How to Send Your Kid Off To College

How to Send You Kid Off to College Stacey Gustafson writer

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Figuring out how to send your kid off to college can be confusing. Ashley is our first-born, and my husband and I had documented all her firsts: first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten, first car, and now, first child to attend college. We recognized that everything we had done up to this point was practice.

Shopping for College

Throughout the summer, we shopped together for college essentials like toiletries, colorful bedding, laundry baskets, eating utensils, and power cords. She selected her college courses online and searched for a roommate through the school’s Facebook page. She was ready to begin a new adventure and had marked off the boxes on the college checklist.

Move-In Day

As move-in day approached, I second-guessed everything. Should I have the big talk with her about binge drinking, campus hookups, and the importance of staying in groups? Can she manage money? Should I call, text, instant message, Skype, or email?

The night before move-in day, her dad returned from Home Depot with packing materials. He stacked the flat cardboard cartons, packing tape and packing paper in a neat pile in the garage.

“Okay, let’s get started,” he said to Ashley. “Assemble the boxes and load your stuff. We’ll be pulling out early tomorrow to beat the traffic.”

Ashley took one look at the stack then stared at me. I pretended to look away. I know that look. She scanned the area like an X-ray technician and tried to get eye contact from Dad.

After ten seconds she pleaded, “Can you guys help me?”

With a subtle tilt of the head, I pointed a finger at the back door and encouraged my hubby to meet me in the kitchen. “She’s struggling with the tape roll,” I whispered. “Should we help?”

“If she can’t put together a tape dispenser, she’s not ready for college,” he said, raising his eyebrows.

For thirty minutes, she huffed and shoved her supplies into the bins, labeled them with the dorm room number and loaded them in our car.

Ta da.


We left our house for the college campus around 7:30 a.m. Student volunteers rushed our car with baskets to wheel her stuff inside. Each freshman was allowed one bin. Ashley filled three. Surprise.

We helped make her bed, hung a mirror, and taped pictures to the wall. Her roommate walked in and introduced herself. What a relief. Looks like a good kid, no nose piercings, spiked hair or tattoos.

After the space was somewhat arranged, Ashley asked, “What are your guys’ plans?”

“Your father and I thought that once you’re unpacked, we’d meet a few other parents from your floor for lunch.”

Drop and Dump

“What?” she asked. “You’re planning on staying? We thought the parents would be gone by then.”

“Oh. I had no idea,” I said, rubbing my hand through my hair. “Thought it might be fun.”

“The kids on our floor planned to hang out,” she said.

“Now what should we do?” Mike asked me.

“Well, I guess we’ll bring up the rest of the cartons and then leave.” Drop-and-dump method.

“Oh my gosh. Just treat me like luggage. This is so sad. You’re ditching me on my first day at college.”


We compromised and unpacked the last few boxes, gave her a final hug, and left. Looking over my shoulder, I whispered, “See you soon,” then grabbed my husband’s hand and strolled down the dorm hallway.

Our first-born baby girl is all grown up, off to college. It’s time to say good-bye. Time to let go. Time to whisper, “I’ll always be here if you need me.”

And time for Mom and Dad to celebrate. Champagne, anyone?

Read more from Rob Lowe, Unprepared – Rob Lowe on sending his son off to college.

How did you feel after dropping your kid off at college? Love to hear about it!

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