My son is a junior at Georgia Tech (yes, a UGA admissions person has a child at GT), where he is studying Aerospace Engineering with a Certificate in Astrophysics. My wife and I have trouble even comprehending his courses now, such as Jet and Rocket Propulsion, much less being able to help him with any coursework. On the plus side, we do get to say “Well yes, my son is a rocket scientist”. We still like to give him our wonderful parental words of advice though, with one of the key ones being “Go to all of your classes”.
It was challenging, therefore, when he told us in August that he would be missing the first day of class for the Fall 2017 term so he could travel with a group of friends to see solar eclipse in the “path of totality” in South Carolina. As parents, our first thought was to tell him no way. It’s bad enough to miss class, much less miss the first day of class. But being good parents (at lease as good as we can be), we told him that it was his decision to make, and we would be okay with his choice. He let his professors know his plans, sent out texts and group invites planning out the trip, and then caravanned up to Clemson, SC with nine friends to experience the total eclipse.
Being parents, we tracked his progress up to SC on our iPhone, hoping that they would not get caught up in traffic and that the trip would go well. It was wonderful when he texted us after the eclipse saying “It was the most amazing thing ever!”. This is high praise coming from a person where the majority of his responses to his parents are “Okay” and “Yup”. We spent too much time worrying about him missing class and too little time thinking about the amazing adventure he would experience. As a future Aerospace Engineer, his passion is space, and how much more thrilling an event can you get than a total eclipse surrounded by friends. We focused too much on the “correct” thing to do and too little on the overall impact of the actual experience.
Sometimes parents of prospective college students focus so much on the process, they forget to look at the adventure. Yes, the college process is about admission, finding the right fit, and focusing on a degree/job. But it is also about the smaller, more meaningful events that occur within that span of four years. I personally don’t believe that college will always be the proverbial “best years of your life”, as students will encounter joys and challenges during there college time. But what I do believe is that some of the most amazing adventures in your life will occur during your college time. The biggest thing for students is to learn to look for these potential events, and for parents to foster this mindset.
So parents, help your kids with the day to day things, but don’t forget to inspire them to seek out those amazing adventures that come along.