In-N-Out Burgers, Squirrels, and a Lazy River: The Surprising Things Teens Think They Need at College

When my son applied to college he fashioned a spreadsheet with the names of the schools along the spine and his “requirements” along the top. One of the most important things to him was that his prospective school be located near a Chipotle because at the time that was the staple of his diet. True story-I couldn’t make it up if I tried.

He also knew for absolute, 100% certainty that he wanted a school where there was little to no Greek life because fraternity life did not appeal to him, until freshman year when he decided to rush.

So, I wondered how many other people’s kids were adamant that they wanted X, Y or Z only to find that none of those things that had initially seemed so important mattered at all.

college kids
Will the “must have” requirements on your teen’s college list matter once they’re finally students? Shutter stock/ Poznyakov Royalty)

So, I asked and B I N G O-I guess my son was not alone in his singular focus on nonsense. People’s answers were hysterical-allow me to share.

  • My son always wanted a Big Ten school and said he would go to games. He’s at a school with a Division 1 team and has never gone to a single game.
  • My son wanted a school with a golf team……only problem is he never tried out.
  • My daughter was SO excited that there was an In-n-Out near her campus. I think she went twice in 4 years.
  • My daughter is a sophomore Dance minor. She dances in a student-run dance company but hasn’t taken an actual dance class since first semester, because “there are too many other great things to study.”
  • My daughter *needed* a school with a good football team. I bought her student season tickets and cute bib overalls her freshman year. She went to two games and sold the rest of the tickets for a profit.
  • Coming from the Philly burbs my husband chose a college based on its close proximity to the beach, imagining how cool it would be to hang out there during free time. He was an Electrical Engineering major with no free time and made not a single trip to the beach his entire college career.
  • My daughter was not even remotely interested in doing a semester abroad…a few weeks in she’s looking into doing a semester abroad.
  • My son played football in college and he wanted to click with the coach. He did but the coach changed over, and he no longer played after his freshman year.
  • My son was semi picky about dorms but ended up moving into a house largely to move in with a buddy who immediately dropped out, so he was left living with a house of complete strangers which changed him in ways he didn’t expect.
  • My daughter said no to Greek life. Three years later, she’s served as an officer for her sorority chapter and is a recruitment counselor for girls going through “rush” this year.
  • My son looked for a school with a good football team. Only problem is they are not good this year.
  • My oldest wanted tennis courts nearby and hasn’t picked up a racket in 3 years.
  • My kid wanted a school where no one from his high school attended. Freshman year, he ended up taking a hip hop fusion class from one of the most popular girls in his high school graduating class.
  • Last year my daughter insisted she could not eat any of the university food and insisted there were no options and she was starving so she moved to an off-campus apartment and took a ton of my cooking stuff.  Last weekend she said she need more food points because she’s too busy to cook and now eats all her meals on campus.
  • My daughter focused on the school colors. She is a blue-eyed redhead and wouldn’t look at schools that had yellow or orange in them. Seriously.
  • My 14-year old toured many campuses with my 18-year-old son. He now says the college he attends must have a creamery on-site.
  • My son said he needed to be near a lazy river. The school he attends has an aquatics facility with a lazy river.
  • A young person I know may or may not have rejected one college because she didn’t like their mascot, and another because, “she wouldn’t look good in their school colors!”
  • My son wanted a club swim team. He joined the sailing team instead.
  • My son wanted no frats and was interested in Environmental Science. He has joined a frat and is pursuing a marketing degree.
  • My son was really particular about the gym and has gone twice.
  • Not sure if it’ll end up being non-essential later, but my son checks out the running trails near every school he tours!
  • My daughter wanted a campus with squirrels.
  • My daughter had to have an a capella group and Anthropology as a separate department. She never tried out for the a capella group and graduated with a degree in Sociology.
  • My daughter didn’t want to be in a city and ended up smack in the middle of one.

So parents, guide them as you will but know that the twenty-something year-old graduate will bear little resemblance to the 18-year-old freshman. And fortunately, there will be lots of learning, growth, life-experience and changing of minds as to what really matters.


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About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She has been writing and editing since the beginning of time. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, BonBonBreak, Kveller, Better After 50, The Forward, Club Mid, and Grown and Flown where she is a Contributing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

More by Helene Wingens:

What Every Mom Needs to Teach Her Son About Rape
6 Reasons Why Moms Cry When They Leave Their Kids at College
Dear Parent Freshman, You Need to Know This About Your Student
Crushing Culture of Parental Expectations
What Moms of Grown Sons Want Them to Know

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