I guess the main question here is “Do you trust your daughter?”
Do you trust that you have raised her well in the faith? Do you trust her judgment, responsibility, and well-formed conscience?
Honestly, I’m surprised you didn’t think or talk about this sooner. What sort of school is it? Public? Private? Catholic? What is the residential life like? Is it a big commuter school? All of these can have a big impact on one’s life on campus. There’s an unhealthy subculture to every college campus–but then again, I’d say American culture at large is pretty unhealthy. She has to learn how to deal with it at some point.
I am a college student. My life on campus at a Catholic university has been nothing but fruitful. I have lived in a single-sex dorm (with rather strictly enforced visiting hours for the opposite sex). I have made wonderful friends that I don’t think I could have if I were a commuter student, only seeing others in my classes and attending as if this were high school. I haven’t gotten involved in the drinking or “hook-up” culture, but I have had a lot of fun!
There is something about a residential learning community that is just different–you really feel a part of it. There are great groups and clubs here which have tons of activities. Campus ministry at a Catholic college or a Newman Center at any other school should provide some good options for prayer groups, retreats, Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and fun social activities. I’m involved with the Right to Life group here, which sponsors all sorts of activities, from praying at the abortion clinic to lectures by faculty on life issues to dances and game nights. Granted, this is not how it is everywhere, and I have no idea where your daughter will be matriculating, but these are my thoughts as I near the end of my undergrad…
I do not believe that it is *just *a societal norm to go off to school–it is a major transition point in one’s life. Living away from home as an adult (at 18 she is an adult–not 21, even if that is the drinking age) is a big step towards independence, self-sufficiency and maturity. Is anyone ever fully prepared to take that leap? Not really. We make mistakes along the way, but we get back up when we fall, get ourselves to Confession, and learn from them. It’s part of growing up. Unless your daughter has major maturity issues which have been evidenced by past behavior, it is probably time for her to start off on the adventure of adulthood. If she doesn’t now, when will she?
What does your daughter think about all this? Does she *really *want to go away (for her own reasons–give her credit for that; don’t just assume she wants to do what all her friends are doing) to school? Or is she more ambivalent? All of us are nervous about moving away from home and not knowing anybody…but we make it through, with our faith intact.
For what it’s worth, my acquaintances who have lived at home during college have felt they had much less fulfilling college careers than those who went away for the whole “experience”. I’m not talking about something shallow, but a very real transition that allows us to have the independence as young adults that we need, and that lets us explore new and various interests, make new friends, and maybe even do a few crazy things (like staying in the library until closing time with friends, wandering the dorm in search of a DVD, trekking out for a coffee break at 2am in our PJs, or having those ‘deep’ conversations with friends through the night).
Trust your daughter. She’s a grown-up–and I’m sure a good Catholic one, at that! Forty minutes away isn’t far at all!