We are making preparations to celebrate Hump Day in my household. Not the traditional Wednesday celebration marking the midway point of the working week. We celebrate that Hump Day with a couple of cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and brats on the grill. This is something much bigger. We actually have a bottle of Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut chilling in the Fridge. At least, I hope it's still there, where I hid it, behind the mayonnaise and the pickle relish.
This is so big, that we might start celebrating Tuesday night, as soon as the college boy ambles up to the baggage carousel at DIA. Of course, we won't start in on the champagne until we get home, but we'll be giddy anyway by the time we get to Lakewood.
The boy's return to God's Country means he has completed half of his college education -- sophomore year is in the books -- and we are halfway to our goal of paying for college.
All of the attention this week is on the graduating members of the high school class of 2006 and their families. Nobody even gives a second thought to the parents of last year's grads, let alone the long-suffering moms and dads of the classes of 2003 and 2004.
Unless they have older children, this year's parents have no idea what they are in for.
When institutions of higher learning sign parents up for a four-year enlistment, they send them color brochures, handbooks, campus calendars and plastic water bottles bearing the school crest. The financial aid office sends out all kinds of forms and loan offers. But there are things they will never tell you.
For example, they won't tell you in advance that in 2006, the bill for textbooks for one semester alone adds up to more money than you spent on your 1969 VW Beetle. When I learned my student had dropped $550 on textbooks, I wondered out loud if he had mistakenly purchased the "Great Books" edition of the Sociology 200 textbook-- -- that would be the edition bound in Nubian kid goat leather with gold leaf on the chapter pages. The most I ever spent on a semester of college tuition was $320. Now, the textbooks cost more than that.
And then there's postage. Yes, postage! How many of you know what it costs to send a pan of Raspberry Go-go Bars to Maine? Our college boy loves my wife's Raspberry Go-go Bars. And I understand why she wants to ship them to Maine. It's like sending love in a corrugated cardboard box. But here's the thing. The ingredients in a pan of Raspberry Go-go bars cost $3.87. But it costs $13 to mail them -- $13.90 if you cushion them with a couple of packages of fresh boxers.
That leads to some good news. Today's college students save a good deal of money on laundry. Basically, that's because they don't do laundry. Instead, they go to the Wal-Mart near campus and buy 110 sets of underwear, then swing by Old Navy and purchase 55 reversible T-shirts, which is almost enough to get them through the semester.
When it's time to come home for holiday break, they stuff all of their dirty laundry into two mega duffels and fly them home, where it will take four consecutive days for them to do their laundry.
Here are some other real world tips for parents of college kids who are going to school out of state. Don't buy them a microwave or mini-Fridge until you know what their roommate has brought along to furnish the dorm room. Most often, the roommate will live no farther than 150 miles from campus and will already have that stuff. Heck, why not let somebody else's parents pay for the appliances?
Give your student a debit card and tell them it's a credit card to be used responsibly. Open a checking account for them at a bank near campus, and put a few bucks in there so they can have cheap access to ATMs in small New England towns, where there isn't much to buy anyway. At the same time, insist they keep their serious money in a Steamboat bank account.
If your student doesn't reveal that much about his or her life on campus, put the Steamboat advantage to work for you. Send your student's roommate a postcard inviting them to bring a couple of friends to stay with you and snowboard during semester break. I think you'll find that after a day on the slopes and a big spaghetti dinner, they'll start leaking classified college dirt like a National Security Administration double agent who has had too many Dr Peppers.
So, in closing, I hope I've been able to provide parents of this year's high school grads some valuable strategies for surviving the college years.
Just pray your student doesn't apply to graduate school.