Pt. 4- 5 Girls Speak Out- What They Learned

Enjoying reading these little clips of thoughts from girls about their freshman year of college? If you missed any, catch Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3!

Today we hear from two girls about their first year of college.

The first young lady went to public high school, then on to a state University. She then became part of sorority life and has loved it.

"I expected more peer pressure. I didn't really feel it. I went to some parties at first because that's all there was to do and everyone goes. People asked why I didn't drink, I said I never had and didn't want to. They respected that. I didn't get flack for it and no one treated me weird.

Later I found friends that were like minded and we found lots of other kinds of creative fun to do instead of the party scene. Parties get old if you're not drinking. Unless there's dancing, then it can still be fun.

There is a stereotype that girls are just in sororities to party and drink. It's not true. It is so much more than that. I didn't party, and instead gained respect for what I stood for. I guess people felt like I didn't judge others who did party because at the end of the year I was asked to be chaplain for my sorority, which I accepted! "

And another girl who went from public school to a private Christian university.

 "College was pretty much what I expected it to be. I went to a Christian college. Met great friends, all on the same page, the atmosphere of the school was great. It was the only time in my life I'd been surrounded by so many like minded friends. It was easy to avoid the few partiers there were. There were some parties but I didn't go. The friends I met were all pretty much like minded to how I was raised. Many people I met didn't want to go there at first but then felt like God led them there. Once they got there, the environment and people made them super happy to be there! First semester, I had hard classes, I was buried in books, my friends had to tell me to go have fun. Second semester I had a great group of friends, I worked on campus instead of off, which gave me more time, and I had even more fun. I love being busy and being involved."

I asked one particular question to all 5 girls that have shared this week.

 "What is one thing you learned about life during your first year away at school?"

I learned balance. No one was there to tell me what to do. I had to figure out sleeping, studying, eating and socializing. How to self manage my time. It's hard to do.

It was different than growing up years. No one was cheering me on or patting me on the back for doing things. No one cares if you do it, but they do care if you don't. I had to do things because it was right, not to be recognized.

No one would know if you didn't do the right thing, like go to class instead of sleeping in, but I had to learn to do the right thing anyway.

I learned responsibility. I guess I tended to be lazy at home (ha), but I did manage to be responsible at school.

A lot of people dress messy for class and all during the week, but I have to dress nice to feel good and stay awake.


Pt. 3 - Girls Speak Out- College Freshman Year

This is College Week, to hear from a few girls fresh out of freshman phase, here to give you some insights into their first year away at school!

Pt. 1 - She went from public school to a state university. To Rush or not Rush, academics, party scene...she talks about all these.

Pt. 2 - This girl went from homeschool to a private university across the country. She had a polar opposite roommate, and an interesting story!

Today's former freshman tells of going from private school to community college.

"I'd been in the same school all of my life, so the first day of college was scary. I'd never had a "first day" at a new place since preschool! I didn't like high school that much, and thought college would be pretty much the same thing. I found that I enjoyed it more!

I went to local community college. I lived at home at first with curfew and do's and don'ts. Then I lived on my own in an apartment with no one telling me what to do. I had kind of crazy roommate issues, but I'm still glad I did it. I became "real-world-wise." I worked three jobs, and it opened my eyes to crazy people out there in the world, as well as good people. I found good people in random places.

I thought it wouldn't be hard (college and living on own), but it is. I felt prepared, but not bored in school academically. I had the opportunity to travel abroad with a class. The drinking age was different there (16 years old). We ate at a lot of pubs, it was very different, I even saw little kids drinking over there. I faced a lot of peer pressure to drink on that trip, and was given a hard time for not doing so. I grew up more in those 12 days than ever.

Basically, just know who you are going into college. It could be very easy to change yourself for the sake of others unless you are confident in who you are. College should be a fun time to experience new things that you want to experience, and to grow up (become your own person outside of the identity of parents). So give yourself the opportunity to do so!"


Pt. 2 - Girls Speak Out- College Freshman Year

Freshman college year was the best! Wasn't it? Well not for all, but for most it's a great experience.

 If you're a mom, do you fear because you envision your daughter in a scene like this picture?? Well, parties happens, for sure, but not everyone gets into the party scene. But they can still have a blast.

This week we're hearing from a few girls who just lived it, and are sharing some thoughts with you.

Did you see yesterday's post? A friend tells about her first year at a state Rush, not Rush, the academics and party scene. Don't miss it.

Today we hear from another college girl. Enjoy!

"I went to a private university across the country from home. Its kind of funny, I had a vision of a big party zone, people slipping me drugs and having sex everywhere. It wasn't like that. The party aspect was definitely there, but there was also so many types of people there. I didn't feel all alone amongst partiers. I found a group of friends.

I had a roommate though that was the exact polar opposite of me. I think it was a God thing that I lived with her. I'd been sheltered my whole life, now I lived with a true party girl, in every sense of the word. But I saw that she was still a human being, very sweet and nice. I wouldn't have expected that from my view of what "party girl" would be like. She respected me for who I was. We were friends. I think she needed to see me too. I didn't drink, do drugs, or have sex, but I had a ton of fun. And I was happy. She was surprised that I'd never done any of it. She was surprised that I don't drink, because before college she looked at all my crazy Facebook pictures and assumed I must've been drunk to be having so much fun! At school dances, the drunk crowd had fun but couldn't remember it. People saw me having fun yet remember everything.

My freshman year was a big learning experience, to see how someone so different lives. It was a challenge in some ways but my roommate and I were friends and had fun. I'd like to think she needed me to learn from, as much as I learned from her. She and her boyfriend would often come to me for questions and answers. As different as we were, we had a fun experience together.

I'm stronger than I was. I learned I can do anything for a short amount of time. If you had told me a year ago that I'd be across the country away from my friends and family in college, rooming with the roommate I had, I wouldn't have believed I could do it. My worst fear came true, but I did it.

My friends in high school knew I'm nice and have a hard time sometimes setting boundaries, in an effort to not hurt peoples feelings. But I went to college and made it clear who I was and what boundaries I had, and stuck with it.

I'm glad the fear didn't stop me."


My First Blogging Award

I'm still new to this blogging thing. But I found out something fun and exciting today! One way bloggers encourage each other is with blogger awards. And I've been awarded one today! Who knew?

So thank you to my friend, Laura, who has the informative, warm and reflective site Pruning Princesses, for sending me this award. As Laura has stated, her blog is a lot like mine, only her girls are younger. So if you have younger girls, you won't be disappointed if you check out her blog. Do it today! She also has gotten me interested in Five Minute Fridays, which I plan to check out soon.

The fun thing is that I get to introduce you to 7 of my favorite blogs I follow. But first, to play nice and follow the rules, I must first tell 7 random facts about myself. Then to the good stuff.

Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1. Add the award to your blog. 2. Thank the person who presented it to you. 3. List seven random facts about yourself. 4. List the rules. 5. Pass the award onto seven other bloggers. 6. Inform each blogger they have won by posting a comment on their blog.

So....let's see...7 random facts about me.

1. When I cook dinner I often forget and burn things. I just realized I'm doing that again, so I'm going to check dinner and will be right back for #2. (I used to love to cook long elaborate meals and spend all day doing so. After 20 years, I have days I can barely throw a hot dog on the table). (See how long I typed after remembering it's burning?)

2. (Back). I love all things fall. Cool weather, hot drinks, apple and pumpkin recipes, fall decorations. Everything. I have as much fall decor as Christmas (almost).

3. I have three girls and I don't really like to shop. This is a problem.

4. Though not all of my blog posts mention it, my relationship with Jesus is the driving force of everything in my life, and the reason I am who I am and do what I do. My goal is to help moms and girls alike through the complexities of growing up as, and raising girls in our culture. I enjoy being in company of those who may not believe the same as me, but are still females in this culture and in need of the support of each other. So I may share spiritual things at times, and at other times, simply life skills, relationship issues or things that apply to everyone, regardless of faith....because I see trends in girls lives overall that concern me. I want girls to have healthy lives. I hope to contribute towards the answer in some way.

5. I'm in an interracial marriage. I guess that's a big one, though I forget it is. He's tall dark and handsome, and I'm the lightest in my family. It has caused years of entertainment, as no one can guess the race of any of my girls upon meeting. We humor ourselves by letting people guess.

6. I love teenagers and college aged kids. Love to listen to their thoughts. I've been meeting with them for years, having fun, talking life and listening. I think they are actually pretty smart. They often just have to deal with some yuck that adults cause.

7. I love people who do daring things or who survive amazing things. Love to read true stories and be around world changers. The latest? I just cried through "Left to Tell" by Immaculée Ilibagiza.

NOW, onto some blogs I follow. This is hard because there are so many great women out there. And so many more blogs I pop in on sporadically for a crack up or quick inspiration.

1.  Sharita at Above the Fray- I have to start here because this is my friend that I talk to daily. She is one of my writing idols. We started blogging about the same time. I love how she uses words to say inspirational and entertaining, thought provoking, yet somehow still hilarious things. She's the in real life and in blog world. And the best singer I've ever heard (for real).

2. Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker's Operation Transformation Dr. Shewmaker is an online friend I have found as I research girl issues and have found other organizations that fight for change also. The goal of Operation: Transformation is to explores the messages that media sends to kids and strategies for confronting them. She has some great things to say. Check her out! It's fun to have supportive friends out there who are working alongside the same issues and care about the future of our world too.

3.Lynn Cowell has a blog that comes to my inbox once a week that I always enjoy reading. From her website, "Lynn Cowell is a Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speaker and author whose passion is helping moms become wise women who raise wiser daughters." Good stuff here for raising girls, from a biblical perspective.

4.Kelly's Korner is a fun blog my friend shared with me. It is so unique. Weekly Kelly has a "Show Us Your" event, where people show everything from their own blog niche, to window treatments, to party ideas, to front porch decorations!

5.Beauty Redefined is a fabulous website and blog everyone would be interested in, whether you are raising girls or not. Lindsay and Lexie Kite, 26 year old twin sisters with PhDs in Communication, say this: We have a passion for helping girls and women recognize and reject harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like. Beauty Redefined represents our work to take back beauty for girls and women everywhere through continuing the discussion about body image, women’s potential and media influence.

6.Mom Life Today is a great resource for Mom encouragement, as well as covering many life issues- faith, relationships, parenting, fostering and adopting, home and work. Tracey Eyster is the creator of this fabulous website that has many mom contributors. Check it out!

7.SISTER CHAT by my friend Sharon Braner. Sharon is one of those world changers I was speaking about above. I rarely see her because she's always on the go, jetting around from place to place, but she stirs things up wherever she goes. A main passion is traveling and speaking on the subject of human trafficking. She raises awareness and works with OATH (Oklahomans Against Human Trafficking). She is also a fun grandma to many cute grandkids who regularly attend her "Camp BeBe".

Pt. 1- Girls Speak Out- College Freshman Year

This is me, freshman year-ha

Did you catch the special blog earlier this month just for you Mom? About sending your daughter off to college...what next? If you didn't, and you have a new college freshman, go back and check it out. You'll hear some thoughts from former freshman, and their tips for Mom during this stage of life.

All this week I'll be posting a series of very short blogs, sharing thoughts from college girls themselves.  Several girls have shared with me some of their life lessons- what they went through, experienced and learned during that freshman year of school.  Maybe it will give you a glimpse into what your own college student may be experiencing while away.

Today's Story-

"I went to a state University and decided to Rush. My friends who knew me seemed to "know" that I would hate Rush. I Rushed anyway. I wanted to see for myself, and wanted to blend in. I've never been the type to be easily peer pressured. I just wanted to experience it. I enjoyed the process though it was very stressful. (I recommend going through the process and see for yourself if it's for you.)

However, when I was done, I couldn't see myself in a sorority, so I dropped it in the pledging process. It's a big deal to drop, and I felt a lot of pressure from people to not drop. But I also had some others help me come to the decision to drop after all. Sorority not as stereotypical as everyone thinks. Some girls are the stereotypical sorority girls, but not all are. It just wasn't for me.

Instead, I got involved around campus. I got very involved. I liked being involved in things that still affected community and even statewide issues, things with a bigger vision. I helped raise money for a miracle hospital for kids. I wanted to make a difference in lives of people, outside of school.
I expected school to be easier than it was. I went in with enough credits to make me pretty advanced, so I was in class with many juniors. It was hard. Professors didn't care. There were 300 in class, no one cares. Three tests and you're out.  That means that you only have 1 exam, a midterm, and a final. Many "freshman" class professors will drop your lowest test score because they have 4 or 5 tests during the semester or they would add extra homework points or quizzes for the students to be able to make up lost points on exams, but in my classes it was literally just a class made up of 3 exams, no homework or quiz grades to help. I felt thrown to the sharks.

I'm glad I did it still, but hard. Mom got me through it. She is young and remembers how hard college was. I was afraid she would just say "try harder" but she actually gave me practical advice, like getting a tutor.

Second semester we had some extended family things, so it was hard again, but I stuck with it and mom helped me through that again. She wasn't overbearing, but gave good advice when I asked for it.

The party scene was definitely there, every day of the week. I don't drink, but I did go sometimes. Friends respected that I didn't drink. Some people gave me an attitude and wouldn't be friends with me if I didn't drink. Then sometimes someone would offer me something, and my friends would step in and say "She doesn't drink" to support me.

Funny story- I turned 18 and got a $5 gift card to a casino from a friend. I went to use it, but the smoke alone made me ill. Mom found out and was so worried about me she came to town to see me, freaked out. To me it was the worst gift ever, she had nothing to worry about.

During my freshman year, I learned that in every situation I was in it for a reason, and I grew from it."


Awkward Talk #4 - To The Parents

Jadyn Noelle Photography
Awkward Talks. I wish we didn't have to have them. I wish they weren't needed.

But they are.

What is an Awkward Talk? (def)- important subjects to talk about that may cover topics not easily addressed due to uncomfortable feelings, or that may not fit easily into normal day to day conversation.

If you missed out on the awkwardness we have already covered, don't be left out! Here they are:

Talk #2- To Tell or Not to Tell

Talk #3- Living in a Porn Culture

These talks were all created  to help you, the parents, cover topics with your children, at whatever level their age makes appropriate.

Today, Awkward Talk #4 is a little different. It's me talking to you, the parents.

The awkward part is that you're probably not going to think this applies to you or your kid. But you're the ones I'm talking to. It very well possible that it does apply to them, right now. Especially if you think it doesn't.

I've heard too many stories that make me realize no one is immune. Things happen all the time with kids that are supposed to be the ones "who never would". I haven't met any one yet that is beyond something we think them incapable of. Because we're all human! No one is perfect or mistake free. Yes, even "good kids".

So if you think "not my kids", stop, at least read this, then consider doing some random checks. At least you'll know for sure. (Better yet, check more than once, at random times.)

Here are some of the random things that I know have happened over the last 9 years of having teens, knowing many and meeting with teen girls from various schools, among good kids from great families.

have sent and/or received sexts (texts with nudity).

have met strangers on trips out of town and put their phone numbers in their phones to communicate with them when they're back home.

won't let anyone on their phones and keep them super private.

parents don't know their kids passwords on their phones, and have no idea what they do on them, or who they are talking to.

put some people under fake names in their phones so parents don't know who they really are. 

talk differently on texts than they ever do in front of parents. 

have had inappropriate relationships with a teacher that started through texting.

have accessed p o r n

To name a few.

Everytime I think I'm overboard and too serious, I hear of another real story right here in my little world, that makes me realize no, this stuff is real and going on. We have to pay attention.

Nothing in itself is the end of the world, but with a little checking, some wrong paths can be averted.

Every kid messes up at some point, and with all the things in their worlds that we didn't have, it's more complicated and there's more opportunity for mess ups. Let's at least make it difficult to mess up.

First, let's get informed. Here is an article that I found that super helpful:

10 Technology Secrets Kids Keep From Their Parents

You can find out a lot about someone by their openness with their phone, their apps, their statuses, tweets and favorites.

What should we do?

Know all of their passwords if you don't already. Email, Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, Tumblr, Instagram.

Do random checks on each. Know who their phone contacts are. Look at the apps on their phone. Make sure they really know their Facebook friends.  Read their statuses, their tweets. Read their "favorited" tweets. Google their name. Look at the web history on your computer. Look at the trash bin on your computer. Read your phone bill and see who, how much and when they are texting and talking. And ask questions. (If you have no idea how to do this, bring over a web savvy friend for coffee to teach you).

Let them know you reserve the right to read anything if you have a gut feel you need to. Some parents read their kids texts. We reserve the right, but rarely do, unless a gut feel comes along.
Definitely check out your own child. There may come a time you want to even check out their friends you don't know, boyfriends/girlfriends...whoever they are spending time with. They call this "creepin", but it's a perfectly public way to get info on someone. It is public domain. You won't have friends' passwords obviously, but you can see Facebook or Twitter if it is not privately set. You can learn a lot that way.

Are there any kids who come out unscathed by all this? Of course. But I'm just asking you to not assume it. Don't assume yours never would. Because they might. Every kid deserves to be checked up on, to keep them safe in this complicated world.

If you find something, don't freak out. Cool down, and at a good time, broach the subject, with proof. Use it as a teaching time, discussion, boundaries, corrections.

It's okay for you as a parent to have all of your kids passwords and for you to check on them. You can still give them privacy overall, but let them know that random checks at your discretion will be happening. It's for their safety. I believe in privacy to a degree, but with all the complications and dangers in the world, there is a limit to that as far as I'm concerned. I know not everyone will agree and that's okay. (Just giving my opinion).

It pays to be tech savvy when you're a parent.

Hopefully that wasn't too awkward...and I hope and pray that when you check on your child, you don't find a thing offensive.


Getting the Most Out of Middle School- Taya's Story

Jadyn Noelle Photography

Middle school is notorious for being a very hard three years and having just survived it, I completely agree.

Though it may be extremely hard at times, there are still countless amazing parts to it!

I think that three of the key things to having a successful middle school experience are relationships, staying true to yourself, and a relationship with God. My parents, God and my friends helped me through, and I left with only a few battle wounds. I think that if you focus on these three things, then it can be very fun and full of good memories.

Friends can make or break a school year. It's easy for middle schoolers to become so involved in only being friends with people that make them "look good". My closest friends have been the people I least expected to relate to. Over the past three years two of the most important things I have learned is to always get to know people for myself, and it’s good to have friends outside of school.

I can’t tell you how many times I listened to what people said about others, avoided that person, and then ended up becoming really close friends with them once I started talking to them myself. Sometimes people may judge you for who you’re friends with, but if you know in your heart that they’re good for you then you shouldn’t care what people say. It’s better to have friends you love and are happy with, rather than being with who may make you look good. I have a giant mixture of friends from all sorts of “groups”, and it’s so fun! But my two closest friends don’t even go to my school. It’s really nice to have a few people that aren’t involved in your school life. Long story short, get to know people yourself, accept everyone and don’t worry about what people think of your friends.

Possibly the biggest reason for drama at this age is dating. Guys are great friends. I have a lot of guy friends and it’s really fun. But the mistake that girls make is thinking that in middle school, making a friendship into a relationship will actually go somewhere. Remember this, you are thirteen, you aren’t getting married tomorrow and as my wonderful dad put it, “You can’t get bacon from a chicken, and you can’t get real romance from a middle school boy.” There is so much truth to that. I have had a million friends cry to me (more than once) about boyfriend issues. Save yourself the tears, and don’t do it. In middle school they make much better friends then boyfriends.

One of the hardest things about school is not becoming someone other than yourself. It’s hard, because everyone wants to fit in. You should never compromise who you are to be be “accepted”. It’s not worth it, because in the end if you can’t be yourself, then you won’t be happy. I know this.

There is a friend for everyone. Now if you’re disagreeing right now and saying, "No there aren't friends for everyone. No one talks to me,"  then I'd suggest you might be wrong. In seventh grade, I didn’t have any classes with any of my friends, and this was during my shy stage. Nobody talked to me, so I assumed that no one liked me. I found out later that since I didn’t talk to anyone, it caused people to think I didn’t want them to talk to me. But as soon as I became friends with one girl (we started talking about a book series and it went from there), I was able to start being myself more.  I became friends with her friends, and my year got better.

While I was quiet and didn’t talk to anyone, thinking that they wouldn’t like me, they just wanted me to open up, talk to them, and be myself. So even if you’re incredibly shy, just start with one person and introduce yourself. Don’t act like you like certain things just to have something to talk about. Stay true to who you are, and you will find friends. And if you have a hard time starting conversations, I find that giving a (genuine!) compliment can help start conversation. Again, do not change who you are just to make friends. If hanging out with them requires changing yourself, they’re probably not ideal friends.

My whole life I have not liked sunday schools, youth groups, large church gatherings and crowds of people. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus, I just don’t like large groups of people. But in sixth grade my parents forced me to go to a youth group, and over time I came to love it. This last year I alternated between three different youth groups, and can now tolerate large groups of people. The best part of it though, is that it truly helped me survive middle school.

I made a few fantastic friends there, and I’ve never been closer to God. I leave verses in my locker, or on my binders to help throughout the day. Also I started listening to worship music in the mornings before school rather than other music, and it helps put me in a good mood for the day ahead. So even if you think that youth groups aren't your thing, I highly suggest trying it out. There is no way I could’ve lived through middle school without it. And if you try it and really don’t like it, then at least find some strong Christian friends. One of my best friends actually isn’t a Christian, and I have many more that aren’t, but I still make sure to have good Christian friends who believe the same. For me it is vital to having a healthy life.

Yes, middle school has its downs, but it also has ups. It’s like a roller coaster. Whenever you go down a hill on a roller coaster, then you have to grip onto the bar, or else it feels like you’ll fly right out. During the downs of middle school, then you need friends, family, and God to hold onto. During the ups, then you'll have people to share it with. I have some great memories and yes there was hard times, but I still had fun. It’s definitely a learning experience, and one that I wouldn’t change. It made me a stronger person, and now I have learned things that I can use in high school.


Senior Year Decisions - Imani's Story

There's been a flurry of activity around colleges all over the country this week as many get started in their new adventures. In our last post, some now-college-sophomores gave great advice to moms on how to be a mom, long distance, during that freshman year. Check out their insights if you missed it!

Today, there are also vast amounts of students starting their senior year of high school, with college aspirations close on the horizon. For those seniors, and the parents, today Imani shares her story about the difficult decision making process.....deciding where to attend college.

We first heard from Imani at the introduction of this blog in July 2011,  From the Heart of a Teen Girl.  Now, a year later, she has graduated and will be starting her college experience this month.

Let's hear from Imani.


"When I began the college application process, I know only one thing: I was not going to get into any good colleges.

I had prepared myself for rejection. My GPA was only a 3.3, which was vastly lower than any of my friends who had collegiate aspirations. Even though I had extracurricular activities, they were things that I loved to do but not things I thought really mattered to colleges.

I began to apply to schools that I was sure would accept me. I wasn't sure how happy I'd be at any of these schools, or what their reputations were, I just wanted to be accepted into a college.

I began searching for schools whose target GPA was in my range,  who had a fairly strong English or Journalism program, and were also inexpensive. It was quite the feat. I ended up with the “basic 6” (2 safety schools, 2 target schools (in-state), and 2 reach schools). One of the Reach schools was my dream school.

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

When I received my first acceptance in January, I was sure that was where I was going. It was one of my safety schools, they gave me substantial amount of money and they had a journalism program. It was also about 6 hours away from home (which was a huge positive for me). I had told my parents that's where I wanted to go. I joined the "class of 2016" Facebook group and everything!

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

But then I began to research the school and found out that it had many administrative problems and had a huge party school reputation, so that school was officially “out.”

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

I had to look at my other options. I only had acceptance letters from the other safety school and from one of my target, in-state schools. I did not want to go to my in-state school, at all. That particular school is about 20 minutes away from me. A public bus would take me from my corner to campus, so I was not excited.

The other safety school ended up much like the first, it was under-funded and over populated, with very little academic emphasis. And gave me little to no money.

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

 During this time of decision I kept receiving emails from the larger state school I had applied to saying that they were missing my transcript. Me, being me, just looked at the emails and ignored them. “If they can't keep up with my transcript then they don't deserve to have me at their school,” I thought. My father urged me to send them another copy, but I never did.

 With all of that considered, I had resigned myself to the smaller, closer in-state school. I had yet to hear from my reach schools, but I was fairly certain that I was not going to get in.

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

Then a funny thing happened: everyone I knew was getting into their dream schools. It was crazy. Every other day I opened Facebook to find a status about someone getting into Ivy Leagues or  fantastic art schools (I went to an arts high school).  I honestly got a little jealous.

I started to hope that I would get into one of the reach schools that was my dream- it was my whole family's alma mater. I was born on their campus and I even wrote about how much I loved it in my application essay.

But then God showed up, and as you may know, God tends to laugh at some of our plans. I received an acceptance email from my bigger state school. It wasn't until I got in did I realize how much I wanted to go. It is about an hour away with a great journalism school. Even though they lost my transcript, they wanted me.

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

Though I'd changed my mind about three different times, I now knew this is where I wanted to go.

Right after I received  acceptance to my state school, I received rejections from both of the reach schools. So my sights were very focused on my state school.

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream
I planned trips to the area with my friends, we talked about joining sororities together, even rooming together. But just as I began to make plans, God began to laugh, quite a lot. 

 As I would go to church and pray about my college decision, God kept putting the closer, smaller, state school in my head.

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

He just silently nudged me in the right direction. During this time, I began to remember a moment I had during worship where God told me I was going to my dream school. Now, I'm a girl who believes in God, really I do, but I have this problem where God tells me things that are not naturally possible, and I just shoo Him away.

Then one of my parents' old friends summoned me, for lack of a better term. She went out of her way to get in contact with me. This woman had attended my dream school for college, and a conversation that began as a talk about what I wanted for graduation, turned into a commercial for going after your destiny, and keeping in line with what God wants for me.

After crying and reflecting, I thought about my past. Once before, God told me I'd get into my dream high school (an arts magnet school), but first I had to spend a year at a school where I was not very happy which made me appreciate my dream school (from which I just proudly graduated from). So just in case I needed substantial proof, there it was.

So here I am, stepping out on faith. This fall I will instead be attending my smaller, closer state school. I'll be staying at home so I can stay focused. Then next year, I'll apply to my dream school, trying again, with all my prayers and hard work to show for it.

Safety- Safety- Small close Instate - Large farther Instate - Reach - Reach/Dream

In 5 Things Fashion, here are 5 things that I learned from the college process:

1. Listen to the people who believe in you. If it weren't for my father nudging me to apply to my smaller state school, or my parents' friend telling me all about her beliefs in following dreams, I'd never make this decision. Throughout this process you may not believe in yourself too much, so these people are crucial, and submerge yourself in their love and confidence. Maybe some will rub off on you.

2. Forget rejections. Seriously, open the letter, then begin to forget about the college for now. A friend of mine once told me this: “Think about colleges as people. If someone says they don't want to be your friend, do you cry about it? No! You just go 'I didn't want to be your friend anyway!' and you find a new friend.” She's totally right. No one should go where they are not wanted and that's not the end of the world. God will have great things in store for you. (It may just be timing!)

3. Trust God. This is an obvious one that applies to every area of your life, but the college application process is ridiculously tough to see God in. There will be times of doubt and frustration.  Remember Jeremiah 29:11, which I like to call The Collegiate Verse (because it should be posted somewhere during this stressful time), “ For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.”

4. Make the decision yourself. The president of the college I'll be attending this year gave a speech at a Meet and Greet in which he told us that the more we make the decision on our own, the more our parents will trust us. While your parents may believe one thing for you, or may even expressly want something for you, they love you enough to let you make your own decision. Don't take this lightly. You have control over this situation and if you stay focused it'll turn out great.

5. "The college" doesn't matter.  This is a weird one, I know, but remember that you're attending college to better yourself. You're going so that you will become something great, and one day you will be making that college famous. So, even though your friend may believe that Yale is the only school worth attending, look within yourself, and decide what matters to you specifically. For your life.

Sending Her Off to College...(boo hoo)

My what a year does! Last year at this time I was sad and emotional about moving our oldest out of the house and into college. Yes, I was giddy with excitement at the thought of her getting to experience all that I did at my Alma Mater, so it was with mixed emotions that we packed up.

This year is a breeze compared to last. But I know there are moms going through the "first time sending one off to college" right now. It's with those in mind that this blog was written.

My daughter only moved 20 minutes away. Some ladies sniffed at my melancholy thoughts by minimizing the transition I was going through. Yes, she was only 20 minutes away, but I maintain that we still entered "adult phase" of life. Her closeness in proximity didn't mean my mental and emotional transition into her adulthood didn't exist, or felt any less. (Well, maybe it would have been worse if it was hours away. I dunno, but I'm testimony that even 20 minutes away can be a tough transition.) Because I knew that I was letting go and changing seasons, whether it was 20 minutes or 20 hours.

I knew that she wouldn't be rushing home often, which was fine. I actually didn't want her to. I would have loved the visit, but I also didn't want her to come by much at first...make sense? Sure our family would have loved to see her sweet face every day, but when she reluctantly picked a college in town, part of the "sell" was that we'd pretend we didn't live here, in a half joking way. She needed to get away. To be on her own. It's totally healthy to want and have that "going away" experience as kids transition into adulthood. I knew I wasn't going to be talking to her every day anymore or have knowledge of, let alone input into, her daily life. I was okay with that, mentally. Common sense told me that was the next normal season of life. I had to let it happen and not try to hang on to the past season of life. For both of our benefits.

There is still the emotional side to get through. When I was sad, I shed the occasional tears, and then found my own way through it, without involving her. I chose to focus on the excitement of her new experiences, which I knew would be incredible. And I chose to focus on giving her needed space, knowing that after awhile, things would even out. (Or so my friends told me who had already been through this). I chose this. Doesn't mean it was always easy, but it was a choice, to press through to that next season. And not get stuck. There was one time I called and asked if she could swing by because everyone really missed her. She tells me now part of what she learned too that first year was about seasons of life.

I do remember not really knowing what to do- if or how much to call, to text, to tweet.  Knowing mine, I leaned to not doing much at all. I waited for her to call, or to text. There weren't a ton of calls at first, but quite a few texts with occasional news. That was a big transition because she was the TALKER at home, who talked and talked every day about everything. So really, I didn't know much about what was going on anymore on the day to day, comparatively speaking. But that's OKAY. (not really, if you want to hear whiney-mom's opinion. But I had to make the decision not to listen to my internal whiney-mom, for both our sakes). It was hard at times, and it was sad at times, but I prayed and asked God to help me switch seasons. And He did.

And yes, after time, it did all even out. She tells me now that I did the right thing by giving her space. Everyone said it would all be okay, just different. They're right. And communication normalized and eventually it all smoothed out. We even eventually, by the end of the year, turned into a hang out house for lots of fabulous young people. Woo hoo!

For the sake of all the moms out there not quite sure what to think or do after you drop your daughter off at college, I asked a few young ladies to share some of their experiences and advice to moms. These are girls who just completed their first year at school, away from home.  Each have different situations and personalities, so maybe it will benefit to hear a few opinions, since we know there are no absolute "right answers" for every case. They shared their thoughts with me, which I formed into a story from their perspective. I hope to have captured each accurately.

1. My mom and I are close and have always texted and talked a lot. When I moved into my own apartment, there would be a couple days that I didn't hear from her at all. I wondered if I'd offended her. It was weird not to talk to her. Actually my mom missed me a lot but was trying to give me space. The misunderstanding got settled with one simple conversation. I wanted to be on my own and be an adult, but still wanted to hear from her. Advice?  Moms can still feel the need to parent at this stage, but let them be an adult. You have parented, given tools  and been an authority for 18've prepared them, so now let them be an adult. (But we still want to talk to you).

2. My mom was very strict in high school, so I was surprised by how she treated me like such an adult when I left for college. Mom brought up the conversation that things are different're in college and I remember how busy it was. She left it up to me to call home.  That was perfect. Don't call your daughter every day in college. We would go 4 days or so without talking in the beginning, with maybe short texts daily. Life was so busy, that sometimes I couldn't reply for awhile, but mom never freaked out. In contrast, I knew of other parents who called daily, and if they couldn't reach their daughter, they began calling me and other friends trying to make contact with their daughter. My mom was spontaneous and sometimes drove two hours to show up for an hour lunch then go home, which meant a lot to me. Sometimes my mom didn't have time to talk to me either the exact time I called, which was a little sad, but I realized she had a life that continued after I left, and that was good and okay. It was my mom that got me through many of the stresses of that first year. I could call her when there was a need or when I  had leisure time. I didn't feel demands from her. We enjoy a good relationship still. I appreciated the space given.

A friend of mine had an entirely different experience. I watched a friend not only feel pressure from schoolwork and changes, but also pressure from home to emotionally "take care of" her family. This friend felt a lot of stress and obligation to go home and to respond to phonecalls quickly and frequently. Because she cared, obviously she responded to the need. But her friends could see that it stressed her out and limited her experience of her freshman year greatly, even in studies.

3. My mom gave me lots of space. She didn't call a lot at first. I didn't think about it much, so what she did must have been fine. I called home to tell things, texted random things.  Advice? Let them have space and let your kid miss you. Yes call sometimes for sure, or if you have a bad feeling, but don't call everyday. I'm sure it's hard, but they'll eventually come back.

4. My guy friend at school had his mom call him twice a day, all the time. He planned his life around it. Everyone thought that was strange.  As far as me, I was never really homesick, was very independent. My parents let me live my life and thought "she'll call us". I realized that after two weeks and never calling they were kind of wondering about me... it was totally unintentional! I was so busy and having so much fun, I just didn't think about it, even though I missed them! So I had to find a balance to make time to make those phonecalls. And to pay attention and actually say I miss you. Texting is awesome, because I could respond more easily and quickly. Phonecalls often can't be done quickly, so I would wait until I had more time, which sometimes never happened. I eventually tried to call home once a week. Advice? Let the kids be the ones chasing you. But we do want texts, packages, letters, etc. to know you are thinking of us! (All of these girls said letters are great because they can read them at leisure anytime). And picture text messaging is awesome.

5. My mom called and texted a lot at first and it was hard for her to understand why I couldn't respond right away. But life was SO busy I literally would not have time. First semester was kind of hard to work out an understanding. Later into year we would go for a day or so not talking, and then it was almost weird to not talk to my mom because I always did. I wanted space, but I missed my mom calling when she didn't. It was kind of a journey to figure it out. It was kinda weird and hard. I wanted to know she was thinking of me and didn't want her to completely leave me alone, because she's my best friend and the first one I want to tell everything. But I also knew life was so busy I couldn't be available any time to talk. She eventually understood just how busy I was. We worked it out.

After all that?

I take it that we need to understand that they are on an entirely different schedule (one that only college students can  maintain it seems!) and that the hours that are free for them are usually hours that we are snoozing!

You know your daughter's tendencies and personality. Work around her needs, not yours. You're the adult and can work through the season. If you're struggling, find a friend to talk to. Pray. He helps us through things!

Your daughter is just now having a chance to get away, grow up and figure things out. A little space and natural. And needed. If she is the clingy or reluctant one, maybe helping her tough things out a bit will be needed. Each is different.

Are you worried she'll be lonely? Sometimes that's good for us. It'll help grow her up.

Worried she'll never call again? Odds are very low that that's true. It's a short season to get through, in light of the rest of your life.

Stay in contact, probably just not daily. Send those notes, letters, emails, texts, packages or tweets. Let her know you're thinking of her. Text her a funny picture.

Another brilliant thought from a friend of mine, don't stop the family traditions just because one person is missing. Keep life going on as normal as possible for everyone else still at home. Check on everybody else and see how they are doing with the transition too!

Perspective. One short season in a very long life, most likely full of great things to come.