Look! No hands!’ What you want to hear when your kid goes to college
By Mark Rutledge
Saturday, August 25, 2018
My oldest daughter is all grown up and going off to college this week. I’m nervous about it because I hate riding in helicopters.
The skies above college campuses are crowded this time of year with helicopter parents. Today’s freshman class has so much more startup support than we had 30 and 40 years ago, which can be a good thing.
Sometimes, not so good.
My wife, Sharon, and I spent much of the summer getting ready — I mean getting our daughter, Carly, ready — for college. There were scholarship applications to fill out, registration and orientation activities to attend, books and computers to buy, campus maps, parking regulations, and on and on.
Carly has chosen her parents’ alma mater, East Tennessee State University. That’s good because we have a certain amount of insight and experience for helping her navigate that first year. It’s bad, too, because she has had to endure our stories about the bureaucratic nightmares that we had to survive as college freshmen all those decades ago.
Whenever our daughter had trouble finding needed information online, for instance, she heard about our pre-internet struggles. We shared with her how there was no luxury of calling up information, from the comfort of home, about registration or books or orientation schedules or whatever else was needed for entering college.
We had to stand in a big, long line just to register for classes. Another long line awaited us for paying tuition.
The only computer on campus during those days was a primitive punch-card machine that I imagine must have occupied most of the administration building's ground floor.
One misplaced punch could have you repeating Art History class. Now there’s a bad dream.
Toward the end of our most recent helicopter ride, Sharon pointed out how most of the registration requirements facing our daughter could be accomplished with a few finger swipes and keystrokes on her phone. That made me realize how silly it must have seemed to Carly when I was showing her campus maps and offering tutorials on the most efficient walking routes between buildings.
The girl knows she has the technology to leave one class, dial up the next campus destination, and let the computer lady inside her phone guide her every step. Doing that with earbuds in can achieve the appearance of a confident upperclassman and save the embarrassment of having to walk out of a Twentieth-Century British Literature lecture mistaken for English Composition 1010.
Actually, I’m not sure we needed to board the proverbial parental helicopter at all. Carly completed freshman English and other college courses during her senior year of high school.
I had to complete a few remedial high school courses during my first year of college.
Carly has chosen, if not formally declared, a major that will leave her familiar with the hallways of science and math buildings — the inside of which her father mostly avoided.
College students today get a lot more hand-holding, at home and at school. “Student success” is practically a cottage industry.
Carly never was one to let us hold her hand for very long. This should be fun to watch.
Contact Mark Rutledge at firstname.lastname@example.org or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.