College Drop Off—It’s Not So Bad!

Photo by  Tim Gouw  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

“We’re flying to drop our daughter off at school because I don’t want to be in the car with my wife for 14 hours while she cries.” This sentiment, along with all the other “helpful” advice parents shared was on my mind when my husband and I dropped our daughter off at college last week, 904 miles from our home. I have worked in higher-ed for 29 years and have participated in 29 drop-offs, so how bad could it be? For me, not so bad! 

Let’s be real here, our kids have been working hard for 14+ years, toured many campuses, filled out lots of applications, conferred with friends, teachers, trusted adults and then decided where they want to spend the next four years of their lives. They are greeted by cheering students ready to welcome them to campus. The car is unloaded in the blink of an eye and all the merchandise carefully procured over the summer is quickly placed into a tiny room. The roommate, who has been carefully vetted via social media is hugged and where to put the fridge is decided. Parents are welcomed with pep talks from the residential assistants (RA’s), career services, student services, advisors, pep bands and of course advancement host a lovely reception in hopes that your move-in experience moved you to open your wallet. At the same time your child is being wooed by hundreds of campus clubs and activities and indoctrinated into school traditions by upperclassmen; they are drinking the Kool-Aide supplied at every campus. 

As my husband and I prepared to say goodbye I anticipated a huge surge of emotion, but mostly what I felt was pride. Proud she had found a new “home,” proud she had asserted her opinion on where the fridge should be placed, proud she had set up an appointment with her academic advisor, proud she was confident enough in herself to move 904 miles away, and proud to call her my daughter.

And, then my husband offered the 7 words he had said every day since my daughter started school; be smart and be kind to others. This is when we all cried, not an Oprah ugly cry, but a few tears when it clicked that this mantra would not be uttered verbally, on a daily basis. 

Week one as empty nesters has been a success for all of us and our daughter is adjusting well. I know the call will eventually come: she will shed tears and that’s when my actual Oprah ugly cry will happen. But until then, I’m at peace knowing she has a strong foundation; socially, academically, and spiritually and I’ll relish the texts and facetime chats until she’s home again.


Patricia Corrigan is a higher education professional with 25 years of experience (zero in admissions) and has two children, 19 and 17.

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