When Your Muslim Children Go to College…

Don’t Throw Them into the Lion’s Den

empty nest

By Courtney Pennington-Krygier

You’ve sent off your bundle of joy to join the collegiate masses.  Congratulations!  This is the time when your little sprout learns what it means to be independent, to solve problems, to make wise choices.  If you look at it another way, you’ve just tossed your baby into a lion’s den.

Before you begin the journey through college, there are a few realistic things you should know.  I graduated this May summa cum laude, having dodged every drug offered and illegal activity possible.  Let me walk you through the steps.  I feel somewhat qualified to speak on this.  Forgive my bragging, but along with my academic accomplishments, I secured a full-time job (with benefits!) in my career before graduating, as well as racking up several internships, hundreds of hours of volunteer work, a leadership position in a club, and lots of work experience.  I went through the same scary maze of potential failure that your sweet darlings are about to enter.

First off, here’s something that may be truer at ASU than other state colleges: your child will be pressured to drink.

When someone says ‘party,’ in college, it means ‘drinking with lots of strangers.’  Or ‘drinking with large crowds of people I slightly know.’  There are exceptions.  Perhaps your freshman is socially isolated and is not invited out, or so introverted that he avoids gatherings.  I have heard rumors of pocket cultures which actually abstain until they’re legal.  These little law-abiders are probably as rare as albino zebras.

Alcohol is there.  It is everywhere.  Many people do go to parties and choose to abstain.  If they are lucky no one will pressure them to do otherwise.  But if your child does not recognize the smell of alcohol, or have the self-esteem to resist peer pressure, he may end up in a bad situation.  Many people drink something they believe is just soda or juice and wind up accidentally drunk, or worse, drugged.  Which leads to my next point.

College is one of the most dangerous places for women.  Statistics vary, but your daughters have up to a 25% chance of being sexually assaulted while in college.  Give them pepper spray.  Show them how to use it.  Show them how to kick.  Make sure they get in the habit of keeping their phones on.  ASU has highly visible blue police lights where students can press a button to call the police instantly.  Teach all of your kids to be aware of these.

If your child doesn’t know how to cook, he or she will probably gain weight.  Dining halls don’t limit portions, so students can eat buffet-style or order fast food.  Neither of those is going to be good for your waistline.

Your child will be surrounded by people who use drugs.  Especially if they are hanging out with art or English majors.  This is not a stereotype.  Okay, it is a stereotype, but it is also very true.  No matter how hard your child tries to stay clear, it’s hard to tell until their buddy from Sci-Fi Literature 101 offers to share some special brownies with them.  (This is a joke.  Freshman rarely bother with brownies and usually just go straight to the smoking.)  Your child may be offered illicit substances.  Teach him about them, or at least about their names, so that he knows when to say no.  Teach your child to walk away when he sees them being used, even if no one is pushing them on him.

Textbooks are ludicrously expensive.  Buy an older edition if it saves you some money. It rarely matters which edition as long as it’s only a few years apart from the recommended or ‘required’ one.  Renting the textbook is even better savings.

Your child will be juggling infinite sources of stress. Learning to live independently, study, work, distance from family and old friends, entering new social spheres, and learning to handle freedom… it’s amazing anyone graduates.

If your child makes mistakes, forgive him.  If she starts comfort eating, tell her she’s beautiful anyway.  If he starts playing video games too much to relax, try to be happy that he has an online community.  The poor freshmen are probably just as worried about themselves as you are.


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