Launching The College Kid Back into the World

This weekend, we took Jonah to college, and I’m rather sad.

Jonah always kept a cool head, despite the fact that he was suddenly ejected from college wonderfulness and forced to live with his middle aged parents and odd brother for six months. He was a major help for me and was my sidekick for that whole time. He’s a total A+ kid, and I miss him horribly.

We helped him pack and shop for food supplies all Saturday. Sunday morning, we loaded the cars up and drove down to his college together.

His college is all virtual, and most of the dorms are closed, but he’s staying in a new dorm that’s run by a private company. Yes, private developers are getting into the dorm game at state colleges around the country. It’s lovely and almost the same price as the crappy off-campus slum that he lived in for two years. The building is still under construction, but it’s done enough for students to move in.

My folks took him to Costco on Saturday, so he has enough ramen noodles for two years.

After we moved his crap up the stairs, Steve and Ian and I left him to settle into his new digs, and we went to the beach for the afternoon. Seaside Heights is the ultimate in over-the-top Jersey shore. It’s the home of Snookie and The Situation. Growing up, we had friends who had a beach house one town away, so I spent long hours trying to win Van Halen mirrors on the Wheels of Fortune and licking the powered sugar from funnel cake off my fingers. But Steve and Ian had never been there before, so it was fun to show them around.

The arcades there are always fun, but now they have VR stuff.

Then we drove back up to Jonah’s college, scooped him for dinner, and exchange final speeches and hugs.

I hope he’s there for the semester. I hope the kids that have remained in the area don’t get each other massively sick. I hope that he’s not lonely. And I hope he comes home soon.

31 thoughts on “Launching The College Kid Back into the World

  1. Wishing good luck to all the kids at the colleges. Ours is still waiting for another update from her school (which is a dreadful form of uncertainty). I can see my kid getting older and older which shows me that they will grow up no matter what. I find it easier to grow up myself enough to accommodate her growing up when she doesn’t do it right in front of me in the living room. I think it’s wonderful that you’re developing your adult relationship with your son. I know a family that models that well — they children and parents are very close, even though they have all grown up a lot.


    1. I know! When its complete, the dorm will have amazing cafes, hipster study spaces, exercise room, and fire pits on the roof. I would totally live there.


    2. I thought that about the kitchen, too. Does he have roommates? Hope he has a good semester despite all the weirdness.

      So far our college is hanging in there. Week 2, rates are under 2% with a fair amount of testing (and I know some students are in quarantine now – we have plenty of space for it). Lots of pressure on students to stay in and be safe. We may actually manage to keep them here. I hope they will be able to enjoy themselves at least a little bit. The synchronous online classes are going okay – I miss the feel of the classroom, but discussions have been reasonably good.

      At my nephew’s swanky SLAC, 100% testing, multiple times, and only 1 positive case so far. Two nieces as other swanky colleges, 0 cases so far. So fingers crossed for them too.

      We have family near Seaside Heights and went there several times as a kid. Not a huge fan, but I do like Skee-ball every once in a while.


      1. He’s in a suite. Three roommates have single rooms. He’s in the double room, but that roommate isn’t coming and can’t get out of the lease. So Jonah has a single for the price of a double. Yay!

        Not all colleges are like University of Alabama and SUNY Oneonta. My nieces are at Villanova and their school is fine. Swanky SLACs are surviving better than the state colleges.


  2. My sister and BIL love Seaside Heights. I’ve never been.

    So far so good with E’s college. There is one case there. E doesn’t go out much except to get food. His cousin (college sophomore, staying home and college-ing remotely) is driving over to visit him on Thursday, which will be nice for him.

    S is staying at college. It’s more home to her now than the one she grew up in, but that’s ok. I get it! It’s a great town.


  3. A total A+ apart from that time on Plague Day 17?

    “ My college kid, who had planned to spend this spring break week in Alaska, has been very helpful and surprisingly philosophical about these changes, until last night, when he snuck out to have drinks at a friend’s house. He put the uber payment on our credit card, so he was awoken at 8am to screaming parents. He’ll be scrubbing the entire house today. Perhaps he’ll be enlisted in the Coast Guard later, too.”


  4. This is our college freshman’s second week of class as a live-at-home-near-campus student. She has just realized that there are other people in one of her classes that are struggling at least as much as she is. She was taking 5 fairly serious courses plus required-freshman-thing, but that was a lot, so she withdrew from the physics course after a week. Her dad is thinking she could take it this summer. It’s a lot of hours of commitment, and it might be nice to have just the one class.

    I’m also loving Jonah’s kitchen.


    1. Yes I’m also admiring that kitchen. You might want to send him a couple bottles of stovetop Weiman polish as gunk burns on quickly (I have a glass top range and can’t wait to replace it with gas). But college dudes probably don’t care.


  5. My kid’s been back at her midwestern small school in a small town for 2 weeks, and it’s going well enough that they are expanding into some in-person classes at the end of the week. They’ve been testing constantly and so far positive rate is at .5% – so only a handful of kids.

    The two weeks of “creating the bubble” were tough though, they couldn’t leave their rooms. MN got a heat wave, of course, and there is no air conditioning, of course. But they made it through. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that they’ll make it work. (for now! Ask me again next week…)

    The drop off was the hard part – they only let one parent be on campus for one hour, and once you left, you couldn’t go back. I wanted to help unpack and hang the clothes! And go out for dinner. No such luck.

    and that looks like a super nice dorm!!!!


  6. Creating a bubble at these small schools really seems to work. Totally fascinating. Those stories aren’t getting attention from the press.

    They couldn’t do it at a big school like Rutgers, because it has 30,000 students, and many are local commuters. It’s also a VERY diverse population with lots of different norms about COVID prevention. It would be very hard to enforce rules on that size of a school body, all coming and going, and from such different backgrounds.


    1. I also suspect that state schools will have some limited ability to regulate behavior (since they are state entities).


  7. But, I think whether bubbles work can depend on the characteristics of individual schools, including their dorms, the class distributions, . . . . And, it does also matter that 5% of 500 students is a couple of handfuls (25) while 5% of 30K is 6000 students, which is not a handful. You can rent a motel to quarantine 25 people but not 6000.

    I remain frustrated, though, by the idea that the decisions seem almost inversely correlated with the health metrics. The midwest is having an increasing caseload in many places; the south is still high, while NJ & NY are doing well right now. NYU has opened, but Columbia hasn’t. I hate it when things don’t make sense.


    1. Anyway, every local newspaper story about Covid this week is full of comments about how college kids won’t die and that herd immunity is a great idea.


      1. MH said, “Anyway, every local newspaper story about Covid this week is full of comments about how college kids won’t die and that herd immunity is a great idea.”

        That’s not crazy. You seem to get a certain level of protection around 20% immunity, especially assuming with some level of behavioral changes among people in the area.

        NYC had more than 20% infected this year.

        College kids are kind of perfect guinea pigs–assuming they live in student-only enclaves and mostly keep their germs to themselves.


      2. It would be unethical to do this to college students against their will–but they are almost all legal adults and they are all volunteering for this.

        And I have to say, I see various reports (and the evidence of my own eyes) of students behaving well after some initial shenanigans. None of the on-campus kids want to be sent home! (The off-campus kids are going to be harder to motivate, because they lose less of their “college experience” if classes go online.)


      3. NYC’s COVID death rate was 195 per 100,000, close to four times the current rate in the U.S. Treatment has gotten better, so the deaths with the same degree of spread would be lower, but even if half as high, it would quickly put the U.S. at the highest death rate in the world.


      4. I’ve heard the theory in this article referred to as “herd impedance”. I think that impedance to spread with lower levels of infection depend, in the simulations, on the idea that everyone I a population isn’t equally likely to meet everyone else. Distancing plays a role (I for example, interact with very few people). Demographics plays a role. Jobs play a role. So herd impedance can slow the spread of the virus as long as everyone still doesn’t mix together (say, it doesn’t mean crowded stadiums are OK, or crowded schools).

        And as MH pointed out, the 20% infection folks think might be the level in NYC 1) still isn’t the 40% most people think necessary and 2) came at a very high cost.

        Could college kids be isolated well enough to get the virus and not spread it to vulnerable populations? I think it’s possible, but only at some colleges.


    2. NYU has opened, but Columbia hasn’t. I hate it when things don’t make sense.

      This makes sense if you think about the two schools. Columbia offers (1) a rigorous education (2) in Manhattan (3) with membership in the Columbia alumni association. Going online (2) goes away and (1) is diminished but (3) is still well and good. NYU, on the other hand, is a former commuter school that is all about charging high tuition (and they discount *much* less than Columbia) to less competitive students who want four years of playtime in Manhattan. Go online and their reason for existing goes poof.

      People mention the two schools in the same conversation but they are not the same school.


      1. Oh I know the schools are different, but it still doesn’t make sense. It makes sense, individually, for the administrations making the decision, but it doesn’t make health sense. I personally think that they could both open (given the data in NYC). However, I don’t know what Columbia’s ability to distance/bubble in housing is. Also, they may be prioritizing their graduate programs, including housing for graduate students (which is another difference between the SLACs and the research universities).

        I think everyone is vastly over-estimating the degree to which students and families chose a school because it offers “a rigorous education “. And, rather than an “alumni association” I think #3 is the line item on your CV (which mostly stays, but only if the school continues to maintain its brand; Columbia probably will, and might benefit from imposing short term costs on the current students rather than a longer term cost on the university). There’s also a #4, which is the interaction with peers (either for parties/social interaction or for clubs/learning/connections) and #2 is gone, and #4 & #1 are greatly diminished.


    3. Our school has 3,000 and the last test round had 9 positives (so a .3% rate). I agree that it is much easier to contact trace and isolate with smaller numbers. Also, 99.9% of the kids live on campus, so they can keep them in something of a bubble. But, we’ll see…..

      Our high school, otoh, is completely virtual.


  8. Two pieces of local news:

    –My husband and 10th grader went to a big campus night event on the river. It was massively attended–they had to wait quite a while to get kayaks. Our family has done these events before, and this is the most people that have ever attended.
    –Less happily, while we were taking our evening walk tonight, we were informed by a campus worker that from now on, everybody on campus has to be either wearing a mask or six feet apart from members of their group. No exceptions. So our very obvious family group (me, husband, teen son and 7-year-old) wound up having to space out six feet apart, as we don’t normally take masks on our walk. We complied, but I suggested that she check back with her supervisor about what the rules for young children are. (My understanding is that county rules are that kids under 10 don’t have to wear masks.) I suspect that some details got lost in transmission.

    That second story is the sort of thing that makes people go bonkers with hostility about mask and social distancing rules.


  9. Matt Yglesias is hosting a garage pod:

    “The extent to which the great “reckoning” on race is accompanied, on a practical level, by a huge reduction in the quality of educational services being offered to Black and Hispanic kids in big liberal cities is driving me insane.”

    “We are doing our best with a racially and economically diverse set of seven boys doing “remote kindergarden” in my garage, but it’s taken a ton of money from the families able to contribute financially and it’s not at all clear it will work in winter weather.”

    “Not supposed to turn the kids in grist for content but suffice it to say that there’s nothing we’re doing — masks, face shields, lots of hand sanitizer, HEPA filters, fans, open windows, plenty of outside time — that could not be done by an adequately funded public sector.”


  10. One of my faculty neighbors got chosen for the random COVID swab and he won $16 worth of food vouchers that is going to go toward a yummy BBQ dinner.

    I see that our local campus COVID seems to be leveling off. Still high, but not actually exploding. The first week of class was pretty bad, though.


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