Back. To. School. Those three words just make me cringe. I always think, “Already? Again?”
When I was a kid, “back to school” meant one thing: summer’s over. No more bare feet, running through sprinklers, whiffle ball games, or staying outside until the street lights came on. And now, as a father of five kids, my blood pressure spikes just thinking about it. There are new classes and new teachers, plus the laundry list of items to buy: colored folders, loose-leaf binders, glue sticks, spirals with tabs, spirals without tabs, and — of course — new school clothes. (Did they rip every pair of jeans they own over the summer?)
This year, I’m cringing more than ever, because all five of my kids will be in college: four (my quadruplets) are entering their freshman year at four different institutions, and my oldest is entering his senior year. Around my house, we’ve been prepping for this since about March. Purchasing bedding when it was on sale. Shopping for the right dorm room rugs. Finding out who has a roommate with a fridge, TV, or Xbox. Not to mention, calculating four different move-in dates and orientation days, along with booking and coordinating airline flights, hotels, and rental cars. Having our oldest attend school in the Midwest has always been a challenge…but four freshmen at once? I’m sweating just writing about it!
In addition to all the little details, there are the BIG, keep-you-up-at-night details, like tuition, housing, and dining. Payments are due, financial aid is still pending, and some of our loans haven’t even been finalized yet. (How do you budget for that?) I feel like I’ve spent more time on the phone with financial aid offices this summer than I have with my own family. Fortunately, the voices on the other end of the phone are used to dealing with frazzled parents like me, so when I mention that I have four incoming freshmen, they hear my almost-in-tears frustration and most become very helpful and accommodating to my questions.
Last — but certainly not least — I’m thankful for university business offices with their many tools and resources designed to help frazzled families (like mine) afford to send their kids to college. A few schools let me enroll in a payment plan for our remaining balance and spread out payments throughout the semester. At another school, the business office helped me sign up for a refund preference because my student was going to have a scholarship overage to cover books and other costs on day one. (Whew!)
Not to mention, current pending aid deferments for housing and orientation. I could go on, but these resources and solutions are extremely helpful when you’re dealing with so many deadlines, costs, transportation arrangements, and logistics. Take it from me, back to school is an exciting time for students, but it can be stressful and anxiety ridden for parents. That’s why having simple tools, solutions, and resources for students and their families is one of the best – and most important – things an institution can offer.
So, here we go, back to school. Again. Already. My kids are excited. And I will be too … once I can finally afford to take a breath.