Before Your Student Leaves Campus for Break, Here’s What They Need to Do

I am one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people navigating around your college students as they stumble through the waning days of their fall semester. My husband is one of their professors and our family lives in a residential college for first-years in a midwestern university. We are your student’s neighbors and sometimes their friends. We are parents ourselves, but we are not their parents.

Many students stay through the short fall break and Thanksgiving. It isn’t unusual for us to have a few stragglers over for a meal when the campus quiet. But almost everyone leaves for the Christmas break. For some of your kids it is their first trip home after the frenetic drop off at the beginning of the year. They are emotionally and physically exhausted from a long and intense few months here on campus, and they are ready to bust out. They’ve been through a lot — hopefully mostly good things — and they are just making a break for the door as fast as they can.

But a campus is still a living and breathing place, even when the students are gone. Just like your homes continue to operate when they are here with us. Every campus makes impassioned pleas to students with basic holiday departure reminders, but they are routinely ignored in the fog of finals and prolonged adolescence. We Campus Adults would like to partner with you, the Primary Adults in their lives, to ensure that some of this gets through.

college student
Please ask your teen to make time to do THESE things before they leave for break. (Twenty 20 @lizzieallenphoto)

9 Things Your College Kids Should Do Before They leave Campus

1. Implement some basic common-sense security.

Apparently, as much as 90% of our campus security team’s time is spent removing tape from the door locks that student put there so their doors don’t latch. Somehow, as bright as they are, students haven’t figure out how to avoid losing their keys. On many campuses, this causes major security equipment malfunctions, especially once the students leave for extended periods. Stop doing this. Be a grownup. Lock your door, and don’t create a security risk for everyone else.

Put your room key in a safe place over break so that you can easily access your room when you return. Also, close your windows and store your bike in your room. If you have a car on campus that you aren’t driving home, be sure it is locked and appropriately parked. Be a total genius by leaving a spare key on your desk. Just in case.

2. Be a total rock star and strip your bed.

Be honest- have you changed your sheets once all term? It’s ok- I’m not going to judge you. Whether you are planning on taking three months worth of laundry home to your Primary Parent or not, it would be a great idea to leave your bed stripped and just let everything air out a bit. And if you happened to wash those sheets or simply replace them with new ones in the process, congratulations, big kid. That’s the first step in starting the term off on the right foot.

3. For the love of God, please empty your trash.

Individual trash cans can render a residential college completely uninhabitable for the entire holiday break. I have had to unleash my beagle to sniff under doors to identify the location of an unemptied compost bin on Christmas Eve. I will take a tire iron to your door and charge you back the repair fee if you don’t rid your room of trash before you abandon ship.

4. Put that thing away.

Be aware that the security team on your campus can access your room during the break if there is a safety issue. There are still people living on campus and various alarms can be triggered. You might want to think about that before you leave anything sensitive and embarrassing lying around your room that you wouldn’t want your mother to see. Our campus security chief shared several stories about having to access students rooms during the break for any number of reasons, and trust me- nobody wants to see what you’re into if they don’t have to. You have closets and drawers. Use them.

5. Your lava lamp and your monitor don’t need you.

You’ve come to college to figure out how to save the world. How about starting with saving a little energy while you’re away. There is no reason why your electronics need to stay powered up while you’re away for three weeks. Please hit those lights and pull every plug.

6. Your packages. They are everywhere. And they continue to arrive.

Amazon is going to start building distribution centers right on campuses, I bet. Mark my words. But in the meantime, packages pile up like that movie Wall-e, and they continue to while students are away. Please be sure you’ve picked yours up and take a minute to consider if you have any pending in your absence.

Maybe stop online shopping after Thanksgiving, just to play it safe. If you must online shop, direct packages to your holiday destination. And be sure your grandmother knows when you’re leaving campus and unlikely to receive the care package she sent. I refer you back to the trash above.

7. Your alarm clock will be disassembled.

Apparently, alarm clocks are still a thing, and it’s still not at all charming when they go off at all hours of the day and night. I am potentially living with 200 individual alarm clocks at the moment and I cannot guarantee their safety if they start going off unattended on Saturday, December 21.

8. If your phone rings from campus, answer it. Seriously.

It probably won’t, but if you see a number on your phone that you’re pretty sure is within your campus area code, please answer it. It could be your college calling to tell you something important. Sometimes there are emergencies that require Campus Adults to reach out and find you while you are away. Please don’t make it hard for us to reach you. You’re part of our family now too, and, like your Primary Adults, sometimes we just need you to pick up the phone for a second.

9. Come Back. We Really Want You To.

Sometimes, there is a bit of a “time to go back <sigh>” thing that some students might experience at the end of break. If you were emotionally exhausted by your first half of the year, have faith that it only gets easier from here. You have friends now, and you know your way around. You know what you like to eat in the dining hall and you’ve learned the names of most of your RA’s. You totally know the ropes, and they are all here, waiting for you. Don’t worry. Sometimes it takes the whole year for it to feel like home. By Springtime, you’ll feel like you own the place. So come on back. Turn the lights back on and make your bed.

Those of us left behind here on campus will smile and wave as your kids leave. We love living here, but Campus Adults need a break too. Everyone here has a role that changes when the students are gone, and the whole tone of a campus changes. We look forward to quiet evenings, an abundance of parking spots, and no lines at the campus Starbucks.

Their leave-taking is a much needed break for everyone except, of course, my dog who enters a serious depression. One of his simple joys is the buffet of discarded food in the hedges and flowerbeds that students, when they are here, leave in their wake. But, we assure him and ourselves that you will all be back soon because we Campus Adults and pets will be so happy to see you again.

You Might Also Want to Read:

5 Things to Know Before Your College Student Comes Home for the Holiday  

Grown and Flown the book is here!

Leslie Zacks lives on a midwestern university campus with her family. Between balancing kids, a career and several foster dogs, she writes weekly about a wide range of topics, including what it’s like living alongside a whole new crop of new college students every fall. Follow her on Medium @lesliekleinbergzacks and on Twitter @lesliezacks

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