Freshman Year in the Rear – View Mirror (Almost)—a Parent’s Perspective

Freshman Year in the Rear – View Mirror (Almost)—a Parent’s Perspective

Written by Paisley Clowe, AUPA Board of Directors Representative for the Aubie (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, MT, NE, NV, ND, OK, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY) Region

As I write, finals week is officially underway.  In one week’s time, my son, an Auburn freshman, will be checking out of his dorm room in the Quad, loading his truck by himself, and preparing to make the twelve hour drive back home. Because of scheduling reasons, neither my husband nor I am able to come help him, which is an interesting problem, considering I would normally move heaven and earth to be there.  But he has assured us he’d prefer to do this himself anyway, and I know he is right about that.

It was a different story when we drove out with him in August, each inch of the car carefully packed with items that had been perfectly designed to fit the room specifications for Broun Hall.  My husband and son waited patiently as I unpacked the latest 3M products, hangers and shower accessories.  Everything was perfect in my estimation, and our son was gleeful as we said goodbye to him on the Haley Concourse, he ready to begin college life, and we hold back sobs until we got to the car.

Letting Go

So much happens in one year’s time, both in the lives of our students and in our own lives as well.  Much as we thought we were prepared for the sadness we would face when our son left for college, the fullness of that reality cannot be known until you “walk through that door.”  A lifelong friend, whose son is finishing his sophomore year at Auburn, told me the year before, “the family is changed forever when they leave for college.” 100% true.  A running movie loop of the past eighteen years seems to continually play while we parents and families come to terms with the change that has just occurred.  And it is a permanent change.  We just didn’t know it would be quite like that B.C. (before college).

This year, in addition to seeing our son leave home (and maybe because of it?), I experienced an odd attachment to two calves in our very small cattle operation. Perhaps it was really because they were the first calves born in the same year I had officially started “helping out.”  When it came time for the calves to be weaned and sold, their moms and I were beside ourselves. (If you have never seen calves being weaned, click here for a quick look.)  But once I got through the trauma of that event, I knew the next time would be much easier. And then, this spring, quite unexpectedly, our 12-year old family dog died.  This dog has seen our children through their childhood and adolescent periods, and as my husband said when we buried her, it was like we were burying our children’s childhoods as well.  In case there were any leftover “holdouts”, the process of letting go now seemed complete.

Accepting and Encouraging

When our son made a fraternity visit to Auburn in the summer before his freshman year, he got to know an impressive young man, a junior with an ambitious major and full life of campus involvement and leadership. Returning home a few days later, it was clear in a few comments he made that some of the advice the young man had given him (to consider this option or that) would ultimately influence some of his future college decisions.  As parents, we, some of us at least, imagine a perfect plan, all but laid out before the first day of classes, which will follow its course…perfectly.  While this may be the case for many students, I believe that most students eventually follow a college path that unfolds uniquely and especially for them.  This may mean that majors change, or that a program to which they had been admitted is no longer the program they want to follow.  And yet, the students seem to move on enthusiastically as they talk to peers, advisors, and professors and figure out the way they think they should go.

We parents and families, who may have at one time been involved in these types of discussions, learn to adjust to, and be encouraged by, the idea that the campus experience – social, mental, and physical – is a living, breathing organism of which our students are fully apart.  We discover a new role where, when possible, we can check in, offer encouragement and sometimes guidance, and experience a changing relationship with the young adults to whom we said goodbye in August.

Final Thoughts/Advice to Pass Along (that was shared by others)

  • Auburn won us over at Camp War Eagle with its loud and clear message to parents: “We want you to be involved. Stay involved.”  Auburn faculty, staff, and administrators are dedicated to our students’ success. Resources abound.  Auburn wants us to remind and encourage our students about these things often.
  • Worry less. Trust more.
  • Transition from a “manager” to a “consultant”…quickly!
  • Attempt to visit your AU student face-to-face, if even for a quick meal, at least once a “quarter” (or twice a semester).
  • Watch AUPA Board President Dr. Michael Ramsey’s presentation on adolescent brain development (link here). Just when you think you fully understand your college-aged son or daughter, this presentation will leave you with several thought-provoking and research-based insights.

I feel privileged and humbled to be able to share these thoughts with you.  One year ago, our family sat dutifully in our living room, watching the pre-Camp War Eagle webinar.  What a difference one year makes!  War Eagle!

Final Thoughts/Advice to Pass Along (that was shared by others)

  • Auburn won us over at Camp War Eagle with its loud and clear message to parents: “We want you to be involved.  Stay involved.”  Auburn faculty, staff, and administrators are dedicated to our students’ success. Resources abound.  Auburn wants us to remind and encourage our students about these things often.
  • Worry less. Trust more.
  • Transition from a “manager” to a “consultant”…quickly!
  • Attempt to visit your AU student face-to- face, if even for a quick meal, at least once a “quarter” (or twice a semester).
  • Watch AUPA Board President Dr. Michael Ramsey’s presentation on adolescent brain development (link here).  Just when you think you fully understand your college-aged son or daughter, this presentation will leave you with several thought-provoking and research-based insights.

I feel privileged and humbled to be able to share these thoughts with you.  One year ago, our family sat dutifully in our living room, watching the pre-Camp War Eagle webinar.  What a difference one year makes!  War Eagle!

Auburn University: The View from Out of State

Written by graduating senior Clara Frances McClure, daughter of AUPA Board of Director Representative for the state of Florida, Dr. Bob McClure.

Coming to Auburn University from out of state can be intimidating to the incoming college freshman. And, I will not lie, you will be in the minority, with most students coming from places such as Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery and, of course, Birmingham. I will also say it may take a while to become familiar with the suburbs of Birmingham itself, as residents and native Alabamians consider these their own almost “towns” within the city. However, these factors should not deter or intimidate the newbie out-of- stater. As a native Floridian myself, I am certainly in the minority when it comes to my particular area of the country; yet, my experience at Auburn has been the most cherished years of my life so far and I could never imagine calling another school home.

Originally, I am from Tallahassee, Florida, a large college town in and of itself. And yet, I chose Auburn because of the overall welcoming atmosphere of the campus. This true “Auburn Spirit” is why students coming from out of state should not be worried about being in the minority. Throughout my four years at Auburn, hometown has never been a deterrent for the amazing friendships I have found. At first, it may seem as though everyone knows everyone else or has some sort of connection based solely on their Alabama blood. However, I can assure you, a true Auburn man or woman, of which there are many, will not so much as blink at the thought of another state. People here, as I have so often found, want to get to know the person, not the residency.

In fact, I would say there are a few perks to being from out of state. First of all, you are, initially, completely anonymous. You can be whoever you want to be, introduce yourself with no reservations, and be kind and hospitable to anyone and everyone. Knowing every person you pass by in college may seem like a security blanket as an incoming freshman, but actually anonymity, making your own way and being free from your parents and high school friends to do so, is thrilling. There is a certain beauty in anonymity, not in a disingenuous way, but in a way such that you don’t see people for their high school experiences or anything other than the person you come to know, and they see the same. There is little or no judgement. I found this freedom gave me the option to be bolder, introduce myself to people and make as many friends as possible.

Another upside is that being out of state is unique and interesting. It is a great conversation starter and connects you with people based on common interests, rather than who you both know. I loved sharing where I was from with people because it made me feel special in a way, as well as opened the door to great conversations.

Being out of state at Auburn has been an amazing experience for me. There will be some days you wish you were from B-ham, Mob Town, The Gump or the 256, but these moments are few and far between. I have made so many life-long friendships and have had experiences I will cherish forever. What I have come to realize in my years here, and what I hope every freshman realizes too, is that a city, region or zip code does not define Auburn students, it is the Auburn Spirit that truly defines us. And that is borne out every day here in the 334.

Four Years Out

Four Years Out

Written by Karen Askins, AUPA Board of Director Representative for the Greater
Birmingham, AL area.

The old adage time flies couldn’t be more appropriate as my daughter sprints toward the finish line called graduation this May. Devon’s freshman year flew by, but the three years that followed passed at breakneck speed.

So many thoughts about Devon's experience at Auburn come to mind. While
friendships, roommates and social activities are all important parts of the college experience, something Devon said while speaking at a Camp War Eagle session truly resonated. She said that as much as she values the friendships she has gained in the activities in which she participated, her studies and dedication to her major are of most importance. She pointed out that how she invested her time during her four years at Auburn will likely determine the next 40 years of her life. With that thought in mind, I leave you these ideas:

  • Encourage your students to get to know their professors – all of them – each semester. Have them take the time to visit during office hours. Your student might never know which professor will end up being a true mentor and the very one they might look to for a reference or letter of recommendation in future years.
  • Have your student stay connected with their advisors. Should they be affiliated with more than one college, utilize both advisors. Advisors will be extremely helpful as they approach completing their academic career at Auburn and move on to gainful employment. Advisors will be key at helping them take that next step as they prepare for the future – from career planning to assistance with graduate applications to resume building.
  • Have your student consider volunteering in and earning service hours in an
    area that will align with their intended major. In this way, your student will
    benefit Auburn and the community while gaining valuable insight and knowledge into an intended future career. That’s a win-win.
  • Encourage your student to become meaningfully involved in Auburn. Seek out organizations that they can benefit and will benefit them. Encourage them to
    pursue a leadership role as they grow in that organization. Also encourage them to stay involved for the long haul, demonstrating dependability, responsibility and consistency. All of these attributes will grow them personally as well as serve as a plus on their resume. This real life experience will transfer to the job market.
  • Encourage them to seek a minor. One of Devon’s deans encouraged her to do so. At first she was resistant to the idea, but she took the advice. Pursuing her minor has been enriching to her academic experience and gave her the priceless
    opportunity to study abroad.
  • Recommend they invest time in public speaking courses. These are proving very beneficial to my daughter not only in a multitude of classes as she gives presentations but also as she entered mock interviews, interviews for letters of recommendation or reference and now medical school interviews.
  • Don’t procrastinate. My daughter found each year at Auburn to prove more
    academically challenging as she further delved into her major. Not only does the class load become heavier, the process of preparing applications and resumes becomes very important. Staying on top of all the responsibilities while they are small details rather than giant projects will be key…and less stressful.
  • Remember that internships fill up quickly. Your student needs to start searching intern possibilities during the fall or winter for summer positions. It’s never too soon to start interning and learning on the job.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of letters of reference. My daughter learned that professors prefer about a five-month lead-time for letters of reference. Hopefully your student will have established mentor relationships with certain professors. Your student will want to ask for letters of reference early on to allow the professor plenty of time to draft a wonderful reference on their behalf.

I must add that I learned these thoughts from my daughter. Early on in her college career I encouraged her to reach for the stars, and she took advantage of the opportunities Auburn University offers. Auburn has prepared her beyond measure. I could not be more thankful for this Loveliest Village. Auburn lives out the Creed.War Eagle to that!