By Brian Kruse, Parent Ambassador
We dropped off my freshman son for his LEAP summer session on June 29, 2016. Now ten months later, I picked him up after his first full year at Penn State. It’s been an exciting adventure for him, and a real adjustment for me. I knew going in I was going to miss him, but I didn’t realize how much. It’s hard going from being a part of your student’s everyday life to only seeing him 5 times in almost a year. Being over 400 miles away, you can’t just pop in for a quick hello.
At first over the summer, we were excited and nervous about all of his new experiences. The occasional text and rare pictures were a treat as we breathed a sigh of relief that he loves Penn State and was making the adjustment to college life. The more he got settled in though, the more the reality of the change in our lives was setting in. No more high school meets to watch. No one to play hooky with and go skiing on a snowy weekday. No one to take out the trash, mow the lawn or shovel the driveway for me. I even missed the occasional bickering with his Mom…the peace and quiet is deafening.
It can be hard to remember in all the initial excitement that this is THEIR time and THEIR experience and it isn’t shared with us the same way everything else has been up through high school. So how do you make that adjustment? How can you stay connected without cramping their experience? Every parent/student relationship is different, so there’s really no right or wrong answers. But just in case it might help some new Penn State parents, here are a few things that helped me adjust to my PSU freshman’s first year:
- Buy the Penn State Swag and show it off with pride! From T-shirts, to hoodies, to car magnets, I embrace it all. Penn Staters are everywhere and they love to talk Penn State. The swag sparks connections, conversations and of course the occasional random “We Are” shouts. I even once got a special 10% “Penn State” only discount in a Mexican restaurant where the manager was an alum! I’ve been from Maine to New York City to Key West this past year and wherever I go, there’s someone reminding me of my connection to Penn State and my son.
- Watch every football game. Get the Big Ten Network and don’t miss a game! I like football, but before this year I hadn’t watched college football. Whether you like football or not, your student chose Penn State in no small part because of its spirit and sense of community. A Penn State football game embodies the best of both. Get up on Saturday morning, put on your best blue and whites, and count the hours to kick-off. No one to watch with you? There are plenty of great Penn State groups on social media that you can chat with during the game. Now if you really miss your student as much as I did, you can play the DVR version of “Where’s Waldo”. That’s where you tape the game and then after, slow scan through the camera pans of the student section to see if you can spot YOUR student. Sounds crazy right? I found him three times this last season!
- Speaking of social media, take some time to explore all of different social media sites offered by Penn State and groups affiliated with Penn State. Reading daily posts related to the school and specific colleges or interests that I know my student is connected with, helps me feel more connected. Occasionally, I’ll come across something that I think my son might be interested in and I’ll forward it and get the coveted text; “Thanks for sending that.”
- Get involved! There are plenty of opportunities for parents to be involved with Penn State. I recently joined the Penn State Parents Program as a Parent Ambassador. It’s great going to local admissions events to meet and share with prospective students and families. Another great option would be to check with the Alumni Office about local alumni chapters in your area. Even if you’re not an alumnus, many groups are happy to include parents of future alumni in their fundraising, community service and social events.
So, fear not, new freshman parents! You too can share in the fun and excitement of the next four years because…WE ARE…Penn State Parents!