Alex Bazis, 18, and his father, Tim, at the mailboxes at Grinnell. The college urges parents to leave on moving-in day. (Agencies)
In order to separate doting parents from their freshman sons, Morehouse College in Atlanta has instituted a formal "Parting Ceremony."
It began on a recent evening, with speeches in the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. Then the incoming freshmen marched through the gates of the campus -- which swung shut, literally leaving the parents outside.
When University of Minnesota freshmen move in at the end of this month, parental separation will be a little sneakier: mothers and fathers will be invited to a reception elsewhere so students can meet their roommates and negotiate dorm room space -- without adult meddling.
As the latest wave of superinvolved parents delivers its children to college, institutions are building into the day, normally one of high emotion, activities meant to punctuate and speed the separation. It is part of an increasingly complex process, in the age of Skype and twice-daily texts home, in which colleges are urging "Velcro parents" to back off so students can develop independence.
Grinnell College here, like others, has found it necessary to be explicit about when parents really, truly must say goodbye. Move-in day for the 415 freshmen was Saturday. After computer printers and duffle bags had been carried to dorm rooms, everyone gathered in the gymnasium, students on one side of the bleachers, parents on the other.
The president welcoming the class of 2014 had his back to the parents -- a symbolic staging meant to inspire "an aha! moment," said Houston Dougharty, vice president of student affairs, "an epiphany where parents realize, 'My student is feeling more comfortable sitting with 400 people they just met.' "
Shortly after, mothers and fathers were urged to leave campus.
Moving their students in usually takes a few hours. Moving on? Most deans can tell stories of parents who lingered around campus for days. At Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., a mother and father once went to their daughter's classes on the first day of the semester and trouped to the registrar's office to change her schedule, recalled Beverly Low, the dean of first-year students.
"We recognize it's a huge day for families," she said. Still, during various parent meetings on Colgate's move-in day, which is Thursday, Ms. Low and other officials plan to drop not-so-subtle hints that "activities for the class of 2014 begin promptly at 4," she said.
Formal "hit the road" departure ceremonies are unusual but growing in popularity, said Joyce Holl, head of the National Orientation Directors Association. A more common approach is for colleges to introduce blunt language into drop-off schedules specifying the hour for last hugs. As of 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, for example, the parents of Princeton freshmen learn from the move-in schedule, "subsequent orientation events are intended for students only."
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