The seasonal transitions that come with the of end of summer and back to school are upon us. Some may lament that the summer ‘went too fast,’ while many students are ready to return to the routine of classes, activities, and seeing friends (or at least the latter two). For parents there are always the mixed emotions of needing to get back into another year while recognizing that their child is getting older.
As the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, and the parent of both a rising third grader and a kindergartner, I experience in my professional and personal life the full range of the ‘K-16’ spectrum of education in the United States. In past posts I have touched on the similarities of the application and transition processes of grade school and higher education. I also experience first-hand the range of parenting advice around when you need to be present, without hovering, and when you need to trust that you have prepared your child for that next step—even when you may feel less certain than you ever have about the future.
During Penn’s traditional Convocation Ceremony ushering in the Class of 2020, President Gutmann’s messages around differences as unifying rather than divisive, and Provost Price’s comments about the need for students to take care of themselves and each other, resonated with the incoming class. Just a few days earlier, I moderated a panel for the parents of the freshman class on ‘Information to Know before You Go.’ From public safety, academic advising, health and wellness, financial aid and the College Houses, parents heard from those who fill the role of in loco parentis. No individual or school will replace the role of a loving parent or guardian. But we all have a role, year after year, to care for, encourage, and challenge our children and the youth of our nation.
Over this past week I have witnessed some of the most important transitions parents experience. I’ve watched over 2,500 students and their parents making the transition to an Ivy League institution. I have seen some of my closest friends drop their oldest child off to start high school a week early for a pre-season athletic camp. With all of the attendant feelings as a parent and educator, it was my five-year old daughter who gave me the greatest assurance about these poignant moments. She was going to have just her second ‘sleepover’ with friends, and I asked her if she wanted me to help her pack up for her overnight excursion. With her bright eyes and smile, she gave me a huge hug and said, ‘No Thanks, Dad, I’m OK.’ Indeed, she is, and despite the uncertainty in any time about the future, another school year is upon us, full of excitement and potential for every student.
Hear more from Dean Furda on Tuesday October 11 at 1:00 on SiriusXM Radio Business Radio 111 on his show The Process.