As folks may remember my daughter, Maddy, is currently a freshman at university and for the most part she loves it. Everyone may recall that when she made her final choice in schools that she would apply to several were not on the list of schools we had visited. One of those is where she is now attending.
First semester went exceedingly well. She made a bunch of good friends during orientation programs, both for international (she attended an international school in Malaysia) and regular orientation. She fully appreciated both programs since she was able to not only make strong friendships with students with her background, but also sort her way around school. Her roommate is one of those good friends and has been a vital part of her transition.
International school prepared her well for the academic side of school life and she made it on the Presidents Scholars list, of which I am enormously proud. The best grades she has ever earned. So while I say this with much pride, there are parts of her transition, which have been a bit of a challenge.
For Christmas/Winter Holiday, Maddy decided that she wanted to go back to Malaysia to see her high school buddies. She felt that is might be the last time she would be able to see them, as would be the case for many students whose families are on two to three year international business contracts. She had a great time catching up and hanging out. When she returned to university it was what they call J Term (January Term) – a period where students take one class for a month. This is where the cracks started to show up.
Before moving forward with the story, Maddy announced in late November that she was going to participate in Rush for a Sorority. When she applied and through her research of the university she came to the conclusion that Greek Life was not a big thing at her school, students could either participate or not, no big deal either way. Anyway she was quite excited about it, had her eye on one sorority and was quite anxious about going through Rush.
At the end of J Term and after a brief vacation, Maddy came back to the insanity of Rush. Rush is basically like applying for a job, but at a sorority (sororities are for women and fraternities are for men – usually). Over the three day period, starting with day one – nine interviews with each sorority, day two students interview with the callbacks sororities followed with day three the final choice day. Needless-to-say is was anxiety filled, frustrating and chaotic. Choices she had made didn’t come through, her friends were chosen by other sororities, and Maddy realizing the sororities were a much bigger deal than she was led to believe.
Through the daily phone calls and conversations Maddy came to a couple of realizations. One, that she missed her friends from high school. Friends that she had made at college were making other plans once other sororities selected them. She felt lonely and frankly disgruntled.
There were a few other issues – not being able to get the classes she needed for her intended major since Sophomores and Juniors were taking them to catch up on credits they needed and some of her professors for the coming semester were not that strong.
While some of the above are commonplace issues and concerns of all freshmen, my point is that it takes a lot of research to make sure the school students choose may not be the exact paradise one imagines. Inner workings of schools, professors, friendships – both past and present, the reality of life come to the fore and what once seemed ideal becomes a challenge. Maddy at one point during our conversations, was considering transferring.
As a parent it takes a lot of patience and understanding to help get through these moments of crises. I had to remind her that if she moved, she would still be the same person; just the location would be different. I had to coach her through reaching out to professors, her advisor and her friends to sort out and clear up the issues she was dealing with at the moment. And I had to remind her that in making the choices she’d made, that she needs to take responsibility for making them work. Running wasn’t going to solve anything.
January has always been, it seems, a time when the world comes crashing down. Winter, short days, and other factors play a role students attitude and outlook. Now that she had gone through Rush and made nice with her friends, Maddy is back on track. Thankfully!
As university decisions are in the process of coming, it is important for students and families to fully consider all aspects when choosing that final school. Location is a key factor, where friends are going and potential support systems to name a few things to remember. That dream school may have its quirks and foibles that cannot be anticipated. Be ready to ride through them by reaching out to advisors and professors and have a good support group to fall back on – namely parents who are understanding and patient.