Good news here – I dropped my oldest off at his new college over the weekend. He is officially a college freshman. It was a long drive but overall I think things went pretty well, and I think my son would agree.
There’s one thing that struck home with me over the course of the last week – when it comes to effectively settling in to a new college, personal technology is vitally important. If you’re a parent who is anti-technology, this is going to come as bad news, but your teen will be hard pressed to move smoothly into college unless he has reasonably current personal tech devices and knows how to use them.
Here’s what we learned, and what we got worng:
Email – I think my teen is pretty typical in that he views email as an annoyance. The immediate impact of text messaging is much more in line with how he chooses to communicate. The problem is that almost everything he needed to know about his new school was buried in his emails, most of which he hadn’t read after he got the acceptance email. If he had kept on top of his email, he would have, for example, known that he was supposed to send in a photo early so that his student ID would be ready on day one. The student ID also acts as his bus pass and meal plan ID, so it’s kind of a big deal. He also missed preregistration for his major’s orientation program. He had to scramble to get in but succeeded.
Social Media – He likes Facebook about as much as he likes email. Within an hour of arriving at his new school, he was instructed to join the Facebook group for his dorm floor, the Facebook group for his residence and one more that I can’t remember now. That is how they choose to communicate, and no one likes to be left out. He didn’t have the Facebook app on his phone and when he downloaded it, he couldn’t remember the password. Minor annoyances for sure but they could have been avoided.
Website – His school has a wonderful website – good thing too because much of the information he needs seems to reside only on the website. If you’re looking for How To Do X on a piece of paper, you’re likely to be disappointed. The school website is your friend.
Laptop – My son doesn’t start classes until next week so I’m not 100% sure about this, but my nephew (a senior) told me that the slides for all of his lectures are available online before each class is taught, and he tends to folIow along online and take notes on his laptop during lectures.
Reddit – Almost every topic has a forum on Reddit, called a subreddit. The subreddit r/xxxuniversity was extremely valuable for “things you don’t know unless/until you’re there”. Some examples:
- What really happens day one of Frosh Week?
- Where can I buy a cheap bike?
- How do I connect a wireless router in the dorms?
- I got a room in Residence X. Is it any good? What should I know?
Education has changed and technology seems to be keeping up with it. In our experience, if your teen shows up for college and is unwilling or unable to use the technology this his school is using, he is going to be fighting an uphill battle.
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