The extra expensive first month of college

extra expensive first monthYou finally get them moved into their room. You eat a quiet, somber, tear-filled last meal with them. You hug, you kiss, you say your good-byes and then you walk away from this child that you have loved, been exasperated by, cherished, couldn’t stand and are now sending off to college.

It was a very emotional experience for all of us in our family when we left our son on that campus to fend for himself. The journey has been hard for Scott during his first few weeks at college. It’s not that he doesn’t like the campus. But football has proven to be much tougher and more physical than he ever imagined. But the good thing is that he’ll be in the best condition of his life right now at age 18.

He also has a roommate that comes from the city where the college is located. That has proven to be a bad thing. He leaves every night and doesn’t come home until late. Scott has never been a very sociable person, so he’s had to find his way to go out and meet people. I think that’s a great thing. If he dreams of being a college football coach, then he better start communicating more to all types of people.

What I’m leading to is that his homesickness costs money. The phone calls alone – every night and sometimes in the morning when he knows I’m home – are siphoning his cell phone minutes. So, now, I just call him back on our home phone. But those long distance minutes are adding up, too. I’ll be interested – or scared – to open up the next phone bill even though we are on a pretty liberal plan that includes 600 long-distance minutes per month. But those 60-minute calls back every night will take its toll.

We decided to venture to his campus this Labor Day weekend. We thought it would help him to know we back him, support him, and still love him. That means paying for a hotel room. By the way, I found out that many college town hotels and motel chains give great discounts to parents of college students. Just ask.

We also took him out to eat every meal and went to Wal-Mart to buy him extra stuff he needed or hadn’t brought from home. I’m estimating we spent over $300 on everything for that weekend. It was worth seeing him and spending those hours with him. But we can’t do that very often.

Plus, that doesn’t count buying him a huge list of wants and needs that he sent via e-mail to me a few days before we left. He needed so many things that added up to a hefty $150 – such as a wireless mouse and speakers for his computer, a bike air pump and flat tire repair kit, batteries, a cable cord for his roommate’s television (because he never brought one), new pants, Gatorade for after his football practices, his beloved Doritos that they don’t have at the campus cafeteria, a box fan for the window because his room is like a furnace without air conditioning, and some more toiletries.

I guess I can’t blame the kid for wanting some comforts of home. He was a real trooper this summer working in a factory to pay for his first semester bill. We can definitely help him out now. I took on a part-time job at a real estate and insurance company a mile from our home. That extra money along with ever-growing freelance writing gigs and hopefully a good year on the hog farm, our financial burdens won’t be so overwhelming.


Tuition and Bills