How to Help Your Student Spread Their Wings at Drexel

Lisa Santore Daughen, chairperson of the Drexel Family Association, with her family at her daughter's graduation from Drexel.

Welcome to the Drexel family! I am Lisa Santore Daughen, chairperson of the Drexel Family Association. Like many of you, we are a Drexel family! My husband is an alumnus (BS ’87) and we have more than a dozen family members that are current students or alums.

Deep breath… It is a new chapter in your child’s life, as well as yours. Remember when you were 17 or 18 and preparing to leave for college, a new job or a new city? You needed your parents’ love and support (and maybe a few — or more — dollars of pocket change), but you did not need them to dictate or hover. When I was asked to share my thoughts on sending my children “off” to Drexel, I probably had the same concerns you have right now. What will my child, who recently graduated from high school, be like when they leave the nest? Will they be safe? Will they be able to handle the freedom, the academic demands, the roommates?  Above all, will they make good choices?

I learned quickly that I had to take my cues from my kids. When they called, we talked. My daughter, who graduated from Drexel in 2018, made a request: “Please don’t allow me to come home the first four weeks of my freshman year.” In this way, she thought she would be able to adjust to living more independently and establish friends (vs. coming home every weekend, missing opportunities to socialize on campus). She insisted, “Even if I ask, tell me ‘no.’” I felt conflicted, but realized I had to respect her wishes to help make this transition, even if it made mine harder. 

When he started his freshman year, I asked my son — who is now starting his fourth of five years — to please text me “K” so I would know he is ok. We do text “good morning” and “good night.” It’s difficult, I know, to let go, but this affords your child the opportunity to spread their wings.

I assume for most of us, college tuition is the biggest investment outside of our home investment. You do have a voice in the process, since in many cases, you are contributing towards, if not completely paying, the tuition, but try as best as you can (I know it’s difficult) to allow your child to steer the ship. There will be hiccups — some bigger than others. Over the years, we have had to have family meetings with the four of us to air issues. 

Many of us agree that Drexel’s claim to fame is the Co-op program. My daughter, Tori, did three nursing co-ops in Philadelphia. She graduated in 2018 with a BSN in nursing and a writing certificate, and she studied abroad in Italy. My son, Christopher, began at Drexel as a computer science major. He realized after his first co-op that he wanted to hone his skills away from perpetual programming/coding and move towards computer security. Drexel administration and academic advising, as well as the Steinbright Career Development Center, were instrumental in supporting his efforts. He switched at the end of his sophomore year to a cybersecurity major with a computer science minor and starts his second co-op this September in University City. I often say that Drexel co-op (which incidentally is going to be 100 years old this year!) is a six-month GIFT to our children. They have an opportunity to utilize what they learn in the classroom in a real-life setting. They learn what they want to pursue professionally, and sometimes they learn what they do not want to pursue. Isn’t it awesome to have the opportunity to figure this out before graduating?

Drexel has made a great commitment to student success and acknowledges that it takes a village to successfully navigate the “Drexel way” of doing things — starting freshman year later than other institutions, freshman year is their last “free” summer, 10-week terms (vs. 14 weeks at other universities), interviewing and on-the-job experience long before their peers. My husband and I have been impressed with the academic support, study abroad opportunities and counseling, among other things. Most importantly, we have been impressed with how the challenges and opportunities that Drexel offers has resulted in our two kids rising to the occasion and maturing into well-adjusted, accomplished young adults who do not shy away from problem-solving.

Make time whether by phone, FaceTime or in-person (we made occasional breakfast, lunches and dinners on campus) to let your student know you continue to be a resource for them, but try to let them make their own choices first with subsequent input from you. This is an awesome opportunity to let your children spread their wings while knowing they have both your love and support.

I look forward to meeting you during Move-In Weekend at the Drexel Family Association Table in Behrakis Hall!