Saturday, February 19, 2011

Transforming cubs into "Big Blue" Tigers


(Originally written for the Big Blue Issue)

Between my two sons, I have learned much about college life through their eyes and experiences. The TSU’s campus has changed a lot in twenty five years but the pride and love my sons feel about TSU have kept me engaged in all things Big Blue.


My eldest son’s college experiences were vastly different from my younger son’s experience. Sending one son to school that graduated not once but twice earned me my Tiger mom survival badge of honor and unofficial "Chairmama" of all blessings from the TSU community. He was a model student that stayed on target and worked various jobs while maintaining his presidential scholarship. He was involved in many activities on campus, ran track and he graduated with honors. He even pledged a fraternity. Busy young man, huh? With my proud mama badge, I boldly thought that I could produce the same results from kid number 2.


“Lord hear my cry” became my prayer of choice when my youngest son stepped on the yard. Baby boy was not a bit of trouble in high school but turned my life upside down trying to figure out what to do about his idea of college and my idea of him being in school. My drama free kid was nothing but a production from getting him enrolled, room assignments, registration, financial aid, shots and physicals…you get the picture. You name the issue, I got a time and date for it. Not one to run from problems as a family, we were not prepared for baby boy’s first year of college.


Same family, community, and college. What was the problem? Two very different young men. I think I nursed somebody too long. To be transparent, I assumed that because big brother had a model college life with few issues, his success would be duplicated just by sheer osmosis in kid number 2. My youngest son was still a baby that I had not let go. He had an easy going spirit and personality and he gave order to my life. I placed more emphasis on baby boy not getting into trouble than preparing him to live away from home. I took care of everything for him which came back to haunt me and hurt him.


Leaving home to attend college is one of the first steps many take on their journey to adulthood. Whether the school is stamped on your child’s birth certificate, across town or two thousand miles away, college life can often distract young people from an education that college offers. Preparing your child for college life should start no later than the 9th grade. Some educators have recommend starting as early as 4th grade. Teaching teens financial literacy, time management, good work habits, personal safety tips while visiting several colleges helps with transforming your college bound teen.


Making sure conversations about college life is talked about often in preparation for school is important. Not just parties and no parental supervision slants but more dialogues about responsibilities as a student. Students will not know everything but it is important that they know the school is a learning environment and not a place to goof off.


With more first generational students attending college, colleges are now having workshops to prepare parents for college life. As I learned, when your child attends college so you attend as well in many aspects. Baby boy was well connected within the TSU family but he needed more help to get focused. We weren’t afraid to pull in others for input. Learning to get paperwork in on time and teaching him to become more responsible about his education were steps to getting him on the right track. We learned he became overwhelmed easily. Overwhelmed? Really? Who knew?


If you have a young person considering college, surround them with positive role models, reasonable accountability, and make sure their focus is education and not school activities. Sometimes hearing from someone other than mom and dad can help with life adjustments. College life can be overpowering when students are not prepared academically, mentally, socially or physically. Start sooner than later and expect the unexpected. I have learned that no two kids are alike in life or in college.Transforming a cub into a Big Blue Tiger takes prayers, patience and preparation.

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