DEAR ABBY: In response to "Nicky," who is debating whether or not to move away to college, I have some thoughts I'd like to share:
I am 25, an only child who had never spent more than two weeks away from home. My first couple of months away at college were hard on both my parents and me, but all of us grew and matured. Because of the distance, I was able to return home only at Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. Being away made the homecomings that much sweeter. I'll never forget the hugs I got when I stepped off the plane that first Thanksgiving of my freshman year.
Any student seriously considering moving away from home should do so. While the experience isn't for everyone, those who can handle it will have the time of their lives. They will learn to be independent, strong, resourceful -- and social.
Please tell that student not to be afraid to fly. There's no feeling like it in the world. -- FLEDGLING WHO FLEW, SOUTH DAKOTA
DEAR FLEDGLING: You are sweet to encourage "Nicky" by sharing your college experience. Readers who commented on that letter each viewed it from a different perspective. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Your answer to "Nicky" was off base! You said if her only concern was homesickness, to go for it. Our daughter, who couldn't wait to "leap from the nest," cried like a baby the day we moved her to her dorm, and she came home every weekend for several months. Thank goodness we were only two hours away! Nicky should stay close to home for at least the first semester and save herself possible grief and loss of tuition if things don't work out. The first year of college is hard enough without adding emotional upsets to the mix. -- A MOM IN TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: I attended three different colleges, each for a different degree. If Nicky chooses to go to Tampa, she should remember that she's not stuck there. I think she should start close to home, and if she still wants to make a big move in her sophomore or junior year -- when she's sure what she wants to major in -- then go for it. I commuted to school for two years, then transferred to a college farther away. It was hard the first semester away, but it got better, and I loved it. Also, if there's a local community college that costs less, start there -- but make sure the credits are transferable. -- ELIZABETH IN LEVITTOWN, N.Y.
DEAR ABBY: At the end of your reply to "Nicky," you asked if the finances could be managed. There are many ways to finance college, including government financial aid and Pell grants that Nicky could qualify for. I now regret not attending my dream college right after high school.
Tell her to sit down with her school counselor and explore her options to go where her dreams are. With professional input she can make an educated choice, challenge herself, and fly like the wind! -- SHANNON IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR ABBY: Most universities have summer programs for students who have finished their junior year of high school. A summer session at the "dream college" this year, or next year after graduation, would let Nicky get a feel for the place. Four to six weeks is a good trial run, and far less expensive than enrolling and then transferring if things don't work out. -- FORMER TEACHER, MADISON, WIS.
DEAR ABBY: College is the time to try something new. As for not being able to visit home often -- get a campus job! That way, you don't have to ask your parents for money to come home; you can just DO it. -- ASHLEY IN NEW YORK CITY