Sunday, May 24, 2009

College Housing Decisions for Freshmen

Notifications are making their way into your kids' emailboxes or mailboxes. It's time to pick housing! They'll fill out questionnaires about their lifestyle. This is not the time to be wishing they were neat or hoping they didn't snore while sleeping, this is the time to be honest! The school is asking for a reason, so give them all of the information they'll need, so it'll be a livable match. If the music blares, say so.

I have total incoming freshman envy when it comes to the "getting to know you" piece. (That's the only envy I've got, quite frankly.) These kids have Facebook Class of 2013 at wherever university, etc. popping up all over the place, so they have a chance, months over the summer, to do some real sharing, stalking, whatever on their soon to be fellow classmates.

(We weren't told our freshman roommate's names or anything until the moment we stepped foot on campus, nothing. BTW, my Alma mater still does this, not sure how I feel about this now longstanding tradition.)

At any rate, your child can chime in on whether or not they want to be in an all frosh dorm, 4 class dorm, single sex by hall, by floor, by building, chem free....the list goes on and on. My personal favorite overall choice or recommendation is all freshmen. It's the ol'- you're all in this together, experiencing things for the first time together stuff (sometimes it's the "misery loves company" stuff). And the added bonus that of course our kids don't think about is years later, when it comes time for reunions, the freshman dorm friends are all there, or certainly in spirit. I've got a reunion coming up this fall and once again my fellow freshman dorm folks are rallying! Now I know there are those of you that had 4 class experiences and you all survived, so say something about that. But in my experience, freshman dorms are the way to go.

As for the single, double,triple question, very personal, but again, having a roommate is all part of the college experience. As a parent, getting those initial phone calls when the roommates are getting to know each other, those are some of the best "listening" phone calls. (Back to my blog on Transitions Part 1 and CU Boulder orientation).

Here's a good tip: If your kid knows anyone at the college they're headed to or was recently a student there, tell them to call them up. Ask them about housing. They know. They can give your child the real 4-1-1 on all of the different dorms at that school, what they're like, the stereotypes, how they might rate them if asked for preferences. This proved to be invaluable when it came to CU Boulder, thanks Maggie! And really helpful at Princeton and CC, thanks Jessie and Nick. And our son who's at Stanford, he got the benefit of his Mom's knowledge, and he read through the Facebook stuff, deciphering what he could.

Anecdotally, a friend's son is headed off to GW in the fall, a mother of someone already there told them not to live in a particular dorm, it was a big party dorm, "you definitely don't want to live there." They then spoke to a current junior there, and one of the first things he said was "definitely put down "X" dorm as your first choice, it's by far the best dorm. The most happening dorm, the best located dorm for freshman classes, etc." Of course that was precisely the dorm that the other mother said not to put down. Love that. Everyone's got an opinion. I think he put down the junior's suggestion as his first choice. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Health insurance after they graduate....????

Nobody tells you this stuff....take health insurance. Not for you, but for your kids and especially for your kids once they graduate from college. While your kids are in college they have health insurance coverage either under your or your spouse's policy OR they can be covered under a policy that the college/university offers. Well, depending on the policy, either it's over
A) when they graduate and get their diploma
B) when they turn 22
C) when they turn 25
Whatever the situation, you need to check it out. Now it's not just after they graduate when this becomes an issue, it's also when they leave or lose their job or take some time "off" before they start grad school... In that case, they may have access to COBRA. But maybe not. So what do they do? How do they stay covered? What happens if there's a lag in coverage? Is catastrophic insurance the way to go?.... These are all the questions we ask, and let me tell you, our kids aren't asking those questions, at least not at first.

Depending on your kid's circumstance, having health insurance should be a topic of conversation. Why? Because this is not a priority for your kid. They feel it's an expense that they don't want to prioritize. They're "invincible" don'tchya know. "I'm not going to get sick." "Mom, I'll be fine, I'm not going to get hurt." Whatever the quote, you've heard it, or you will!

Now if you're one of those fortunate people that has a kid employed and has a job with benefits, read no further.

When this came on my radar screen and I did some research, well, let's just say I know enough to be dangerous, which isn't much.

I'm not going to get into a conversation about health care in this country, I'll leave that up to others, but as parents of this generation, I can tell you, the options are limited and expensive. And the 'what ifs' are endless. Some of the conversations might include "catastrophic coverage." Well for some, that may be an option, but anecdotal-ly, kids are less likely to go and get something checked out or make a visit to the doctor if they're not feeling well, because that "visit is too expensive and I don't have the money." As a result, they wait until it really IS serious (catastrophic) and the seriousness may have been avoided. Remember those "well-baby" visits you took your child to when they were little? Our "big kids" aren't that likely to go voluntarily to their "well-baby" visit, their physical. And they sure as heck won't be psyched to pay the full amount that the doctor charges for a physical! So if they're going to get a physical and take care of themselves in a preventative way....they need health insurance!

As parents we know the importance of having health insurance and it really seems to make more and more sense not to have any dead time between coverage.

If your kid is embarking on the real world, now that they've graduated and they're not headed back to school this fall, or if your kid is without a job that pays benefits, have this conversation! It'll be worth it!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Email, Facebook, Twitter, Cell, Text....Get with it!

OK, Quit dragging your feet. We've got to get with the program! I have friends that are digging their heels in. They do not want to "play." If you want to be informed and you want to be a part of your kids lives as they embark on this stage of their lives, you really need to adopt the "when in Rome" theory. This is their turf, they've embraced it and there's no turning back. Cell phones are everywhere and what they can do is amazing!

This reminds me of when my mother brought a pushbutton phone to my grandparents' house and their response was "what do I need that for?" "I have a phone." "It works fine." "I like the rotary dial." "With my cataracts, I can feel the openings and count so I can dial." "I have no interest in learning how to use that fancy phone...." etc. etc.

Well guess what sports fans? Some of us are sounding a bit like them! Yikes!

Reading yesterday's NYT, there was an article in the Weekend in Review section about India and how this new world of communication is changing everything faster than a speeding light. "A Pocket-Size Leveler in an Outsize Land." They've skipped the whole landline era. They've leaped into this digital age and texting, using their cell phones is transforming public policy...

So here we are. Baby Boomers in this digital age. Some of us are actually making more of an attempt to join this digitized era...I actually have an iPhone! I don't mean to be tooting my own horn, I'll admit that I have been a little reluctant in this area, but now that I know what I know...Aside from feeling very "hip and trendy," I really like it! It's so user friendly and believe it or not, pretty intuitive, at least to my way of thinking. I'll admit that I've always been an Apple person, maybe because I went to college in that neck of the woods, but when I actually got a tutor to help me navigate this world of computers back in 1992, it was on a Mac. And being the stubborn person I am, switching to a PC? Never! I'm glad that being a "hold out" has actually worked out. I'm sorry to say that we cast our vote with Sony and Beta 25 years ago and you know how that went....we have a Beta player just in case we ever want to watch those tapes...crazy, I know. At any rate, back to the digital age....

As every month goes by, I'm communicating more and more with my kids by text. Granted, it's nothing like a good conversation with them, but it's a quick "check in." I've also just started Facebook chatting (I'm not sure that's actually the lingo, someone help me out and tell me what this is called), not with my kids, but with friends of theirs! Love that! It's much like the AIM, but for some reason it seems to move a lot smoother, especially if you have the Facebook application for your iPhone. Now of course this assumes you're ON Facebook as much as they are, and I simply am not. My kids have it as a "constant", I don't, but I suppose if that's how I start hearing from them, well then, I'm open to it.

I think that's the key: being open! Rather than digging in your heels and saying "I won't do Facebook" or "I have no interest in learning how to text".... think about it. You can learn! You know they say you can ward off Alzheimer's with things like Sudoku or Bridge or crossword puzzles or learning a foreign language, I'm thinking that learning how to do all of this social media and getting techno-savvy will ward it off too! And quite frankly, it's much more fun than some of those other things! So get with it!
A good read...interesting...
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: Marc Prensky

Monday, May 4, 2009

Graduation Season/Diploma pressure/Next steps....

'Tis the season! As I said in an earlier blog post... we hold our breath, cross our fingers and pray our kids make it through this season in one piece! But probably the bigger piece, the forever-after piece, is the actual graduation, diploma-in-hand piece! There's also that closure piece. Both for your kids and for you! First, your kids. Whether it's high school or college this is an emotional time made up of the "last" times, but it's also a time when your kid is tying up loose ends; Paying library fines, parking tickets, being sure they've got all their work completed and tests taken and passed, room keys turned in,....that diploma is in the balance. Parents EXPECT you to receive it come graduation! I don't know about you, but I sure remember feeling the pressure. That "expectation" pressure from my parents. I know my kids felt that pressure from us too. Aside from the expectation about the diploma and actually graduating, your kids are thinking about what all of this means,: how they won't see all of these people again in this environment, how it's all going to change... everyone handles this in their own way. Some kids are thrilled to be finishing up, to be moving on to the next step, never to return to this high school or this college; others are nervous as heck, it's the big unknown out there! They're also thinking about next steps:
getting a job
starting a job
making ends meet
finding an apartment
a roommate
paying off those loans....Maybe as a parent, that's optimistic....maybe they're really just thinking about the "immediate stuff," about the goodbyes or the "how are we going to make this relationship work being so far apart?" or trying to figure out when they'll all be together again, or how to fix that hole in the wall of their dorm room so they get their cleaning deposit back, or "what do I do with all of this junk that I don't want anymore?" or "how do I talk my parents into coming to help me move out?"

Are they feeling the actual pressure of receiving the diploma? Do they want to move on? Are they thinking about immediate next steps? Or are they thinking more long term?

What were you thinking about then?
Is it that different now?
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