Celia Rivenbark

From the Belle Tower | College orientation a must for students – and parents

These days, much to my surprise, parents must attend college orientation with their kids, which is why Duh Hubby, the Princess and I joined about 500 other parents and students last week at her chosen school, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Go Heels. Carolina-lina. Tarheel born. Tarheel bred. When we die, we’ll be Tarheel dead. And so forth.

It’s oddly exhausting to sit in classrooms from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for two full days taking notes and learning about every possible aspect of college. There were many lectures about the evils of binge drinking, which is important but really made me want a cocktail at the end of the day.

A “tiger mom” raised her hand to ask if (her son’s name) should retake his AP Chinese exam to get a higher score. Yeah, lady. That is of interest to the other 499 of us. Please proceed.

A father raised his hand to ask how his student could improve her chances of securing a ticket to the UNC/Duke basketball game. I told Duh that he didn’t sound nearly as smart as the AP Chinese woman, but at least his question was relevant for everyone.

The high point? Two words: orientation swag. Free bottled water, cute “church” fans and peanut butter crackers at the student store were only the beginning. We toured the Princess’ future dorm and discovered the dresser in the model room was full of free T-shirts. The fridge was stocked with all kinds of drinks for free, and there were chips and chocolates and cookies and coozies and all manner of giveaways in that tiny space.

It’s possible that I only imagined a scowl from the previously perky tour guide when I yelled to those parents still waiting in the hallway: “Hey, y’all, they got a lot of free @#$! in here!”

Speaking of dorm rooms, if you thought all that helicopter parenting ends when students go to college, you’d be wrong. Turns out, these meddlin’ mamas have created a whole new industry: professional dorm-room designers and organizers that charge as much as $5,000 to make your kid’s room super special.

And, yes, that is crazier’n a sprayed roach.

The Washington Post reported that $48 billion was spent on dorm room supplies last year. That’s $916 per kid, if you’re wondering, and probably about $805 more than you spent back in the day for a rib-cord bedspread and scratchy 200 thread-count sheets from Sears and maybe a Hendrix poster.

My friend whose son is going to college in a month has been spared all of this because her son, as it turns out, is a boy. While the Princess and her future roommate are coordinating duvet covers in a way that isn’t too matchy-matchy but still pleasing on the eye, and making sure everything fits by consulting room specs on Pinterest, my friend says her son is taking “a TV and some shower shoes.”

And they’re not even monogrammed. Bless his heart.

CELIA RIVENBARK is a New York Times best-selling author and humor columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.