Parents wear your kid’s university T-shirt at your own risk: Phillip Morris

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — The first wave of American college freshmen began moving out of their parent’s homes and into a university dorm room this month. That means one thing for certain: parent extortion season is about to go into full bloom.

Moments after the family’s mini-van or SUV is unloaded and lingering hugs are exchanged, a financial battle of wits between freshmen students and their parents begins. The initial battle is really nothing more than a minor skirmish. The kid has yet to learn the art of fibbing to a parent to advance them cash for recreational pursuits under the guise of academic need.

Ambitious college freshmen are among the most effective. They’re clumsy but cute, like newborn puppies. Many of these incoming freshmen will initiate the game with small and seemingly defensible requests.

Soon after arriving on campus, they claim the need for cash to purchase an essential item, which you know you packed and sent off with them. These sudden critical needs may include items such as a bed comforter, iron, or toiletries that you previously purchased in bulk and delivered to the dormitory.

These early cash requests are usually met with great success. A suspicious parent will offer to purchase the needed item, and have it delivered to the university. This move will be rebuffed. Most parents will simply send cash and chalk it up as part of the hidden cost of financing a proper education.

The extortion becomes more premeditated and borderline ruthless a couple months into the first semester. It is at this point in the school year that the freshman has developed a social life and unearthed the secretive spreadsheet charting lies that best work on eagle-eyed parents.

The pivotal moment in the cash war games usually arrives during the freshmen’s first college homecoming week. Homecoming is the biggest party week on any university campus, and young students knows they must pay to play. That’s when they become extremely cunning.

This is the moment, that the parent receives a panic text or phone call saying that a $400 textbook needs to be purchased within the next 48 hours, or the student will fail an upcoming midterm. If the $400 seems too pricy, they offer that they may be able to find a used text for $275.

This power play is especially effective on parents of first-generation college students. These parents don’t have a college background and may fail to question why the critical textbook had gone un-purchased so deep into the first semester. Truth be told, any parent is susceptible to this maneuver. When a kid says they need an expensive textbook or they will fail an important test, even the most discerning parent usually coughs up the cash.

Fortunately, for the sake of parents and students, the story telling becomes less severe as the student mature. Sophomores and juniors have generally realize that advancing harmless falsehoods simply to party isn’t really necessary.

It’s at this point that your kid will ask for the cash and tell you how it will be spent. You may be asked to finance a spring break jaunt, keg party or a bottomless mimosa brunch. Some parents will then simply smile into their phone with recognition that their student has discovered that honesty also pays.

There is one final maneuver in this cat-and-mouse game that parents of freshmen should be especially aware. Call it the T-shirt hoax. If your freshman quickly gifts you with a university emblazoned T-shirt, hoodie, or ball cap and you chose to wear it – game over. You have been branded as an easy mark from the start.

College class of 2023 let the parent extortion games begin.

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