You’ll need your prescription medicine and cords to connect your TV in your room. You don’t need a singing fish to hang on the wall.
“The strangest thing has got to be the singing wall fish,” said Nirav Modha, a resident assistant who has been helping students adjust to living on the main UCF campus since 2014. The senior who is majoring in finance and biomedical sciences, said students generally bring more than they really need and forget the items they just assume will always be there.
Like TV cords.
“Most students think that we supply them,” said Gedeon Richemond, who’s been an RA for the past three years. “But we only supply a digital adapter and remote. Gotta remember your own cords.”
The university does have a list of do’s and don’ts and tips on the UCF Housing and Residence Life website for making the move-in experience easier. Officials strongly recommend students and parents alike check the list before heading to campus for move-in weekend, which starts Friday, Aug. 19.
Prepping for the move is the easy part. The drop-off rite of passage is the real challenge. Parents frequently shed tears as they say goodbye and wonder if their child will be OK.
“We call it the launch years,” said Karen Hofmann, a licensed psychologist and director of Counseling and Psychological Services at UCF. “It is a complicated transition period for parents and children because the parent-child relationship is being redefined. It can be a difficult process due to all of the monumental changes happening, and the intensity of emotions involved.”
That’s one reason UCF incorporates a “Letting Go and Staying Connected” session in its orientation sessions for parents.
It’s an especially tough transition for millennials and their parents because studies show parents of these students are much more hands-on than previous generations, Hofmann said. Many students haven’t experienced intense failure, struggle or had the opportunities to make hard choices. Now comes the time they must learn to make decisions, some of which may not align with parental expectations.
And for parents, especially if they’ve been full-time parents, it feels like the end of an era. It’s often the last time their whole family will be under one roof. It’s a time when they need to begin establishing an adult-to-adult relationship after years of an adult-to-child model in which the parent usually had the last say.
“It’s tough,” she said. “I know. I went through it with my oldest daughter. We had some conflict over the fact she wanted to take everything including the kitchen sink to school. I knew she didn’t need it all, but she wasn’t listening. Once we talked about the emotions underneath the conflict, it all made sense. It wasn’t about the stuff. She wanted the stuff because it gave her a sense of home and safety.”
It’s completely normal tension. It’s what growing up is all about, Hofmann said.
Gedeon Richemond preps for the arrival of students in the Hercules community.
Hofmann suggests parents and children talk about the mixed emotions before move-in day. College is about letting go, parenting in new ways and figuring out how to stay connected and developing adult-adult relationship with each other. “Conversations with your student at this stage should start with more questions than statements, along with a lot of listening — like being a consultant.”
Some of the students who have been through it know the newcomers will be just fine by the time they are ready to graduate.
Richemond, who calls his parents regularly and has a group message going with all his siblings, said staying connected has been vital to his success in school. He is on track to graduate in May with a degree in Information Technology. He said his family has been supportive and offered advice, but gave him the space he needed to make sometimes difficult decision during his college career.
Richemond has the same advice for parents about move-in day as he does for them about their child’s overall college experience.
“Be supportive and let your child take charge on move-in day,” he said. “In general don’t fix all your child’s problems but let them know you are there if things escalate. Your children are going to need to learn how to do grown-up things like cook, do laundry and some financial responsibilities in order to succeed in life.”
Marissa Sowinski, one of the resident assistants helping students transition to living on campus.
Marissa Sowinski, a resident assistant in the Nike Community who is majoring in psychology, said students should be open to new experiences, because you never know when an unexpected class, club or other activity may put them on a new path. And that is sometimes scary for parents.
“The relationship between parent and child changes a lot during college, and your child may not be the same person you remember sending to college,” Sowinski said. “Embrace their self-discovery and serve as a support for them through both their success and failures. Trust your student. And yes, it’s going to be OK.”