It just fascinates me to think about how quickly an academic year progresses. For those parents who arrived in August with their student’s life’s possessions in tow, nervous about the year to unfold, the emerging conclusion of the spring term evokes thoughts of the strategic repacking process awaiting you in just a few weeks.
Be forewarned, your student has likely accumulated even more items than you packed for the journey to Fredericksburg. Further, although it is likely that your student will do everything possible to be prepared for the move-out process, students will have just completed final exams. Thus, their possessions may not be as orderly prepared as they were when you assisted in their initial arrival. I always get a big chuckle from seeing the contrast between the organized bins and boxes that arrive in August, replaced by Hefty bags and lose piles of items that seem to be tossed into vehicles in May. I am sure that your student will do their best to be ready for your pick-up, but just be patient, hopefully more time has been invested in the execution of finals than prepping for their campus departures. Ultimately, I think of how happy they usually are to see the faces of family members after concluding the year.
What comes after the year is done? For non-graduating undergraduate students concluding their year, rest assured that many think of garnering a bit of relaxation post this hectic academic year. Okay, you may be thinking of the list of chores that have accumulated, as you await the additional human resource returning to the household. They in turn may be thinking of just resting a bit, catching their breath, and beginning to think about how to best structure the summer ahead. Many take this undertaking very seriously, having already met with academic advisors to plan for the semester ahead. Some may wish to take a summer course or two, to stay ahead of the game, catch-up, or possibly pursue a double major or minor. Understanding the weight of college financing, some have already begun to explore summer employment opportunities, maybe migrating back to jobs previously held, or exploring new opportunities to assist in supporting their college budget needs. Some are thinking long-term; how do their current academic pursuits correspond to career prospects? Well, this is the perfect opportunity to think about an internship, check-in with a career mentor, or do exploration interviews to help one operationalize the path forward. As a parent, you can assist with this process by asking questions about their interests and curiosities, helping your student begin to visualize how what they are doing now can open the door for opportunities yet to unfold. Rest assured that you can always refer them to Mary Washington’s Center for Career and Professional Development for additional support and guidance.
For the parents of graduating seniors, this is a time for both celebration, and possibly a bit of melancholy. Commencement is the culmination of years of investment in the educational enterprise. The last undergraduate papers, exams and projects have been completed. Honors have been accorded, and achievements recognized. Families and friends will likely gather en masse to celebrate and regale the newest cohort of collegiate successes. There is excitement in the air, for sure. These are the responses that are traditionally expected around this time. Yet, I want each parent to take note of other feelings that may be expressed by your graduate. Some have already landed the jobs of their dreams, received offers to graduate or professional schools, garnered placement in the Peace Corps, Teach for America or other service related enterprise. Others are still trying to establish what comes next. This is also a time of loss and nervousness. Along with some uncertainties about what the future holds, graduates will be saying farewell to classmates and friends who have now become important parts of their social network. This can weigh heavily on emotional heartstrings, and bring even the most exciting day down. Try to be understanding of the mixed emotions associated with this special time, lending comfort where you can, or referring your student to others who may lend needed support.
As Dean, I take great stock in having the opportunity to engage the lives of our students. They truly make Mary Washington the special place it is known to be. As parents, we thank you so much for partnering in your student’s success. We are ever hopeful that the experiences amassed here will continue to pay great dividends as their lives continue to move forward.
Cedric Bernard Rucker, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Student Life