You’ve known this time was coming for many years. Maybe you’ve been able to use home assignment time to visit some colleges. Maybe that hasn’t worked out and you’ve only gathered information online. Either way, this is most certainly the biggest transition your young person will make in his/her life. But it will also be a huge transition for you and the rest of your family. It’s important to talk about this move with the whole family. Younger siblings will be excited for your future college student, and while they may make jokes about getting their room or more food will be available for the rest of us, they will definitely miss them when they leave.
Help them make a good decision about college. Which college? Which major (remember that they really don’t have to declare a major until sometime sophomore year…it’s OK to go to college undeclared)? Apply early for financial aid. There is plenty available, but it runs out quickly! If you’re unsure of how to choose a college, you could check the list of colleges here that have an active Mu Kappa chapter. Many MKs have found a “family” in the Mu Kappa group on their campus that has been an encouragement to them as they figure out life in a new place.
Consider sending your student to a Reentry Transition Seminar. Mu Kappa and Barnabas International sponsor a seminar at Cedarville University. See more information at www.barnabas.org. You may not think this is important–maybe you’ve just come off of home assignment and your graduate has been in the U.S. for a year or two. Maybe you have been back recently in their high school years, so you think they don’t really need a Transition Seminar. Let me encourage you that even if they think they don’t need this, they really do. When I run into them after the seminar sometime during their freshman year, I consistently hear, “I didn’t think it would be this hard, but I’m so glad I had the seminar to help me. I don’t think I would be making it now without the things I learned last summer.”
Maybe you’ve heard of the R.A.F.T.? It is an acronym developed by Dave Pollock (now with the Lord) who co-authored “Third Culture Kids” with Ruth Van Reken. You will want to go through this with your soon-to-be graduate. By the way, if you have not read the book, you should. It will enlighten you, as parents, to the characteristics of your TCK as well as help them in their upcoming transition. That means they should read it, too! Talk through the R.A.F.T. (Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Think Destination) with your teen and help them finish well.
Make some special memories with your family. Visit favorite vacation spots. Talk about the family traditions that your son or daughter will want to take with them into their adult life. Talk about the plans they will have for holidays. Will they be able to come back home to where you are? Will they be with grandparents or other extended family? What about summer break? Most likely, your college student will need to find employment to help pay for college. There are lots of great ministry opportunities available in the summer as well. Pray with them about the best way to use each summer.
Encourage them to work hard in college and avoid the temptation to drop classes when they are overwhelmed. Do you remember your college days? Remember “syllabus shock”? College is different from high school. It’s more challenging academically. Students who breezed through high school may find college a completely different story. Encourage your teen to develop good study habits early in college so that final exams don’t catch them off guard.
Talk about these things now when you are still together and can talk face to face. Make sure your graduate has time with his or her siblings. Make sure the siblings have opportunities to say good-bye (make special gifts or scrapbooks to give to your older brother or sister as they leave!).
This is a hard one. It’s difficult to be far away. Certainly Skype and Facebook are great ways to stay in touch, but it’s not the same, is it? For one, make sure you have worked through the R.A.F.T. as mentioned above so that your young person has had good closure leaving the country that is his or her home. Make sure they have some pieces of that home to take with them (souvenirs, flags, football jersey, etc.).
Who will take your new college student to campus and help them get set up in their dorm? We know that it’s not always possible to be the one to take them to college, but if you can, it will mean a lot. Even if you can’t be there when they move in, make sure someone can–extended family, a friend, maybe a supporter who has a good relationship with your teen. Sometimes churches are willing to be involved in collecting items for their dorm room (lamps, bedding, toiletries, etc.). Most colleges provide a list of suggested things to bring to college on their website.
Many colleges offer early orientation for MKs and international students. If that is available, please take advantage of it. It is always helpful for this group of students to meet each other. They have some unique needs as they get set up in college, and it’s helpful to navigate those adjustments with friends. Mu Kappa exists for this purpose–to help MKs with the adjustment to college. We desire to be more than that on campuses as the groups grow through their college years, but initially, Mu Kappa is definitely available to assist with the challenges of getting started.
Just as a word of advice, these few years of college are difficult for every teenager. It’s a time when teens turn into adults. Somehow during these years, they have to move from being in your family and under your care on a daily basis into functional adults able to work a job and live in the real world. It’s a process. Encourage them to be patient with the process. Give them freedom to make decisions on their own and let them learn how to navigate adult life. It’s an exciting time of life!