Would you go away to school if your mom was terminally ill?

My D1’s freshman roommate’s mom died of cancer partway through freshman year. The roommate ended up failing out at the end of the first year. Can’t say for sure whether she should have taken a gap year, but in retrospect it seems like it would have been a good idea.

Is her significant other there to take care of her?

Will you be able to focus if you’re far away?
Or in school period?

Me personally it would really depend. I never really had a good relationship with my parents throughout high school. They were immigrants and wanted to live out their American dream vicariously through me. They actually made me quite depressed for years. Because of that, if I had the choice between going somewhere to better my future and taking care of my parents, I would better my future. Especially if it was my stepfather, because he’s a jerk (and he’s 75 so he’s more likely to need something than my mother).

Nobody can tell you what’s good for you to do, but it would suck to ruin your college record because of this.

Ok, please leave your negative relationship with your parent/stepparent out of this. The fact that this student is asking suggests that their relationship is good.

And, really, it’s largely irrelevant if the mom’s SO is around. The issue isn’t so much patient-home-care, although that may come into play at some point.

but it would suck to ruin your college record because of this.


NO one’s college record would be “ruined” by staying local for a semester or two. Jeez. However, the opposite could have a chilling effect. If the student were to transfer a distance away and her grades or progress suffered, her aid may stop. Now, THAT could ruin or nearly-ruin one’s college record.

You’re taking what I said the wrong way. I wouldn’t assume OP has a good relationship with their parents. I think the decision would stress most people out, regardless of the quality of the relationship. OP also asked what other people would do, so I gave my personal opinion if I was in this situation.

Why is it irrelevant if mom’s SO is around? We do not know if it’s a patient home care situation, and if there is somebody to take care of the day to day issues, then perhaps it would be better to go to a good college, especially if that’s what the mother wants!

And once again, you’re misinterpreting what I said about the college record being ruined. I meant that going to school while incredibly stressed out and worrying about parents could ruin a record if you have to skip classes and aren’t able to study and stuff like that. - I think that we are in agreement on that part.

I think that a lot depends on the prognosis and whether the alternative university is within a reasonable driving distance.

Thank you all for the responses and kind words. As mom2collegekids did point out I am actually looking to transfer to my original first choice college (4 hours away), however my mother’s condition is making me hesitant to leave. This means I might stay the full four years at the commuter school I’m currently attending, where I am genuinely unhappy.

I have considered taking a gap year/semester however my mom is very against that because she doesn’t want me to “waste time.” I have asked her what she thinks I should do, and she always gives very short answers, telling me I should do what I want to do. My mom does have my dad and two brothers around as well, so it’s not a matter of leaving her alone with nobody to take care of her. It’s more a matter of leaving her company in a time that I don’t know how much longer I can even have her company. Part of me feels selfish for even considering leaving at a time like this, but another part of me feels ashamed of the school I am attending, and the unhappiness I feel going there. I don’t want to look back at my college years with regret as an adult, both academic and social wise, but I also don’t want to do something that I may never be able to forgive myself for.
I am just completely torn.

Did you stay home to attend the commuter school instead of your first-choice school because of your mom’s illness?

It sounds like you might be better off going. FaceTime has completely changed the idea of going far away.

Two things: can you handle school right now with this? And can you get home easily when you want and need to?

Your mom would want you to go if she has others to rely on. Remember, you are her contribution to this world.

OP, I lost my mom to terminal cancer when I was 12. So, a very different situation. But, I can tell you that always being around her and taking care of her towards the end provides some solace to me now as I’m getting ready to graduate and go to college without her around.
Personally, I’d say to take the extra time with your mom, especially if you feel like she is near the end of her life. You will not regret the memories you make during that time. It might be best to stay home for now, but really, you’re the only one who can decipher that. Any advice we give you is not nearly as important as how YOU feel. Follow your heart, as only you can.
Contact your dream school and explain your situation–maybe they will work something out with you.
Best wishes to you and your family. If you ever need to talk, you can send me a message.

@Thanase when are you looking to transfer? If it’s next fall, a few months will give you all some time to adjust to your “new reality”. It’s hard to explain but over time you all will stop thinking about this every minute of every day, and you’ll figure out how to deal with it emotionally. It took me a while but in the end I have “allowed” myself to live with a certain amount of denial (I’m NOT normally into denial at.all so this was a big step for me) and am proceeding by considering this a chronic illness/condition for the foreseeable future. And that’s what it is as of now (3+ years). I’ve mostly put out of my mind that this status quo could change for the worse at any given time and just move forward as if this is the new normal. Your mom will come to a point of figuring out how to deal with this as well. You will adjust to this news and likely have a different range of feelings in the future.

Personally, I’d proceed along a dual path of applying to transfer next fall but keep your options open at your current school. Buy yourself time to see how things go with your mother and how you both come to deal with it. Know what your drop dead date is for accepting the transfer and making plans to attend the new school. I think a couple months may give you more info to make your decision. Btw, my son is 4 hours away and for us it’s fine. If I needed him to come home for the weekend, he could. The tough part now is he’s looking at jobs after college and trying to decide whether to come back here (lots of opportunity) or move elsewhere. This decision is much tougher for me to get my brain around than the college decision.

Your feelings are normal. Give yourself a little more time to adjust if you can.

I don’t think you should feel selfish. Is it a 4 hour DRIVE or FLIGHT away? Either way it doesn’t seem that far!

I am so sorry for your family. This is a very difficult decision. I can say as a critical care nurse that nobody knows how much time they have left. I would discuss with your mom what her feelings are. She might want to see you go off to school. I am sure you will do what you feel is right in your heart for you and your family. Prayers to you all.

It’s a 4 hour drive.

A 4 hour drive is significant. It would make a quick trip home difficult, and we don’t know if the OP has reliable transportation.

@Thanase What is the situation? Are you talking about going away THIS spring semester? Or next fall?

but another part of me feels ashamed of the school I am attending, and the unhappiness I feel going there.


Then a gap semester or gap year may be in order. But we can’t best advise you w/o more info. WHEN would the transfer take place? Are you currently a freshman or what?

What is your mom’s prognosis? (I hate to ask this, and I’m sorry, but have you all been told that you’ll likely be losing your beloved mom in 2017? 2018? Again, I’m so sorry to even ask this.)

I realize skype is available, but really, you can’t hold someone’s hand by computer! You can’t stroke mom’s head by phone. You can’t kiss her cheek by tablet!

And at some point, mom may be sleeping much of the time, or be too tired to be involved with technology communications.

We also need to keep in mind that many profs, unfortunately, are BRUTAL when it comes to stuff like this. They won’t let you miss a test, they won’t let you miss class, etc.

Depending on your answers…(sorry for this) If your mom is unlikely to be alive by next Christmas, then take a gap semester for this spring, and if necessary, take one more gap semester in the fall. That way you’ll be with mom …AND you won’t be at the school you don’t like…and later you’ll be at the school you DO like.