A Letter to My Daughter Upon the Beginning of Her College Career

My dearest Molly:

On this, the auspicious beginning of the rest of your life, I thought to distill all I know about higher education. Some of this I heard from your grandparents, who in turn passed on the wisdom from their parents. In other words, if you eff college up, you have two generations to blame.

1. The reference to “higher” was not veiled permission to toke-up.  

2. Education is never a waste, especially if it gets you seated next to the cute, smart boys.

3. A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its old dimensions. Nor will your jeans, if you make a habit of buying a double-double each morning.

4. Be grateful for all you will learn. Be respectful of what you already know. (For you, my darling, are one of the most intuitively wise people I have met.) Be on time for dinner at least once a week, lest I take over your bedroom for writing.

5. Don’t sweat the petty stuff, and if you’re going to pet the sweaty stuff, there’s a 10-page health questionnaire for him to fill out in advance.

6. Know your dad, bro and I have your back; your grandparents, aunts and uncles, your arms and legs. And if you manage to fail despite all that support — though I can’t imagine this happening — know the Subway down the street is hiring for $9.50 an hour.

Your mom, who you have made humbled and proud every day of your life

Thanks for indulging me, peeps. I have no idea how many of you are sending your children off into the vast unknown this fall, but what would be your best advice to them now? Have you told them? And do you have anything you’d like to add to my daughter’s letter?


20 thoughts on “A Letter to My Daughter Upon the Beginning of Her College Career

  1. This is so sweet. 🙂 (And practical, of course.)

    May I add: if you think it’s a class you’re going to want to focus on, do not, under any circumstances, go for the 8:30 am slot.

  2. *sniffle* Lovely!

    As an occasional adjunct instructor, let me add that teachers LIKE it when you visit them during office hours or ask them questions before/after class or even send them an e-mail. We revel in proof that we’re making contact.

  3. Amy, you may add anything you wish. Honestly, I think my daughter would adore you.

    MJ, ooh, thank you for that! My experience would concur, but there’s nothing like hearing it from someone in the position of power… 😉 Mwooohahah.

  4. Amy has good advice. Mine would be: if the choice with your roommate is between “acquaintance” and “frenemy,” just stay acquaintances. Better to make friends among you don’t have to live with.

  5. this is great. i love it. my big kid went into the unknown of kindergarten so most of this didn’t apply. our advice was geared more toward “Don’t forget to go to the bathroom after lunch.” Tres exciting!

    one thing my college did each year was have the women write a letter to themselves that would be kept until the year they graduated. on one side the chapel would be first year women writing letters to themselves and the other side would be senior women reading the letters they’d written to themselves. it’s a lot like your letter to your daughter except from her own perspective – she might want to give it a try and see who and what she thinks is going to be important, who and what truly was important and what she couldn’t give a flying fig about in the end. of course, you might enjoy the exercise, too:)

    ~Blessings to you all

  6. Excellent. Advice from a former grad instructor: Take responsibility for your own learning. Professors (and instructors) love students who try, even if they don’t succeed, and we have great leeway in assigning grades. We will be far more lenient with you, and apt to give you the benefit of the doubt (or round your grades up, instead of down) if you convince of your efforts.

  7. Wonderful advice! Part tongue-in-cheek and all serious, she will appreciate part of this now and all of it later, when she’s finished and can look back with relief and humour. I have no doubt that a daughter of yours already has a fair helping of wisdom to carry her through this scary, new, challenging time. Best of luck – to all of you!

  8. Sniff. Where were you when I started college a millenium ago?
    Another former prof here – show me you want to learn, not just that you want to succeed. Nothing was more disheartening than grade-grubbers, but I lived for the students who showed up determined to ask questions until the lightbulb went on…

  9. OMG, I had no idea I hung out with so many college fre— er, teachers. That explains a lot. 😉

    Thank you all. Rather than reply to each of you, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the advice. It’s like my Molly has a whole new herd of aunties. 🙂

  10. I can’t really give advice on what to tell her, of course, but can I just say that, if my mum wrote me such a letter (I’m gonna start at university in a few weeks myself), I’d pin it next to my desk and smile at it [instead of banging my head on the desk until the pains that come with being a student stop]. 😀

    Apart from that, this list pretty much concurs with what my parents have told me. 🙂 (Though I’ve barred my father from telling me any funny stories about his student adventures and trying to get me to draw helpful conclusions about work attitude, etc., from it–he went to uni 44 years ago, and in Germany’s educational history, that’s a bit like Doctor Who re-booting the universe three times over.)

    1. Aw, thank you so much 🙂 I’m so looking forward to finally starting!
      And I’m very glad to hear your daughter liked it! There’s so much moaning everywhere (however justified it may be in some cases), meeting or hearing of enthusiastic students just makes me happy. No need for brownnosers, mind, we have to be vocal about the things that really don’t work out, but I always wished people would just embrace it more, on a fundamental level. I know I was being idealistic when I told other students to shut it and just revel in the opportunities they get instead of moping about homework — they never to listen to whom they think of as a swot — but I mostly loved my schooling so far, and during high school I felt that ‘the institution’ (meaning teachers, poor sods) is sometimes kinda desperate for that.
      So I hope that you’ll be one very happy college mum! 🙂

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