All Too Soon: A Father’s Musings on His Daughter’s Impending Graduation


“Mother, may I go out to swim?
Yes, my darling daughter;
Hang your clothes on a hickory limb,
But don’t go near the water.”

Our daughter will graduate from high school this spring. She was born in summer and skipped a grade, so it worked out that she made it through the public schools at the ripe old age of 16.

She’ll turn 17 this summer and, hopefully, will enter a 4-year college this fall. So she’ll be 17 all the way through her freshman year. And this is what troubles us.

First, there’s the matter of money. Can a 17-year-old obtain a student loan? Does she need a cosigner? What if her parents have (*ahem*) less than spectacular credit? Does being underage disqualify her from getting a work-study job? We know she can’t rent a car (and that’s a GOOD thing), but will her exclusion from any other “grownup” functions hamstring her at college?

Then there’s the social aspect. Will being underage prevent her from attending certain social events, especially those relevant to her major, if alcoholic beverages are being served? Will a parental consent form suffice to allow her to participate? Are there other activities for which an underage freshman will be required to have consent?

Of course, we don’t want her drinking and engaging in all the “activities” for which colleges are notorious (although we have no illusions about our little princess). But we don’t want her to be left out and unable to make connections, either.

We HAVE made her a “JAILBAIT” sign for her to wear around campus, so at least we’re not worried about THAT issue.

Sure. If only.

Perhaps our concerns are overblown, but, you know, her mother worries. Any comments or advice from parents who have been in our situation are welcome.

Related reading: When Your Child Turns 18 and Goes to College: What Parents Need to Know

4 Replies to “All Too Soon: A Father’s Musings on His Daughter’s Impending Graduation”

  1. Suzanne Shaffer

    My daughter was 17 when she entered college. I didn’t find any issues with her being excluded from parties (unfortunately). She was eligible for federal student loans since she was enrolled in the college. Health services will treat any enrolled student regardless of their age. Federal Parent Plus Loans have minimal credit qualifications, but most parents qualify. My daughter did participate in work study her first year of college.

    My advice: check with the individual colleges and ask them how they will view your daughter. Odds are, they are going to say they consider her an adult. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

    • Don

      Thank you, Miss Suzanne, for your calming response. Other folks we have talked with, as well as what we could find on the Web, generally agree with you that our daughter being underage at college is no big deal. The reply from Collegeologist above, however, gives us a whole new set of concerns. I’m guessing the nightmares that Collegeologist implies can arise are not the general rule, i.e., for most parents the need to invoke power of attorney will never be necessary. But certainly the negative scenarios are all-too-plausible, so our choices for legal action become a matter of risk analysis. Obviously the stakes are enormous. So we’re grateful to you, Miss Suzanne, for allaying the fears we had already anticipated, even though now we’ve learned about other issues we need to address. Thank you again!

      — Don Hanson

  2. The Collegeologist

    At The Collegeologist, we advise parents first and foremost to seek the services of an attorney before your child heads to college. You want counsel who is familiar with durable power of attorney, trusts and binding contracts that allow you as a parent to retain your rights to protect your child. Colleges have many laws in place to protect them (HIPPA/FERPA)but they ultimately do not protect the student and in no way safeguard the parents. But what would you need to protect them from? If they became sick or hospitalized- you can not intervene with any medical decisions on their behalf. If they should engage in less than desirable behaviors, you will not be notified of their actions. If they decide to not sure their grades with you…you have no recourse. Additionally, between the ages of 18-24, mental health issues can arise and unless the student is proactive in seeking treatment (which they often are not), no one can persuade them to seek treatment. With legal documentation in place, parents can pursue options to get their child treatment. Lastly, campuses are frequented by religious and non-religious groups for recruitment purposes. These groups tend to be predatory in nature- families are usually alienated and since the student is 18, parents lose a great deal of leverage to get assistance. Hope this helps- being forewarned is a proactive and necessary stance as a parent.

    • Don

      Thank you, Collegeologist, for your excellent advice. Obtaining a power of attorney never occurred to us, and, even if it had, we would have thought it was overkill. “After all,” we would rationalize, “how much protection does she need?” And this is exactly the question you anticipate in your cogent response, followed by your answers citing circumstances we were almost completely unaware of. These are the issues we needed to know about. Thank you again, very much.

      — Don Hanson

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