Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Transformation

By Stephanie Kepke Kaplan P’24 

I don’t mean to alarm you, but there’s a stranger in your home. Oh sure, that person sprawled on your couch, eating all your food, may look familiar, but rest assured the person you thought you knew has transformed into a…college student. Franz Kafka couldn’t have penned a bigger transformation. A college student is very different from a high school student. High school students had a curfew and ate meals at set times. College students are used to coming and going as they please and having tons of food available any time they desire with just a swipe of a card. College students are used to staying up all night and not having to answer to anyone (as you may have figured out when texts or phone calls sometimes go unanswered, until you’re pacing with worry only to finally have your phone chime three days later—been there)… 

This may be the first time you see your college student since drop-off three months ago. Three months might not seem like a long time, but at the age of eighteen or nineteen (or seventeen), it really is, especially with all the changes that living on one’s own brings. To be sure, commuting students go through their own transformation—having two myself I can attest to that—but it’s more subtle when you see your student every day. For my youngest, who’s a freshman now, the transformation has been a joy to watch. He was not really social in high school, being on the autism spectrum. He had a small group of close friends, and they would hang out at one house. Now, he has joined clubs and has made lots of new friends. He stays on campus until late at night, hanging out in the game room or Hof USA. He’s found his tribe. But, back to the student who comes home for the first time at Thanksgiving… 

While it is amazing to have this newly minted adult back in your home, it can be an adjustment. But, here’s the thing…your child has had tons of new experiences and that should be your jumping off point. Ask about everything with open-ended questions. Be engaged and interested. Put down your phone and really focus. And if your student doesn’t want to talk yet and just wants to sleep or see high school friends or veg in front of the TV, that’s fine too. It’s a long weekend with lots of opportunities to reconnect. When you do get a chance to chat, be sure to ask about some of the amazing cultural opportunities at Hofstra. My son went to see Hamilton on Broadway with his freshman seminar class! Your student will have similar stories to share.  

If your student is struggling, then listening with an open mind is also the best approach. My middle son, who is a junior now, was really struggling freshman year and the first semester of sophomore year. I sat down with him, and we had a conversation about his passions. I read every major description out loud to him, leading him to an epiphany—music is his passion and music business (with a performance concentration) would be the perfect major for him. He’s in his second year in the program now, and he loves it. His grades are the highest they’ve ever been. Always remember, your student’s major freshman year isn’t a lock for the next four years. There’s lots of fluidity allowed, and changing majors is sometimes the best solution.  

This Thanksgiving, take a moment to be grateful for your amazing child and all the growth that has occurred in three short months. And while he/she/they may seem like a stranger—at least at first—the child you love is there and so happy to reconnect with you at this special time.