College bound: Local student, parents prepare for college life
Haley Aaron, Hartselle Enquirer
Orientation is over. Incoming freshmen have chosen their classes and paid their room deposits.
In homes throughout Hartselle and across the nation, boxes are packed, full of pens, pencils, notebooks, sheets, towels, computer equipment, phone cards, emergency numbers, maps, posters, photographs, mementos and any other "college essentials."
August 19. August 23. August 25. The dates of departure are quickly approaching.
The only thing left to do is wait.
High school seniors have filled out mountains of paperwork, attended multiple college preview days, written application essays and spent more Saturday mornings at ACT and SAT testing centers than they'd probably care to remember in their search for the "perfect college." Throughout their college search, their parents have been there to aid, encourage and cajole, but as move-in day approaches, both students and parents must face the realization of the pending move.
College will bring big changes for Catherine Garner and her parents, Greg and Cookie Garner.
For Catherine, who is entering Samford University in the fall, starting college means leaving family and friends and moving to Birmingham. For the first time, she will be sharing a room. "I am an only child and I've never really had to share a room with anyone," said Catherine. "Sharing a room and sharing space [will be hard]."
However, Catherine thinks sharing a room will be less difficult than other aspects of college life. What will be the hardest part of adjusting to college?
" Not having my mom to do my laundry," she said. "That's exactly what it's going to be."
" It's going to be bad. It's going to be real bad."
Despite some trepidation about dorm life and laundry nights, she is excited about starting college and meeting new people.
Catherine was able to get a jump-start on meeting new people during freshman Orientation. "I just loved being down there and meeting all of the people already," she said. "I've kept in touch with some of the people I met so I'll have somebody I know down there when classes start."
Catherine plans to major in education and become a history teacher. "I just like helping people, and I thought this would be my way to help people," she said. After visiting Samford on a church trip, Catherine decided that Samford was the right college for her. The college's Christian atmosphere and the campus' beauty factored into her decision, she said.
While Catherine's parents are excited about the opportunities that await Catherine in college, they are still somewhat apprehensive about sending their child away to college.
"I a little worried about her safety," said Catherine's mother, Cookie. "Even though Samford's a wonderful college and a very safe college, [worrying is] just part of being a parent."
"It's hard for me to realize sometimes that she's almost an adult," she said. "I think for me as a mother, it's really more about trusting her and the way she was brought up."
"That will be hard for me, because as a mother, you want to make sure everything's okay. You want to fix things for them and make sure they don't get hurt, or make sure nothing bad happens to them."
"She knows if she needs something, all she has to do is call and we'll be there," said her father, Greg. Even though they are only a phone call away, move-in day will be a bittersweet moment for Catherine's parents.
In many ways, Catherine's parents are looking forward to spending more time together after Catherine leaves for college. "We were married almost 12 years before we had her, and in a way I'm kind of looking forward to getting back to where it's just Cookie and I, but in a way I'm going to miss Catherine because through the last 18 years she's been right there," said Greg. "[Catherine and I] played golf together and we did a lot of stuff together. That togetherness is not going to be there, because she's not going to be there as much."
Although Catherine's mother has tried to suppress her emotions during her daughter's senior year and graduation, she knows the most difficult event still lies ahead.
"I haven't cried yet," said Cookie.
"You're in denial," interjected Catherine.
"I may be in major denial," responded Cookie. Her thoughts shift to the swiftly appoaching move-in day. "When we take her down there, there will be so much to do and unload and all of the activities [it won't sink in]. Maybe when I get home," she said.
"I think that's when it may hit me the hardest is when we come home and she's not there."
Garner is just one of the many 2007 Hartselle graduates preparing for college. 59 of Hartselle High School's 186 seniors received scholarships. Guidance counselor Johnny Berry estimates that 60% of the school's graduating class will attend a 4-year institution in the fall, while another 20% will attend a 2-year institution.
Hartselle graduates will be attending large public universities and small private institutions. Some will attend school out of state, while others will attend school closer to home. According to Berry, colleges such as Alabama, Auburn, UAB, UNA, Samford and Birmingham Southern are popular destinations for Hartselle graduates.
While most graduates attend college in state, each year students also look at colleges outside of Alabama. "I think most of them consider [attending college] out of state," said Berry. Many students who chose out of state colleges stay in the south, attending colleges such as Mississippi. However, some of this year's students also applied to more distant colleges. "We had one student that at one time was going to go to Australia, but I think she's decided against that," Berry said.
Berry advises students to choose a college that is right for their major.
"I think our kids do a really good job of matching what they're interested in with what a school offers," said Berry.
Berry encourages students to start their college search early. "As soon as they start getting an idea of what they want to do, they need to go ahead and start applying," he said. "A lot of kids start looking at things their junior year and start getting some stuff into place, if they already have an idea of what they want to do."