Send Your Kids to College, Keep Your Money at Home
OFF TO COLLEGE THE STRUGGLE TO SAY GOODBYE
The fall semester has finally arrived. To all our families that are sending their students off to college this month, congratulations! It’s been a pleasure working with you to make this milestone happen. As an advisor, most of my time is spent trying to help with the monetary concerns of college, but, as a parent, I want to use this time to address the emotional concerns you may be facing. I certainly remember when my eldest son Nick headed off to school and how unprepared I was for how hard the transition would be. Before Nick even applied to college, I had already been advising families on money-saving strategies to make their students’ higher education possible. I could answer any questions they had regarding scholarships, the FAFSA process, and aid packages, but one question always stumped me: “How do I say goodbye?” At the time, I just offered soothing platitudes like, “They’ll be home for Christmas break before you know it!” and “It’s going to be a new adventure for everyone!” But, when I suddenly found myself in their shoes, it became very clear how little those words of encouragement helped. The shock began to creep in when Nick bucked the family tradition of going to the University of Houston — and I couldn’t blame him. His heart was set on mechanical engineering, and he’d earned $50,000 in scholarships from Stevens Institute of Technology all the way in Hoboken, New Jersey. Not only was this scholarship package incredible, but it was coming from a school with the oldest mechanical engineering program in the country. Choosing Stevens Institute was a no-brainer, but I still had to face the fact that my boy was going to be 1,600 miles away. For better or worse, we dragged out the process of sending Nick off. We did most of the shopping for his dorm here in Houston, including getting him a mini fridge. We had to rent a Ford Expedition just to carry everything. Then, the whole family got in the car and headed east. We were treating the journey a bit like a fun family road trip, with plenty of jokes, but there was an underlying nervous energy present the whole way. The school had a great welcoming program for parents when we arrived. We got to meet some other families, listen to a speech, and enjoy a hamburger cookout. After that, we got Nick’s dorm all situated, including rearranging the furniture. But eventually, the sun began to set, and it was time for me to answer that dreaded question for myself. How was I going to say goodbye?
My wife Liz and I didn’t have any cool one-liners or inspirational speeches for Nick. I mostly remember all of us standing awkwardly in the campus parking lot before letting him know we love him and heaving ourselves into the Expedition. Driving away, there was this unspoken sense of “What are we doing?!” between Liz and me. To this day, I remember watching my boy in the rearview mirror as he waved, turned back toward campus, and stepped into his new life. Of course, everything turned out great. Nick acclimated immediately, joining the school crew team and making plenty of friends. I can’t stress this point enough for new freshmen: Get involved in campus activities, whether they’re clubs, Greeks, teams, or other student organizations. These groups are an easy way to find friends who share your interests and on whom you can rely to be your support network on campus. Having been through this emotional roller coaster myself, I can assure you there is no easy way to say goodbye. It’s completely natural to fear the moment your child leaves the nest, especially for the first time. I highly recommend reading “Letting Go” by Karen Coburn if you’re really feeling the stress. But, take it from me when I say that as hard as this goodbye is, it’s worth helping your child say hello to a bright future.
They’re going to be amazing,
–Bra nnon Lloyd
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