Local/State

Transitioning from home to campus life

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Sooner or later, if you have kids, August will be a month of major change. Staying nearby and living at home, or enrolling at a college where you live on campus, the switch to campus life is big both for the student and the parents.

We took the Action Cam to Arcadia University in Glenside for their "take" on the transition.

Assistant Dean of Students Cat Mattingly told us the school has policies and experts for most eventualities. But it's hard to make help available if a student doesn't ask.

She tells students to communicate anything they think might be a concern. It might involve academics, personal finances or something involving a roommate.

Chances are, the student has lived at home until now and hasn't had to deal with any of these things. And chances are, mom and dad aren't nearby, and they've been the problem-solvers in the past. But making the transition to being the adult is an essential skill for the rest of life, as much a part of a college education as any class.

Arcadia defines success as graduating students who've learned such. The student orientation process initiates a lot of this.

In an era when e-mail and text messaging are so important, actually talking with a roommate is crucial...before you actually occupy a room if possible.

Dorm rooms are smaller than what you remember from home, and space is at a premium. Closets will be tight if there are any. Under-bed storage is common, and anything that can do more than one job in a space will prove valuable.

Try to work out who brings what. More than one sound system in a room is a good example of what not to do

.

Most college dorm beds, Arcadia's included are longer than normal. They're comfortable. But being non-standard, brining linens from home will prove useless.

The college offers package deals on bedding, but most retailers also have dorm bed supplies if you ask.

College policies differ widely on in-room appliances. Some allow none at all. Some will let you bring just about anything. Most are somewhere in the middle.

Home furnishings chain Bed Bath & Beyond tries to have policy sheets in each store for its local colleges, but these, while helpful, are not official documents.

Arcadia's experts say they're a good starting point but recommend checking with your individual school before you buy anything.

Some retailers like The Container Store offer students the option of buying locally, and having purchases sent to the store nearest their college. This is a great convenience if you can take advantage of it.

Also note that, given restricted storage space in a dorm, you need to bring clothing that works now and for the next several weeks.

Parents might bring warmer clothing with a mid-semester campus visit and take summer-weight clothes home.

Some colleges have orientation for parents as well as students. Mom and dad are making a transition, too. They were controlling a child's life and doing most things.

Parenting an adult means being more of a coach. Some have trouble stepping to the sidelines but, again, this is essential if their offspring are to lead independent and productive lives.

As with students on campus, parents who struggle with this should ask an expert.

Dean Mattingly told us it's no sign of weakness to ask for assistance. Since colleges are individual institutions, consider your school's website a good starting point for this process.

Arcadia's website.
Bed Bath & Beyond's website where you'll find a lot of campus resources.
The Container Store website

Remember, these sites may be helpful but only your college's website and published literature should be considered authoritative about campus policies.

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