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What My Parents Snuck Under My Pillow at Freshman Drop-off

Kelsey Gast

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I will never forget when my parents dropped me off at college on move-in day. Maybe because they left something under my pillow that I still carry with me in my post-grad life. Two years into my career, it hangs above my office desk in battered condition, but holding the same value. Occasionally, I look over and it takes me back in time...

I’m the youngest of my siblings and the one who chose to go to college the farthest away. It was a difficult decision to make. I was extremely close to my family and childhood friends, but I didn’t want to remain stuck in old habits, relying on my parents and hanging with the same crowd. I decided that distance would help me grow the most.  

Being firm in my decision didn’t take away my anxieties about leaving my hometown. My parents recognized my inner turmoil and did their best to encourage me during the moments when my thoughts flooded with self-doubt.

Freshman move-in day felt extremely hectic. I was swirling with emotions: excitement, curiosity and apprehension. My college town was packed. Cars lined the streets, bumper to bumper, with families bustling around helping their students move into residence halls scattered across campus.

When we finally arrived in the parking lot of my dorm, we quickly unloaded the minivan and began hauling my belongings all the way up to the 8th floor. Dad helped with the heavy stuff while mom swiftly cleaned and dusted every surface of my room, put on the mattress protector (of course) and insisted on making the bed one last time. What was I going to do without them?

Around me, some students appeared so ready for the change. Relishing their new freedom, they were practically pushing their parents out the door, but I was hesitant to let go. I vividly remember saying our goodbyes that day. We gave each other one last hug (I held on very tightly). My mom and dad hopped into the minivan and drove away, waving their arms outside the windows until they disappeared down the hill.

As the sun set and I finished organizing my last bin, I thought about home and how much I was going to miss everyone. I was exhausted from all the move-in madness. Lying down in my new bed that night, I rested my head on my pillow. My tired brain was clouded with questions about where this new chapter was going to take me. I didn’t even know what I was going to major in. How was I going to figure this all out? Would making friends be easy?

As my heart throbbed ever so slightly, I slid an arm under my pillow to adjust my position (and hopefully redirect my thoughts, too). Unexpectedly, my fingers touched something beneath my pillow… Surprised, I sat up and turned my bedside light on. It was a letter addressed to me from Mom and Dad.

There was a message written on the outside of the envelope – real tear jerker words for a softy like me. I opened it and out popped a bunch of heart confetti. It made me giggle. Definitely my mom’s doing. Inside was some cash to keep me afloat for the first month. With gratitude I smiled and shed a tear, or three, as I read the words in the handwriting I knew so well.

 Dear Jojo,

 I love you with all my heart from here to the moon and back. You will learn so much from this experience at college. I’m so proud of you and admire all your talent! Look into auditions in the arts department to fill some time if you feel blue. Enjoy everything. Stay safe. Dad and I are just a phone call away. Looking forward to parents weekend.

Hugs and kisses,


I know it may seem corny, but that’s my family dynamic, and I love it. Mom always knew how to cheer me up and ease my fears. This brief and simple message meant everything in the world to me and was truly what I needed. It wasn’t goodbye, but just see you later. Everything was going to be okay because she and my dad had all the faith in the world in me.

Four years later, I was a graduate who’d accepted a job offer before my commencement date. I can attribute most of my successes to the foundation my parents provided me, along with the principles and morals that I was raised on. I truly could not have done it without them. Mom was right — I did learn so much from college. Those four years were packed with some of my greatest adventures and memories of my life. I laughed, I cried, I danced and I really did enjoy it all.

I recently moved across the country for work. This phase in my adulthood leaves less time for travel and I no longer have the perks of college summer and winter breaks to catch up with my family and old friends. It’s been tougher than ever before being away from my parents, but the message on the envelope still applies: Mom and Dad will always be there for me, just a phone call away. 

What my parents snuck at freshman drop-off


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Kelsey Gast attended Appalachian State University, from which she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communication, Advertising in 2017. Kelsey is the Content Marketing Specialist at LogRhythm based in Boulder, Colorado, and before that spent two years at CollegiateParent. Outside of work, she is fueled by spontaneous adventures, hiking, traveling — and nothing beats spending quality time with her family and friends!
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