etc to probably get in. The issue is that due to her ADHD and autism spectrum I feel that she will need guidance and possibly a mentor to help her with the transition. She has been sheltered her whole life and we are working on her independence and life skills. If accepted we will, of course, speak with the disability office about accommodations. 
 I just don’t know if UF is “too big” for her. I’ve heard about the huge classes, weed-out classes, you are just a number, etc. Sure, she is a superstar but she will be in a school where everyone is a superstar and it is very competitive. 
 The other option we are considering is USF. She would be automatically admitted to their honors college, which would sort of cocoon her while still attending a big school. She would receive more guidance and hand-holding and it would be so much easier for her to get research opportunities and trips to other countries there. The faculty will facilitate this for her. She is not an aggressive go-getter so I feel she would not get these opportunities at UF unless she aggressively sought them out and that is not in her nature right now. Yes, she will need more initiative and drive to be successful in her chosen career but she’s not there yet. Advice?

We LOVED UF after touring & I know UF is ranked higher than USF and will look better when applying to vet/med school but I also want her to be successful and happy. I think she will be at USF. I don’t know that about UF.

I’m just throwing this out there but you may want to consider New College in Sarasota. It’s very small, liberal arts public college, as selective or more than UF, and has an outstanding track record at graduate school admissions.

It’s not for everyone. It’s kind of a 60’s throw back school. very hippy and liberal. But it would definitely offer a much more personalized education than UF where your daughter might get lost in the throngs of people.

Another one you might look at is the Wilkes Honors College at FAU. It is located in Jupiter – not the main FAU campus – and is adjacent to the Scripps research facility. Smaller environment for sure.

Best of luck.

I actually did consider NCF for a hot minute but the hippy vibe is not her thing & she needs more structure. They are kind of self-paced and she will procrastinate. Recently they were in the news for discriminating against admitting students w disabilities. Even though her issues are mild-ish this gives me pause too. What do u think about UF? Too big?

GatorDad- too small & too far from the main campus. She does not want to drive yet. I liked USF bec she gets the big college w all that it offers & the intimacy & support of the honors college. Obviously being a gatordad you must love UF but what have you heard regarding the downside?

Just some general advise that applies to UF or USF, FAU, etc.

I recommend choosing to start in Summer B and not in the fall. It’s a much softer launch, less crowded, and easier to make friends with other freshman. She’ll be much better prepared for the fall.

She needs to find her tribe (group of friends). This can be tough as a freshman. Best way is to check out several of the student organizations on campus. My daughter checked out several, and ended up joining a women engineering sorority. That was her “tribe”. My son checked out several groups, but ended up sticking with the Gator Motorsports team, and that’s his current “tribe”.

UF has over 1,000 student groups, check them out and have her pick a few to checkout in the fall.

My thought is UF can be a difficult adjustment for a neurotypical student. It’s just very, very big and impersonal and unless you make an effort at joining clubs or seeking out guidance, you can easily become anonymous and just a number. It’s more of a challenge with a student that has disabilities.

I would explore Stetson, Eckerd, Rollins. I don’t know your finances but this may be a situation where a small liberal arts college is the ideal fit at this stage in your daughter’s development. It sounds she needs a more nurturing environment than UF may provide.

Gator88: Great advice! Thank you

Lat8er: The hubby & I are medical professionals & she wants to be one too so liberal arts colleges were not really on our radar. Maybe we need to reconsider. Ugh! Thank you for your honest opinion!

Not specific for FL, but I wouldn’t rule out a liberal arts college for a med professional. Some of the most successful kids I know went to LACS for undergrad and had better outcomes for med school than their peers at big universities. Not sure if the same would apply for pre-vet.

My D goes to a large public flagship (not FL though) and even in honors college, there is not a lot of hand holding. Self discipline/pacing is essential. IMO, college is a tough place to learn those skills for the first time, even with accommodations.

Is it possible for your D to go and sit in on some classes at the schools on your list? Maybe even shadow a student for an entire day?

I would worry first about fit over ranking. USF sounds like the better option. Will all of her classes be honors and small? D21 went to visit her sister at UCF for a football game. She was completely overwhelmed (she is not on the spectrum, but has some executive functioning issues). She goes to large public HS, but she realized that bigger wasn’t better for her. We looked at FAU, USF, Eckerd, and Rollins. She liked Eckerd the best, because it was small and friendly. Rollins has a reputation for having professors that really care. Both of those are expensive, so maybe not a possibility.

Your D might not be overwhelmed by the size, but I would be weary of any big school, unless their disability office has a great reputation.

When you say she has been sheltered- does that mean she has been home schooled?

@FLmom1226 I’m not going to let you off the hook on FAU Wilkes that easily. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but that school was created to be like an LAC but with an emphasis on science and research. The kids who go there are technically FAU students but I think all of their classes are in Jupiter. I think you should take a good look at it.

Next, yes I’m a Gator and a Gator Dad – hopefully twice over with my son, come Feb. 28. UF is big. (just like USF, FSU and UCF). My daughter is in a program with a small group of kids and advising still feels hands-off without a ton of help unless you ask for it.

I’m still waiting for my daughter to find “her people” at UF (tribe as @Gator88NE puts it). She’s in her second year and hasn’t joined anything, though she’s on track to get her AA in December – so I can’t complain too much.

I think you have to look really hard at how your daughter will go through this right of passage. My daughter is probably the most mature and self-sufficient 19 year old in Gainesville and it is still a struggle. Some classes are huge and very impersonal. The “weeding out” process is real, particularly in the hard sciences, and can be overwhelming. Really smart kids go from never getting a B in their life to trying to figure out how to explain a D in chemistry and why they need to drop the class – and Mom’s dream of having a doctor in the family.

I think visits to the respective honors programs would be the next step. Talk to some of the students if you can and be very open with the schools about your concerns.

(Also, if she does end up at UF, I would also recommend starting Summer B.)

I’ve talked to many students and have personal experience as a UF student years ago that the freshman and sophomore general education classes are nothing to write home about. Many times they are substandard in fact and you may get a much better education at a local community college with an actual adjunct professor teaching a small class rather than a 500 person lecture hall or online “watch whenever” and take 3 multiple choice tests class at UF. I know friends specifically took certain gen ed classes at their community colleges over the summer instead of UF because they knew they would learn the material better at community college with 10 kids in the calculus II class rather than a large lecture hall with 200 or online at UF.

The hard science gen ed classes at UF are notoriously difficult because they are trying to weed out a large majority of the freshman “pre-med” majors to the small percentage that actually have a chance at med school. This will demoralize many along the way and they will change their path. Your daughter will be a number, unless she can face these challenges and aggressively advocate for herself and seek out opportunities. Nobody is going to hold her hand and students can be very competitive especially among the pre-med tracks. They view each other as competition to get into med school and some act accordingly. It’s not a pleasant experience for many students and that’s why many abandon the track.

So, I think you really need to focus on where your daughter can best succeed given her strengths and weaknesses. UF’s Prestige means nothing if she washes out of the vet track at UF and a small liberal arts school may mean everything if she finds a collegial nurturing environment where professors take a personal interest in her success rather than see her as a number to weed out.

USF is amazing. My husband is a high up at USF Health. Have your daughter focus on the honors college and getting in to med school through the bs/md program. The honors college is a very close family. She will be in smaller classes with teachers looking out for her. If it wasn’t down the street from me my daughter would do that. Plus it’s an exciting time at the med school moving to downtown Tampa. The vet school has great leadership as well.

Jeneric- she is in a public high school w 2,500 students. By sheltered I mean she doesn’t do much outside of school & home. She has a few good friends but they are 1-2 yrs younger than her. She does not drive. She had never shopped for clothes, food, gone to the bank or post office. We are doing this stuff now. I think you are right about fit over prestige. We had a similar choice for high school & I chose fit over prestige and she has been very successful.

@GatorDad305 (I just figured out how to tag who I’m replying to lol) FAU Wilkes seems ridiculously small & too far from the main campus. If your daughter (the most mature and self sufficient student in Gainesville-love it) has struggles at UF, There’s no hope for us there.

@Lat8erGator1 What you wrote is pretty much all of my fears in 1 post. The hubby is set on UF & I’m trying to help him see other options. The huge classes, weeding-out, competition, etc is going to do a number on her mental health. You are correct when you say that UF’s prestige means nothing if she implodes. Thanks for the honesty.

I’m a big school person (admit my prejudice), but smaller schools and LACs are not always the right fit for students who don’t like to be part of everything, to have everyone in their faces all the time. It is easier to blend in at a big schools.

A friend’s daughter sounds similar to OP’s daughter. Very strong academics but had to transfer after a year because living away at school, even a smaller one, was too much. The big (30K+) campus wasn’t a problem at all. Most of her upper division classes only had a handful of students in them. She could commute on public transportation (doesn’t drive).

You can make any school work. I don’t know if there is more handholding at USF. It’s a pretty big school too.

Do you live in Tampa? What are the best schools within commuting distance so she can still live at home? Maybe the simplest solution is your daughter goes to USF in the Honors program and still lives at home. Not every 18 year old is ready to leave the nest and go away from home to college. It sounds like your daughter is simply not ready and that’s perfectly OK. She could live at home in a comfortable environment, slowly at her own pace join clubs and engage in activities, and when she is ready move out perhaps after a year or two when she meets a group of friends or maybe a significant other she likes.