10 Things a Mama’s Heart Feels at College Drop-Off

Nothing really prepares you for the wave of emotion...

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 10 Things a Mama’s Heart Feels at College Drop-Off

Written by: Marybeth Bock

If you’re like most moms preparing to drop their son or daughter off at college, you’re counting down the days…

You might even find yourself staring at your child, sitting on the edge of their bed while they pack reminiscing and wondering how the heck time flew by in a blink and feeling a strong urge to wrap them in a hug every time they pass you in the hallway. 

You may not even realize that you’re storing up their presence, listening to the sound of their voice and laughter, filling your mind with visual and visceral memories as they prepare to leave and begin a new chapter in their life.

With college-drop off just around the bend, I can tell you (as a mom who’s been through it) that nothing really prepares you for the overwhelming flood of emotion that sweeps over you. 

If your emotions are ranging from sheer excitement and pride to a huge sense of loss and perhaps even a tad of nausea at the mere thought of your baby leaving, you most certainly aren’t alone. This is a monumental day in your child’s life and yours!

So before you pack up the car (or prepare to jump on a plane) buckle up for these emotions to hit you, mama. Here are a few things a mama’s heart feels at college drop-off. By the way, they’re all totally normal! 

10 Things a Mama’s Heart Feels at College Drop-Off


Sheer Excitement

Your baby did it! They worked so hard to get where they are today and they’re starting a beautiful new chapter in their life. In fact, for most kids, it marks the big jump from childhood to adulthood. So, mamas, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – college drop-off is a BIG DEAL! It doesn’t matter if it’s your firstborn, your baby, or your only child, setting up their dorm and helping them make it feel like a cozy home away from home all while anticipating the goodbyes makes your heart beat a little faster and gives you butterflies in your stomach. No need for caffeine on drop-off day… you’ll be running on sheer adrenaline!

Immense Pride

Every mom of college-bound kids knows that just getting accepted into college is a huge accomplishment. It’s a long and arduous process that starts years before your child even begins applying to colleges.

As your child’s mom, you know first-hand the blood, sweat and tears your son or daughter has put in, the hundreds of hours of preparation, endless sleepless nights studying, and the fight to get the grades to gain acceptance – not to mention all the extracurriculars they had to keep up with to “round out” their college resume. Seeing them finally step foot on that campus can’t help but fill your heart with pride. You have every right to feel proud, mom! Bask in the moment!

Worry… About Everything

What if they don’t get along with their roommate?” What if they fail that difficult math class?” “What if they get homesick?” “What if they don’t make new friends?” “What if they get caught up in the college party scene?” “What if… what if… what if…”

Even after boring your child with countless “college dos and don’ts lectures” and them reassuring you (repeatedly) that you’re totally overreacting and that they’ll be just fine, you’re still worried. Honestly, worrying just comes with the mom territory. In fact, we’re pretty much hard-wired to worry. But heads up, mama. It’s going to be okay. Take comfort in knowing that every parent has these fleeting worries. Just remember, you’ve done your job well and your child is ready for this.

Reminiscent of Days Gone By

When you’re a mom dropping your child off at college, you can’t help but reminisce. “How did time slip through my fingers so quickly?” “Just yesterday, they were tugging at my pant leg, begging to be held and asking me to push them on the swing.” “Just yesterday, I was snuggling them in their favorite blanket while they watched their favorite Disney movie.” “Just yesterday, I was watching an eight-year-old climb a tree while yelling, ‘Look at me, mom!'” 

Let those yesteryear memories fill your heart, but also remember to take a big deep breath and focus on the beautiful future that lies ahead. Yes, 18 years flew by in a blink, but you have so many wonderful years ahead to watch your baby blossom into an amazing, capable adult. 

A Sense of Loss

I’ll come right out and say it – saying our final goodbyes and leaving my daughter at college brought on intense feelings that can only be described as crushing sadness and a huge sense of loss. I just wasn’t ready to let go when it was time to drive away, and I felt like part of my heart was being ripped from my body. All the way home, I couldn’t stop crying… the grief I felt was real. Yes, grief. At that moment, I felt as though I was losing my daughter. 

In time, though, that sadness I felt slowly lifted, especially when I began to see my daughter flourish in college. In my heart, I knew she was exactly where she needed to be and she was happy.

So, just be prepared, moms, for that wave of sadness to hit you, but also know it’s temporary AND it’s not the end. This is a beautiful new beginning with so many new memories to be made ahead. Your role may change in the next few years, but your significance in your child’s life will remain forever.


It doesn’t seem like that long ago when you were packing up for college and here you are helping your child move into their dorm. Even if you didn’t attend college, those sentimental vibes creep into your head and you end up feeling a little sappy. 

As you show your son or daughter the ropes, show them where the laundry room is, offer a few tips on how not to shrink every piece of clothing they own and walk through the cafeteria reminding them that pizza and beer won’t cut it in the long run, let those misty-eyed memories flood your heart. Maybe even share a few funny stories with your son or daughter. These are special moments to savor.

Anxious and Maybe a Little Scared

Let’s be honest, it’s perfectly natural to feel a little anxious and maybe even downright scared when you leave your kid at college. After all, even though they tower over you, their feet are bigger than yours and they’re far more street-smart than you were at their age, there are still plenty of dangers lurking on campus that they may not be aware of. 

Do your best to toss in those reminders when you can including: Don’t walk alone at night, be sure to use the buddy system, always lock your dorm door at night, and know where the campus security call stations are. But keep in mind that colleges put their students’ safety as a top priority. It’s time to take that leap of faith and let your child figure out a few things on their own. You taught them well, mama. Remember that.


The adventure of college drop-off usually involves a zero dark thirty wake-up, travel by car and/or plane, a fair amount of heavy lifting, stairs, heat, far too many people moving around in a small room, short tempers, hanging up decorations and clothes, assembling furniture, and realizing your kid forgot their favorite pillow or some other thing they simply can’t live without. Whew! By the end of the day, you’ll be completely drained, and physically and emotionally exhausted. (Remember, comfy shoes, snacks, and water are vital.)

Need a few tips to make sure your son or daughter’s college move-in day goes off without a hitch? Check out this post! College Move-In Day: 21 Tips to Make the Day Stress-Free and Fun!

Hope for Their Future

You’ve spent the better part of your child’s life preparing them for the day when they leave your loving side. You taught them everything from how to tie their shoes and how to be a good friend to how to drive and how to do their own laundry. And, you taught them well. Now it’s their time to shine.

As capable, self-reliant and determined as they are, you can’t help but hope and pray that they’ll find happiness and success on their journey. That they’ll find lifelong friends. That they’ll never stop learning. That they’ll dream big and have the courage to pursue their dreams. That they’ll graduate and settle into a career they’re passionate about. And, that they’ll always remember that, no matter what, they can always lean on you.

So Much Love

Of all the things a mama’s heart feels at college drop-off, it’s a deep sense of love. You’ve spent almost two decades caring for, nurturing, supporting, and preparing your child for this big leap. You know the struggles they’ve endured, the obstacles they overcame, and the triumphs they experienced along the way. Your love for them is immeasurable. They are a precious part of you and be assured that you are a beloved part of them.

Give yourself the freedom to feel all the mama feels on this special day. Shed those tears of joy and just know that everything you’re feeling continues to blossom as your child matures and grows. 

So, bring plenty of tissues and feel what you feel, mama.  This is an incredibly special day! Just know that, yes, life is changing, but the best truly is yet to come…


Marybeth Bock, MPH, is a Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.



If you enjoyed reading, “10 Things a Mama’s Heart Feels at College Drop-Off,” here are a few other posts you might like!

Off to College: 8 Important Talks to Have with Your Teen

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know Before Leaving for College

Your College Student’s First-Aid Kit: Everything They’ll Need

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