young girl wearing a mask and studying for university
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Why We’re Moving Forward With Our Daughter Starting University This September

Aug 25, 2020

This is the year my older daughter starts university. While it’s not going to be the usual start to first year for anyone, we're moving forward and she’s looking forward to launching her undergraduate studies.

When my older daughter was small, she was a textbook baby. She told me when something was wrong through her behaviour, her actions and demeanour. If she cried, she either had an ear infection, gas or was hungry. She was so easy to read. For the most part, this is still true even as a young adult. Payton is dramatic, sensitive and cannot disguise her emotions.

Because she is an open book, highly verbal and a good communicator, she’s always signaled when she was ready for the next step and also conversely when she was not at all ready. That has helped me in my actions and responses as a parent.


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At 14, she was more than ready to start high school, a fresh start. But by the end of those four years, she needed a bit longer, and so did we. University is a huge and expensive step.

So, she took a victory lap to give her some more time to grow, to earn a bit more money at a part-time job and to do a co-op position in a field she was interested in pursuing.

When it was time to apply for university, she was excited, extremely emotional and a bit anxious about the idea. She applied to three universities, two in London and one in Waterloo. Payton knew which one was at the top of her list. A few of her friends had gone a year earlier and she had one foot out the high school door.

"While she waited for university acceptance letters, pandemic anxiety grew, all schools shut down ... and we began to wonder if university would continue. And if it did, what would it look like?"

Then COVID-19 hit, interrupting co-op and school. While she waited for university acceptance letters, pandemic anxiety grew, all schools shut down, the co-op she loved doing at a local children’s centre ground to a total halt and we began to wonder if university would continue. And if it did, what would it look like?

Making The Best Of It

While I was trying to keep my two teens occupied — hiking, baking and painting inspirational rocks — the news and the numbers escalated. Everyone here was anxious and worried. Both of my girls at different times stated: “What’s the point?” It’s more than an alarming thing to realize your child is suddenly waking up with hopelessness, constant worry and dread. So, I juggled mental health and tried to find, and articulate daily reasons to stay hopeful.

Then, one by one, the acceptance emails and written offers of admission rolled in and we all celebrated. That day the first admission offer arrived by email — and it was her first-choice school! — she screamed with joy and came running into the garage where I was parking the van. The other two offers followed. We were thrilled, relieved and proud.

In the last year, we have learned to make the best of a challenging situation, we have found happiness in unlikely places and moments. But this milestone was 18 and a half years in the making. It was everything she had worked towards. So, we celebrated first and then we permitted ourselves to wonder about what the future of post-secondary school looked like.


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When the university finally announced it was offering school as a hybrid year, we were all relieved. Neither of my kids do extremely well without face to face and hands-on instruction, and remote learning wasn’t ideal for either one. Wearing a mask to school every day was doable, following all the other health care protocols also manageable. While my kids would prefer to be there in person for all of their classes, we also completely understand why that’s not possible. So, a hybrid year, with a mixture of in person and online, seemed the best option.

Our family is no longer caring for a senior loved one. All of my daughter’s grandparents passed away long before coronavirus. So that elevated risk isn’t a factor.

Everyone has sacrificed a lot this year. Too many people have lost loved ones and my deepest condolences go out to them. In Ontario, for the last three weeks daily COVID-19 cases have hovered at, or around, 100 a day. We spent months in my home going literally nowhere, visiting a grocery store every two weeks. My teens have surprised themselves realizing in the last few months how much they actually enjoy school and need teachers, friends, classmates and a dedicated classroom in which to learn.

Starting A Hybrid Year

We continue to be excited about our oldest daughter going to university and experiencing her first year as a hybrid.

"My teens have surprised themselves realizing in the last few months how much they actually enjoy school and need teachers, friends, classmates and a dedicated classroom in which to learn."

Academic orientation and schedules have all been set up online. We still hope my daughter can do a few virtual social things this year. Everything so far has been accomplished by phone or email. When my daughter sets foot inside a classroom in September, it will be a bit of a shock, I imagine, and also a relief after so many months.

Social distancing will happen, and masks are required inside classrooms. There will be a few courses she needs to do remotely at home, because that’s the only way some are being offered. And to be honest, I am more concerned about those than the in-person classes, because we know how she learns.

Throughout the last few months, our family has been asked many times over if Payton is postponing first year university. And of course friends, neighbours and colleagues have asked, "What are you doing this September?" Ultimately, my daughter has told us clearly: she is ready and moving on. Of course, if numbers climb again and a second wave emerges then we will adjust.

She is studying social sciences with the intention of becoming a social worker, and that might take six years. So, why delay?

“I want to be there in the classroom. I learn best in that environment, and I need it. I want to learn, and I do not want to wait any longer to start my dream career,” my daughter told me this week.

At this point in time, I feel like dreams are more important than ever and people in helping fields like social services will be even more necessary in the future.

So, here’s to all the dreamers. Good luck and stay well whatever your choice is this year.

Article Author Paula Schuck
Paula Schuck

Read more from Paula here.

My name is Paula Schuck and I have been writing professionally for over 20 years. I am a mother of two daughters, and I am a fierce advocate for several health issues. I am a yoga nut, skier and content coordinator for two London, Ontario, trade magazines. I have been published online and in traditional magazines and newspapers including: Today’s Parent, The Globe and Mail, Kitchener Record, London Free Press, trivago.ca, Ontario Parks blog and Food, Wine and Travel magazine.

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