The annual rite of parents escorting their college-age spawn to a distant campus for the beginning of freshman year has become a challenging task in the pandemic era. With many schools deciding to go completely online for the Fall 2020 semester, your home may be the only place to deposit Timmy or Magda when the time comes to launch your child’s adventure in higher education.
What can parents do in this frustrating situation to provide their offspring with a reasonable facsimile of a first-year college experience? Here are 10 tips from experts in the field:
1. On Moving-In Day, drive your child around the block. While you’re gone, have your spouse hang a colorful banner over the front entrance to your home that says, “Welcome, Class of 2024!!!”
2. Place a toppled statue of a Confederate general or Christopher Columbus on the front lawn.
3. Once you’re back in the house, take your child’s belongings to a different bedroom than the one he or she usually occupies. This is where your child will be sleeping for the entire semester. The room should have an identifying number on the door and require a key. Make sure that a pennant displaying the school’s name is on a wall in the bedroom, along with a poster featuring one of the following: Led Zeppelin, Mary J. Blige, or RuPaul (or his brother Rand).
4. Walk your child down to the basement, which has been transformed into a campus athletic complex through the addition of a yoga mat, sweat towel, and an 8-ounce bottle of Dasani water. A sign-up sheet for using the yoga mat should be affixed to the wall.
5. Next stop is the living room, which is now the residence hall common area. It should contain an 80-inch, wall-mounted TV, an aquarium filled with brackish water and algae but no fish, and a generous supply of Cheetos scattered on the floor. For a humorous touch, toss a bit of fake vomit in the corner.
6. While in the common area, stream an orientation video from the school’s Health Services department. Recommended: “Chlamydia: The Silent Killer on Campus,” narrated by Tom Hanks and Issa Rae. Answer any questions your child may have about STDs, and point out the condom dispenser that’s suction-cupped to the aquarium.
7. Head to the cafeteria, which was formerly the laundry room. This facility should be equipped with commercial-sized plastic containers of dry cereal (Apple Jacks, Cheerios, whole-wheat oregano flakes) and, suspended from the ceiling, a large rubber cow’s udder from which fresh soy milk can be squeezed. The repurposed clothes dryer should tumble hot Buffalo wings 24 hours a day (don’t forget to toss in a few Bounce jalapeño sheets).
8. Library tour: Gather all People magazines throughout the house, attach stickers bearing catalog numbers to them, and place the collection on a coffee table in the den. Library resources should also contain one novel by Toni Morrison, one book about Jim Morrison, one book by James Baldwin, and one biography of Alec Baldwin.
9. Return to common area for the Extracurricular Open House, featuring presentations on the following activities:
- Taking Out the Trash Club (meets every Sunday night)
- Precision Lawn-Mowing Team (seasonal)
- Bathroom-Cleaning Intramurals (Toilet, Sink, and Tub divisions)
10. If the student’s new sleeping quarters are adjacent to your bedroom, plan to have boisterous sex with your spouse on the first night that your child spends in the residence hall. This will facilitate his or her adjustment to the myriad noises typically encountered in dormitory life. Screaming pet phrases of passion during the episode, such as “Blessed be the angels of Zebadiah!”, “More cowbell, I need more cowbell!”, or “Step back from the tracks, Henrietta, here comes the Acela Express!” is likely to be particularly effective. And it never hurts to throw a ball-peen hammer against the shared wall while yelling.
There you have it. With a little creativity, you can make your child’s first semester at home a memorable one. Good luck.