Musings on Struggle and Growth from a DU Alum

I’ll never forget the first day I arrived at DU. It was a steaming hot afternoon in early September. I was wearing cute jeans and a new top – an outfit I had carefully picked out in order to make a good impression on all of the new people I’d be meeting. My parents and I drove up to JMAC and unloaded the boxes full of (mostly unnecessary) stuff that I had definitely needed for my new life as a college student.

As we unpacked my room, I met the people who would become the mainstays of my life for the next year. Everyone was friendly, and I tried to appear confident, pushing down my insecurities and fears. Was I really going to share this tiny, hot room with another person? What if my roommate and I didn’t get along? What if I didn’t make any friends? What if the idea I had in my head of “Annette: the new-and-improved COLLEGE version” didn’t pan out?

This spring, it will be 10 years since I graduated from DU. As I think back on who I was on that first day of college, I wish I could visit my 18-year-old self and give her some guidance. I’d say:

“Annette, everything is going to be fine. The next four years will be wonderful. You will make friends who will grow with you through college and beyond. You will make decisions that will lay the groundwork for your future in ways that you can’t know in the moment. You will travel and explore and have more fun than you’ve ever had.

There will be hard times too. People will disappoint you. You’ll disappoint yourself. There will be moments in which you hate yourself, when you’re so caught up in shame and self-loathing that you’ll wonder if you’ll ever surface from it. Keep faith – there are important lessons in those hard times, and someday you’ll be grateful for them. Someday, all of the dots from the great times and the hard times will connect in a way that makes perfect sense.”

My Story: Struggle

My story isn’t unique to me. When I finally found the courage to tell it, I was blown away by the number of people who shared that they could relate. In many ways, my struggle was and is the struggle of every college girl. In fact, it’s so ingrained in our culture that we often forget that it’s there.

So here it is: when I was in college, I struggled with an unhealthy relationship with food, with my body, and as a result, with my self.

You see, an essential component of my vision for the new-and-improved-COLLEGE Annette was that this Annette would be very healthy. Within the confines of my limited perspective at the time, healthy meant thin, thin meant attractive, and attractive meant that people liked you. So, I set the goal of being – and more importantly, being seen as – someone who was very healthy. Because as much as I *would* have liked to leave caring about what others thought back in high school, I still cared. A lot. So I created rules about what I could and couldn’t eat, with the goal of being a “perfect healthy eater.”

I also signed up for a nutrition class. As I learned more, my food rules became stricter – and harder to follow, causing me to feel stressed and deprived. I made a show of choosing “good” foods while eating with other people, but I would secretly binge on “bad” foods. Why? Because they were “off limits,” and I was stressed, and food was comforting when life got tough.

I felt incredible shame around my eating challenge. I was supposed to be a perfect healthy eater – I couldn’t let the world know that I often felt out of control with food. I beat myself up for being weak and having no willpower. I thought that if I just tried hard enough, I could overcome my challenges and really become the ideal Annette that I’d built up in mind. And try I would – but the next time life got tough, I went right back to food, and subsequently, back to self-loathing.

Looking back, I marvel that I deceived myself into thinking that everyone viewed me as a perfect healthy eater – because all of that binge-eating resulted in 30 pounds of weight gain.

I know that not every college woman secretly binge-eats. But when I look back on my time at DU, knowing what I know now, it’s clear to me that many of my peers also struggled on some level with food and body image. Consider that all of the following behaviors are signs of an unhealthy relationship with food, body, and self:

• Feeling guilty after eating a “bad” food
• Measuring your self-worth by how “good” or “bad” you’ve been with food or by the number on the scale
• Being constantly dissatisfied with or ashamed of your body
• Ongoing inner and outer chatter about what you should and shouldn’t eat
• Comparing what’s on your plate to what’s on other people’s plates (and feeling superior or inferior, depending on the match-up)
• Bonding with other women over what you dislike about your bodies
• Judging other women’s bodies (whether it’s hating them because they’re perfect or thinking unkind thoughts about their perceived imperfections)

It’s no surprise that a study done by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Self magazine found that 75% of women struggle with disordered eating.

My Story: Growth

Today, I understand that my eating challenge was about much more than food and my desire to be thin. It was really about self-worth and the fact that I was connecting it to all of the wrong things. Thankfully, after struggling to a lesser extent through most of my 20s, I have now found healing. I’ve learned that an approach to food that uses force, deprivation, and shame will never work. Instead, the first step to healthy living is developing a strong sense of self-worth.

I now eat whatever I want, and I’m happier – and healthier – than ever. I’ve discovered that giving myself permission to eat and enjoy what I want means that I want healthy foods most of the time. And when I eat chocolate cake? I take genuine pleasure in every bite, without an ounce of guilt. I’ve found that when I eat to nourish my body, mind, and soul, my food fuels me to fully live this life that I love. And now, my mission is to help young women discover this same confidence and ease with eating (and living!) – without the years of struggle.

Earlier this year, I founded my own business, (w)holehearted. As a health coach, I empower girls to discover their happiest, healthiest, most authentic selves. Although I’ve been focused on serving high-school girls up to this point, a recent conversation with current DU students reminded me that many college women are still suffering like I did.

As a parent, you don’t know everything about what your kids are up to in college. However, if you notice your daughter displaying concerning thought patterns or behaviors around food or body image, and you’d like to do something about it, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to help.

Annette Sloan owns (w)holehearted, a Denver-based business specializing in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. She earned her B.A. from the University of Denver and is currently working on her eating psychology coach certification through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. For more information, and to download your free report, “The Savvy Parent: Five Essential Practices for Role-Modeling a Happy, Healthy Relationship with Food,”) visit www.healthyteengirls.com.

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How the DU Career Center can help Your College Student

Almost all colleges or universities have an office dedicated to helping students explore their interests, values and skills, find internships and, ultimately, jobs through which they can build a meaningful life and contribute to society. The University of Denver has six! See more at http://www.du.edu/career.

The variety of services offered by these offices is wide-ranging and comprehensive. Students who learn early that Career Services can help them, and who visit often at various stages of their college experience, are more likely to land great internships and better paying jobs faster than their counterparts who wait to visit during that last semester of senior year.

Here are a few of the things that your student can do at the University Career Center or any of the other Career Services offices:

• Use the Pioneer Pathfinder to begin planning your career path. Learn more at http://www.du.edu/career/careerplanning/pioneerpathfinder.html.
• Participate in self-assessment activities designed to find out more about personality, abilities, strengths, interests and values and how these aspects relate to careers. Go to http://www.du.edu/career/careerplanning/careerassessment.html.
• Learn more about the types of careers that utilize these abilities and interests.
• Explore majors and minors offered by the college.
• Explore careers that relate to the various academic fields.
• Connect with college alumni to discuss their career paths through the Pioneer Career Network at http://www.du.edu/career/networkingandevents/pcn/index.html.
• Maintain and manage an ongoing file with cover letter, resume, letters of recommendation and references.
• Explore internship opportunities and apply for internships.
• Participate in workshops or receive individual help with cover letters and resumes, self-marketing and social media.
• Practice interviewing techniques.
• Attend and participate in career fairs with employers visiting the campus.
• Participate in job shadowing.
• Make use of databases and other resources about careers and job openings. Visit Pioneer Careers at https://du-csm.symplicity.com/students/
• Learn about graduate school programs and application requirements and procedures.
• Subscribe to the DU Career Services blog at https://du-csm.symplicity.com/students/.

The earlier that your student learns to take advantage of the many services and opportunities, and to get to know the Career Coaches and Advisors, the more assistance and assurance they will get. As a parent, you can also help your student by encouraging him or her to visit the University Career Center early in their college career.

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Articles to Share

Many articles are available specifically for parents and families of college students. Here are a few articles published by UniversityParent.com that you may find interesting.

Tried-and-true tips for supporting your student during midterms.

http://www.universityparent.com/topics/academics/how-to-support-your-student-during-midterms/

Expert Jo Calhoun shares tips on supporting your student’s academic success.

http://www.universityparent.com/topics/academics/an-insiders-guide-to-college-academics-a-guide-for-parents/

4 things to know about family weekends.

http://www.universityparent.com/topics/dates-events/here-comes-family-weekend/

Find out more about DU Homecoming & Family Weekend here.

Many freshman will miss home and feel lonely. Here is how to coach your student through homesickness.

http://www.universityparent.com/topics/health-safety/helping-your-student-through-homesickness/

As the new school year begins, college students are not the only ones with changing roles. Parents’ lives are changing too.

http://www.universityparent.com/topics/parent-posts/diversify-and-fortify-reflections-on-adapting-to-an-empty-nest/

Find firsthand advice from a campus police officer on how your student can stay safe in college.

http://www.universityparent.com/topics/health-safety/campus-police-on-call/

Budgeting time can be as important as budgeting money for students. Find
out how to help your student “spend” wisely:

http://www.universityparent.com/topics/academics/the-other-budget-that-could-be-the-key-to-your-college-students-success/

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Excerpt from Love Life on College Transitions… for You

Amidst the heavy prep and planning that is happening on campus as we get ready for move-in, I took a few minutes to read an excerpt from Rob Lowe’s memoir, Love Life, passed on to me by DU professor Dr. Lynn Schofield Clark, an expert researcher of college parent transitions. Let me tell you it was time well spent.

There is a true hustle and bustle in the Student Life offices this time of year, getting ready for Parent and Family Orientation, preparing our spaces for your students to be comfortable and well cared for while they are here. We can easily let ourselves be wrapped up in the details (as we all do with so many things) until we realize that move-in is minutes away and we finally feel ready. It was taking these few minutes to read about a parent’s experience of move-in, emotions, transitions, and the dreaded “good-bye” that helped me slow down for a few moments and reflect on how privileged I feel to be in my role here at DU.

I think you will enjoy reading Lowe’s account of his experience during the days in preparation for moving his son into his college residence hall. I encourage you to find your own private little corner and read his memoir: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/05/rob_lowe_on_sending_his_son_off_to_college_an_excerpt_from_love_life.html

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“What I Wish I Had Known”…. Parent to Parent Tips on Moving In Your New DU Student

At a recent DU Parents Council meeting, we started talking in one of the committee meetings about the “Move-In Process” for new DU students. As experienced parents of current students, we were once in your position…and trying to figure out the best plans to make the move in process go smoothly. We are lucky that DU has many resources already available, for both students and parents. Yet, many of us expressed that we still had learned a few things that might be helpful to others in that same position. So this post is a collection of advice from DU parents who have done it and “got the T-shirt” to parents of new DU students. Whether this is your youngest and you are an old hand at moving a child into college or you are sending your only or first-born off, we hope you will find something of value here!

Orientation. Yes, it’s for you, too!

Without feeling like you are overdoing it, we encourage you to attend as much of the orientation as possible – don’t worry, there are separate events for parents from the students and you won’t feel like you are hovering! As Jennifer writes, “I received such good information during that time, and I not only left campus feeling really good about the school, but also having watched my son make friends and get acclimated during those 3 days. It was a gradual drop-off process which I felt worked much better than those I heard about from friends who simply helped their kids move in and then it was time to go.” Susan chimed in, too “I agree hundred percent with this one. Orientation made a big difference to me and made us very comfortable with leaving our ‘ baby’ there.”

And Carole says, “be sensitive to differences from minute one. We were unloading all the boxes with desk organizers, matching sheets, etc., and one of our son’s roommates had a backpack and a pillow — period. Some kids have overcome significant challenges to get to DU.”

Jennifer encourages you to attend the class induction ceremony, “I wish I had known how really amazing the (Pioneer Passage) ceremony was that they had to welcome the students. It was early in the morning and we skipped it after a day of tiring move in. We saw it with our second DU student and it was really amazing. Don‘t miss it.”

And, Connie adds a note about Pioneer Passage, “We sat in the bleachers and spoke to other parents as we waited for the ceremony to begin. Amazingly, we met a mom of a girl who was also from New England and who had very similar sports interests as our daughter. We exchanged information and even though our daughters were in dorms far across campus from each other, they met up through a club sport and our contact exchange. 3 years later, they are still close friends and roommates!” Great connections can be anywhere.

Susan says, “my advice to a new parent/student is to not miss the session with the keynote speaker sponsored by the Parent and Family Council at the end of orientation.” This year our Keynote Speaker during Parent & Family Orientation will be DU Professor Lynn Schofield Clark. Professor Clark has a lot to offer in terms of reviewing research on parenting in the digital age, and she has recently published a book called The Parent App. You’ll appreciate her perspectives!

Dorm Needs

Yes there is no air conditioning (so your child will probably appreciate a fan!). As Dan said, “when we went to Target to buy a fan, we found them sold out. So, buy one in advance! Or head to a store farther from campus!”

“Those ‘Command Hooks’ made by 3M and others, which are ways of hanging things without leaving a mark on the brick walls, are pretty handy.“

Several national chain companies allow you to pre-order your needs at a store close to home and they will have it waiting for you to pick up in Denver, saving you the cost of shipping or extra baggage fees if you are flying in. As Barb says, “One thing we did that was helpful, coming from far away was that we made a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought all that was needed. They transmitted the order to the store in Cherry Creek and date of pickup. All we had to do was go there and they wheeled out the order that had been pre-picked and was ready to go. They opened it up to make sure all was there, but in just a few minutes we were on our way to Bonnie Brae for ice cream!”

“I’m sure other places would do similarly. They told us that they had ~900 orders to process for Denver universities that fall at that store.”

Move-in Day

There are hundreds of friendly and willing student-athletes and Greeks who are ready to help you move into the dorms. They will be roaming inside the corridors, in the lobby and in the parking lots near the dorms. Yes, really!

Carole advises, “those student-athletes are there to help on move in day. Don’t be afraid to grab a couple and ask for help!” And even more important to get their help is that “the move-in elevator will get backed up — be prepared for stairs!” Good leg work for those hockey and lacrosse players and you won’t believe how fast it will all go with a little assistance!

If you live within driving distance, “I wish I knew that although you can borrow a dolly for a short period, because of elevator lines that is usually just enough for one load. If you can bring a dolly, do.”

Do I Need….?

“Map your classes and see if a bike or scooter would be helpful. It’s a long way from Lamont to the gym, for example. And invest in a good lock. Campus is safe, but it just makes sense to have your bike be tougher to steal than the one next to it.”

June advises, “Leave the parkas and snow boots at home. You won’t need them until winter term. And if you do need them early, you’ll be in good company.”

Getting Around

Do they need a car at school? How about a bike? How will they get around? Between friends, the light rail system and the car rental by the hour on campus, it is easy to get to places away from campus for entertainment, errands, health needs or snacks. The orientation process will also help a lot with this…the freshman seminar program will involve their group learning the light rail system and how to get around the city. There are great bike rental programs on campus as well.

If you can, try to attend the Resource Fair during orientation WITH YOUR STUDENT where dozens and dozens of amazing services and offerings are highlighted.
Tom said, “We were surprised that there was a reasonably priced car rental service by the hour for students as young as 18, on campus, that allowed our daughter to get to some away from campus dental appointments efficiently.”

If you live far away…

If you are far from campus, what will the travel process be like? Connie says, “there’s a Super Shuttle from the airport with a discounted rate for DU students that will drop you off at the dorm door. And, hang in there because there is an extension to the Light Rail system that is being built to provide service right from the airport by 2016!”

Also, if you are planning airline travel, think about your preferred airlines and figure in the baggage fees. For instance, you can save baggage charges if you fly your students on Southwest Airlines — 2 bags fly free (and no change fees when they find out their finals are later than they thought)!

Money Money Money Money Money!

“Check to see if your student’s current bank has convenient branches or ATMs near campus. Our bank did not (Bank of America) and we ended up opening a new account at Wells Fargo.”

How do you pay for school and how much is it (actually) going to cost? June says, “The estimate sent out before hand is just that, an estimate. Attend the very valuable seminar during orientation that explains how the bills will work, how to understand what is what, etc. You will know real numbers after your student registers for classes.”

Keeping in touch without helicopter blades…

“My advice is to let your student do the outreach and just be available and encouraging. A friend told me a story. Her daughter called and was feeling lonesome and sad a couple of weeks after school started. The mom panicked and drove 2½ hours to help and be with her daughter. When she arrived her daughter was sitting in a room with a bunch of other girls, laughing and talking. So let them work it out first!”

Another parent offers, “times aren’t like they were when we went to school – when you had to wait to use the one phone on the floor in your dorm. With today’s technology, you will not have to worry about your student finding ways to stay in touch. Make sure you are in the habit of texting, emailing, snapchatting, etc. You’ll be surprised by the things your student shares with you.”

Our last piece of advice?

Join the Parents Association. Member benefits can be found on the Parents Program website. And even consider joining the Parents Council. We are a group of interested parents who wish to be in close touch with the school and serve as ambassadors for DU in our local communities. Parents Council information can be found on our website, go.du.edu/parents-council.

We wish all of you a wonderful, exciting and adventurous move in process for both you and your student and the best of luck for a smooth transition.

From the Parents Council and especially the Outreach Committee:
Dan, Connie, Jack, Susan, Tom, Curt, Amy, Carole, Erin, Vernon, Ken, and Paulette.

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Frequently Asked Questions

While families are preparing for fall move-in, some questions have come up that may be on your mind too. Here are the answers…

For mailing items to Denver before move-in
DU does not store items for students and doesn’t accept packages at residence halls before new student move-in day, August 31st. Some families will ship a box to the hotel where they are staying during Parent & Family Orientation. This makes travel a little easier, especially when you are flying and don’t want the extra baggage fees. Another option is to ship items to a nearby FedEx Center at 1440 S. Colorado Blvd, Denver CO 80222. Hours on Sundays are 9am-9pm. Move-in for first year students begins at 8:00am for students who have been assigned an odd-numbered room, and 10:30am for students who have been assigned an even-numbered room. Since the FedEx Center doesn’t open until 9am, you may be picking up your shipped items after the initial move-in to your student’s room. Also, keep in mind that there are other companies in the area that you could probably find by using Google or Bing. We don’t have a relationship with the FedEx center – I mention it here because it’s the one that got a great review by another DU parent. If you want to use this service, visit their site at http://local.fedex.com/co/denver/office-0426/.

Parent & Family Orientation schedule is on the left side of this page
http://www.du.edu/studentlife/discoveries/parentsandfamilies.html

Payment plans with the Office of the Bursar
http://www.du.edu/bursar/payments/payment-plans.html

Tuition Billing
Students receive tuition bills by email. Most parents want the tuition bill emailed directly to them, but as our students are now adults, they must elect who they want to see their financial information. Lucky for us, DU has made this easy. Ask your student to add your email address to “ecoBill Account Management” which is found on the “Student” tab of their personal DU website. By the way, this website is currently named webCentral, and will be changed to PioneerWeb on August 7th.

DU Health & Counseling Center websites
Immunization forms, parental consent, study abroad forms
Health Insurance Plan waiver

Pioneer ID card website
http://www.du.edu/pioneercard/

Cashier Services – cashing a check on campus
http://www.du.edu/bursar/cashier/

Technology
Laptop computer requirements: http://www.du.edu/uts/laptops/deptspecs.html
Anti-virus software: http://www.du.edu/uts/helpdesk/software/download.html

FAQ about Housing
http://www.du.edu/housing/resources/faq.html

K&N Storage
www.knstorage.com
To store belongings for summer, a quarter abroad, during winter break, or if you just want something out of the way for a while like skis and snow tires. This company is owned by DU alums. They offer free pick-up and delivery, and a DU student discount on monthly rates. They will store large items individually, or several boxes, and you are only charged for the amount of space your items will use.

Recommended Books on Parenting College Students
Don’t Tell Me What To Do, Just Send Money (this is a link to purchase the book on Amazon)
A straightforward and practical book that uses humorous and helpful case examples.
The Parent App: Understanding Families in the Digital Age (this is also a link to Amazon)
Written by DU professor Lynn Schofield Clark, who will also be our Keynote Speaker during Parent & Family Orientation on Tuesday, Sept 2nd. This book details effective strategies for coping with the dilemmas of digital and mobile media in modern life.

DU Parent & Family Relations website
Information about the DU Parents Association, hotels in the area with DU rates, Important academic dates for the 2014-2015 year, and many other resources may be found on go.du.edu/parents.

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What Happens at DU Parent & Family Orientation?

Some of you may be wondering what happens during DU Parent & Family Orientation. As you may be deciding whether to attend, here are a few things to consider.

A schedule-at-a-glance can be found on the Discoveries Orientation website, but I will briefly explain some of the parent sessions that will happen on Sept. 1st and 2nd which many people like to plan their schedules around.

There are many other presentations planned besides the 3 I have listed below (such as Campus Safety, Health & Counseling, Study Abroad, Career Services, etc.) and they are very informative, but will also be repeated during events throughout the year so if you happen to miss them at Parent Orientation, you will have opportunities to see them another time.

These are the things that will not be repeated…

Resource Fair 12pm-3pm on Monday
This is a great way to get a lot of information about Student Life and resources at the University all at once. Several tables are set up for parents to talk with program administrators and there are several pieces of information you can pick up. This is an “on your own” type of event where you mill around from table to table.

Pioneer Passage 8:30am on Tuesday
This event marks your student’s entrance into the DU community. Students enter the gym in procession with their new classmates and are seated (in chairs) on the gym floor, while families are in the bleachers. A guest speaker, the Chancellor, and other administrators will give presentations. We usually have about 200-300 family members attend this event. It is a very nice official welcome to DU. After this event, students are swiftly on their way to their next activity as are parents. Student and parent sessions are not scheduled together, as you will find when you view the schedule on the Orientation website.

Keynote Speaker and Chancellor’s Q&A 1:30pm on Tuesday
This is the culminating event for parents and families. One of our own DU professors will be the keynote speaker this year. Dr. Lynn Schofield Clark will talk about the transition from parenting high school students to parenting college students. Her book, The Parent App, will be the basis for her presentation. Shortly following Professor Clark, Chancellor Rebecca Chopp will host a Q&A.

Visit the Parent & Family Orientation website for more information and to read through some frequently asked questions.

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