Clutching the Cord Experts Say This Generation of College Freshmen Isn't Making the Transition to Independence as Quickly as Others Have. So, Colleges, Universities - and Parents - Are Helping Them Out
Malone, Tara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Tara Malone Daily Herald Staff Writer
All it took was a campus map, student handbook and cafeteria card. So armed, generations of college freshmen mastered their newfound labyrinths of independence.
The tools for college survival today are far more complex and explicit than ever before. As a result, colleges - and parents - are jumping in to help in new ways.
When freshmen enlist in their respective colleges and universities in a few weeks, they will be met with school orientation programs urging them to get involved, study hard, budget their time, stay healthy and avoid unfettered credit card use.
Late-night pizza dished up for the dorm - generous, yes; financially sound, no.
Lest high-school warnings about how much is too much when it comes to MySpace.com posts go unheeded, college IT officials offer similar cautions about the upper-class equivalent, Facebook.com.
Introductory tutorials have been around college campuses for years. Yet deans, student life directors and dorm supervisors on the front lines of freshman orientation increasingly rely on a full-service approach.
Known as the millennial generation, students today may lack the streetwise savvy of earlier waves of freshman entering ivory towers. Emerging from highly structured, supervised lives, many teens are unprepared for the latitude a university schedule affords.
If college, in part, is about fostering independence, then orientation is about stretching the umbilical cord binding parent and child.
Never before has the link been so tight, many say.
"Their parents help them. Their parents want to be involved in choosing classes, scheduling classes. It's occurring so much that I talk to parents more than I talk to students," Benedictine University's student development coordinator Amy Kuspa said.
An amalgam of factors - smaller families, greater affluence and ready access to technology like cell phones that make it easier than ever to phone home - combine to buoy students, offering an unprecedented safety net. Such support may delay development of an independent streak seen in earlier generations of freshmen, experts say.
College tuition bills, meanwhile, mushroomed during the past decade - climbing 70 percent at Illinois' private universities and doubling at state colleges - eating up a larger share of family savings and prompting many parents to view college as an investment worthy of attention like any other.
Enter the full-service college orientation program.
Delivered in weekend primers, afternoon ice-breakers and panel discussions, colleges and universities nationwide address the academic, social and economic shift to college for freshmen, and their parents.
The goal? Inject students into the college campus quickly.
The effect? Nurture an allegiance that will keep students - and their tuition dollars - around for four years and inspire donations once they pocket their diplomas.
"It's within the first six to eight weeks that students will decide if they hang around in college or if they will leave," Roosevelt University's orientation and residential hall director Angela Ryan said.
A new frontier
Karen Loda knows the drill.
The 18-year-old Buffalo Grove High School graduate watched her older brother drive off to Purdue University and countless friends head south to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
All that hasn't spared Loda from an onset of nerves about "the big break."
"I'm excited to have more power in my life and be on my own and experiment, just to find out who I want to be and what I want to do," said Loda, who will leave Arlington Heights for Urbana- Champaign this month.
"It's a little scary because it's not as safe as high school. ... My parents are always there when I come home, always there if I need help with something. …